Category Archives: Peace

American aid volunteer writes new book on “Yolanda”

How do you survive a super typhoon with the destructive force of an atomic bomb? How did the people of Tacloban City, who survived the wrath of Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan), cope in the aftermath of a storm for the ages? What was it like on the ground for aid workers in the city, weeks and months later?

More than two years after the strongest recorded typhoon on Earth claimed the lives of at least 6,300 in Tacloban and elsewhere in the Philippines, William Rodney “Bill” Shaw attempts to answer these questions – and some of his own – from the perspective of those who lived through its horrors in the new book “Yolanda: The Roaring, The Waves, The Waiting”.Bill Shaw

Self-published by Shaw and printed in the Philippines, the book is based on the experiences of seven individuals living in Tacloban before, during and after Yolanda. Their stories are retold and mixed with the American’s own insights as an aid worker who volunteered in Tacloban for four months, distributing food, relief packs, and building homes for the city’s survivors.

“These seven lives represent a complicated intersection — of understanding and misunderstanding, freedom and captivity, personal faith and cultural beliefs,” Shaw says in a note on the book’s back cover. “We can find heroes in these pages, but no winners. Yolanda underscores the face of catastrophe, where everyone suffers and everyone struggles to overcome.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Shaw and his wife Deborah — a photographer who took the images found in the “Yolanda” book — first came to the Philippines in 2002 with Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL Philippines). Bill also worked as an administrator at Faith Academy in Cainta, Rizal until 2004.

With Filipino friends, the Shaws also founded Urban Opportunities for Change Foundation Inc., which published “The Jeepney” street magazine in the Philippines in 2008. It followed the concept of “street papers” that provide employment for the homeless and indigent in First World countries.

Urban was also responsible for forming and sending football teams to represent the Philippines to the Homeless World Cup, which uses “the beautiful game” to inspire homeless people to change their own lives. Over 70 countries participate in this annual tournament.

Bill and Debbi currently live and work in Traverse City, Michigan. Bill sits on the Board of Speak Up Magazine, Inc., and Speak Up Michigan, Inc., both non-profits giving jobs and a voice to people experiencing homelessness in Michigan and North Carolina. They also manage a series of rental properties and occasionally take on electrical contracting projects.

ABOUT THE BOOK

“Yolanda: The Roaring, The Waves, The Waiting” (224 pages, self-published by William Shaw through Urban Opportunities for Change LLC) is available in the Philippines for Php 500.

Cover Yolanda1

Please send orders to Kids International Ministries (KIM), c/o New Faith Family Children’s Home Foundation, #3 Birds of Paradise, Valley Golf Road, Cainta, Rizal, Philippines 1900. You may also call KIM at +632 658 4820.

Eighty percent (80%) of the proceeds of the book will go to KIM’s disaster relief efforts in Tacloban City.

“Yolanda: The Roaring, The Waves, The Waiting” will be launched today February 18, 2016 (Thursday) at the Nuvo bar in Greenbelt 2 in Makati City from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m.

It will also be launched in Tacloban City on February 20, 2016 (Saturday) at the “Lighthouse”, Lot# 36708, near Payapay Bridge, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm.

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FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES, PLEASE CONTACT:
Jimbo Gulle, phones (0917) 775-1479 or (0919) 999-5166; email: jimbo dot gulle at gmail dot com

Bleeding Passions

I bleed every time I write.

When I say bleed, I literally mean exhausting every ounce of energy in me. Whenever I’m in the zone, I can’t be bothered ‘lest I look at the nuisance with murderous eyes. Inspiration comes in bursts, and seizing those moments are critical in the writing process.

I am done with sitting on the computer all day long and drawing blanks. It simply does not work for me. What works though are solitary walks, being with nature, exercise, reading, music. Just taking a good time out from the ‘job’ of writing.

So don’t be surprised if some writers you know are pretty sensitive when it comes to their copy. Each end product that comes out of every endeavor is, after all, a summation of their energies, all poured into a piece of paper.

With years of doing this for a living, some writers such as myself, are now more open to suggestion and criticism. Growing up means being open to improving your craft. But there will always be the problem of getting inspiration. Finding inspiration is the constant struggle for every single project I accept, not the criticism, nor the deadline.

