From selling face masks to online bingo and Zumba classes, the creativity of Filipinos in raising funds to help fellow kababayans amid the COVID-19 crisis is undisputed. The spirit of Bayanihan is alive, not only in Philippines, but also in Europe.
Now on its third wave of relief packs distribution, various civic society organizations and foundations have gathered in The Hague and Amsterdam, the Netherlands to distribute food aid to Filipinos who lost their jobs amid the pandemic. While practicing social distancing, a total of 240 food packs were already distributed.
Undocumented migrants most vulnerable
FilCom-NL, composed of 16 member organizations, is an ad-hoc committee formed five weeks ago, which focuses on raising funds to assist Filipinos who are affected by the crisis.
The target beneficiaries of the support drive are undocumented migrants in the Netherlands who do not qualify for unemployment benefits and have lost their part-time jobs during the crisis.
As they are not enrolled in a healthcare system, they also do not have access to immediate health care. An estimated 30,000 Filipinos are undocumented in the Netherlands, according to Migrante-Amsterdam.
“Most of these people work without a contract as cleaners or babysitters who rent housing but could not afford to pay anymore. Many of them have also lost their jobs due to the lockdown and have fewer work load/ opportunities,” Agnes van de Beek-Pavia of FilCom-NL said.
According to a community needs assessment survey conducted by FilCom-NL, an estimated 26% of Filipinos living in the Netherlands need food aid, while 31% need financial assistance to pay rent.
“We want to thank Filipino organizations who have organized this relief drive. It’s a huge help for people like us who lost our jobs because of the pandemic,” one of the beneficiaries said.
Combatting despair and anxiety
The Filipino LGBT Europe, an Amsterdam-based organization, has also conducted fundraising efforts through Online Bingo and Online Zumba classes.
“We identified two major problems that Filipinos are experiencing now: financial challenges and loneliness. We want to organize an event that would not only raise funds but also create interaction among Filipinos despite the quarantine measures,” Chris Sta. Brigida, chairperson of Filipino LGBT Europe said.
Apart from the fundraising program, the organization also offers a Free Will and Testament Program to Filipino LGBT frontliners in the United Kingdom who are at high-risk of contamination and even death amid the pandemic.
“We wanted to help our frontliners prepare in eventualities and give them some peace of mind that their estates are in order while they face a very stressful situation fighting the pandemic,” Sta. Brigida said.
In the United Kingdom, similar efforts are being done by the Kanlungan Filipino Consortium which provides free counseling for Filipinos suffering from anxiety and mental illness caused by the pandemic. Volunteer psychotherapists are offering Filipino migrants free counseling online, through phone or video calls. Each session lasts about an hour, once or twice a week.
For those suffering from severe distress, the organization refers them to specialist care which is responsible for suicide cases. “Undocumented migrants cannot avail of NHS (National Health Service) services for fear of repercussions in their visa status. Many of them are also isolated and lonely so we thought of providing them this service,” Andrea Martinez, a project coordinator of the mental health program, said.
“The NHS offers free services but they are mostly conducted in English. Most OFWs want to talk in vernacular language that’s why we offer the same service in Filipino,” Martinez added.
Face masks for sale
Meanwhile, aside from helping raise funds for the affected Filipino migrants in the Netherlands, the UP Alumni Association-NL has launched a fundraising effort for the UP Philippine General Hospital (UP PGH). The first wave of solicitations has been used to provide personal protective equipment (PPEs) for Filipino frontliners at PGH. Now, UPAA-NL is selling masks to raise funds for added health equipment and utilities at PGH. — LA, GMA News
For food packages or other relevant donation/assistance in the Netherlands, you may email Fil-Com NL at firstname.lastname@example.org or UPAA-NL at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.