A life-​​saving relief mission

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Sam Manning, second from the far right, with other volunteers in Cebu City. Photo courtesy of Sam Manning.

Sam Manning’s co-op expe­ri­ence at a non­profit research orga­ni­za­tion in the Philip­pines turned into a life-saving relief mis­sion when a cat­a­strophic typhoon swept through the island country last month, killing more than 5,900 people and causing some $1.6 bil­lion in damages.

In the storm’s after­math, the fourth-year inter­na­tional affairs major pack­aged thou­sands of pounds of donated rice, noo­dles, and sar­dines to send to the sur­vivors. Many of them had lived in the sea­side city of Tacloban, where 150 mile-per-hour winds ripped tin roofs off homes, snapped trees in half, and tossed large ships ashore.

“Hearing sto­ries from people who had been in Tacloban and seeing the awful pic­tures of destroyed cities and streets lined with body bags com­pelled me to find a way to help the sur­vivors,” Man­ning said. “I can’t imagine going through the trauma that they were forced to face.”

The young human­i­tarian vol­un­teered in Manila and Cebu, two cities where the United Nations’ World Food Pro­gramme had estab­lished logis­tics hubs. In Cebu, he met a vol­un­teer who had trav­eled more than 2,000 miles from Japan to look for his best friend whom had gone missing in Ormoc, a city destroyed by the storm’s mas­sive surge.

One volunteer carries a 121-pound bag of rice into a sorting facility in Cebu City.

One vol­un­teer car­ries a 121-pound bag of rice into a sorting facility in Cebu City.

“I haven’t heard from him since,” Man­ning blogged. “While I hope that he was reunited with his best friend, I know that he helped a lot of others along the way.”

So, too, did Man­ning, whose work in Cebu was labor inten­sive, an exer­cise in strength and endurance. Over a two-day span, he helped carry thou­sands of 121-pound sacks of rice from large trucks to an indoor sorting facility.

A score of Fil­ipinos thanked Man­ning for his help, a ges­ture that did not go unno­ticed. “It’s impor­tant to give your time because every single pair of hands helped a lot,” Man­ning learned. “Never under­es­ti­mate what you can do. When you have the oppor­tu­nity to help, do your best to make an impact.”

His enthu­siasm for helping those in need dove­tails with his co-op work in the Philip­pines. As a research assis­tant for Inno­va­tions for Poverty Action, Man­ning is con­ducting a ran­dom­ized con­trolled trial to mea­sure the impact of expanding access to credit for small and medium enterprises—an expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity for which he received a Pres­i­den­tial Global Schol­ar­ship.

“This type of research is the first step toward answering dif­fi­cult ques­tions about how to most effi­ciently and effec­tively reduce global poverty,” he said.

Written by Jason Kornwitz

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