How I wish that by simply accepting money and automatically churning content were that easy. It’s much more complicated than that: I need to know if the copy is worth my time, if the owners are worth my energy or if their business goal and passions are meshed with how to improve a particular system.

Obviously, being your text-book systems builder, I like to improve things. And this translates to how I work as well. If the copy that I churn from my fingertips help a business or a friend in improving a particular system, culture, business, etc. then I go for it with all my might. Nothing done in halves. A project/vision/team/person should be worth my energy, my ideals, my passions. Otherwise, I turn it down.

A few weeks ago I’ve been distraught. I haven’t been able to create. There were days of crying spells. I couldn’t eat and sleep. I felt like I was loosing my mind.

Then, unexpectedly, a family concern came up. The timing of it all. I’ve just successfully inked a major project with a very important client, when personal concerns such as hospitalization comes up. Two nuclear bombs on opposite ends. How lovely.

But surprisingly, during those days in the hospital, I’ve been able to write excellently given the dire situation I was in.

I wrote in the cath lab, the patient’s room, brainstormed on the nurses station while blatantly questioning the nurses’ competence, the timing of the patient’s food, the ambulance MD who hit on every single female nurse (and had the death glare of his life when he tried to get chummy with me), the billing clerks at the hospital…every angst I had during that hospital stint, I took out on the hospital staff and put in my writing. I had laser-like focus.

The hospital distraction helped me construct, compose, create. I was argumentative, fiery and passionate: the best recipe for creating, for writing.

I still have to finalize and close the current project, but the momentum has now resurfaced. Sometimes, it takes a life hurdle to shake you senseless and tell you ‘Get a grip! You got this’.

I may have bled buckets the past few weeks but every drop was well worth it.

Have you gone through the same dry-spells? How did you get your groove back on track?

May We Never Forget the Peshawar, Pakistan Massacre

Someone screamed at us to get down and hide below the desks”, recounts Shahrukh Khan, 16, as he speaks from his bed in the trauma ward of the city’s Lady Reading Hospital adding that the gunmen shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest) before opening fire.3


Hunted and Gunned Down Like Dogs

Then one of them shouted: ‘There are so many children beneath the benches, go and get them’ Khan told AFP (Agene France-Presse).3

Speaking from his bed in the trauma ward of the city’s Lady Reading Hospital, Shahrukh Khan, 16, “Someone screamed at us to get down and hide below the desks”, he said, adding that the gunmen shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest) before opening fire.3

Shot on the leg, Khan pretended to be dead while gunmen methodically shot his classmates and teachers. “When I crawled to the next room, it was horrible. I saw the dead body of our office assistant on fire. She was sitting on the chair with blood dripping from her body as she burned.”3

Ordered to shoot older students3 the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants stormed the army-run school in Peshawar and systematically went from room to room, shooting children (ages 10-18) during an 8 hour killing spree.4

Shoes lie in blood on the auditorium floor at the Army Public School, which was attacked by Taliban gunmen, in Peshawar, Dec. 16, 2014. Image © Time.com

There is nothing casual or accidental in the choice of school or target of an attack. The Taliban have long condemned education for children, especially female children, arguing that it goes against the teachings of the Koran. This is specious, at best, because Islam is noted for scholarship and scientific progress, and the world owes what it knows of mathematics, astronomy and other forms of science to ancient Islamic Scholars.2

Army Public School is attended by boys and girls from both military and civilian backgrounds.3

Any schools, but particularly girls’ schools, are considered soft targets to further the militants’ ultra-orthodox agenda. In fact, the attack on Malala Yousafzai was part of the fundamentalist strategy.

In October 2012, Mullah Fazlullah, then leader of the TNSM (a Sunni extremist group), ordered the killing of fourteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai for standing up for girls’ right to education.”1Yousafzai was shot in the face a few years back because she dared speak out in favor of education for girls in Pakistan. It was in recognition of her courage and determination to champion the cause of education for girls, wherever in the world they may be, that Malala was awarded this year (2014) the Nobel Peace Prize. To this day, a standing order for her death awaits her in Pakistan.2

Attacking the school in Peshawar then was part of the Taliban’s terrorist logic.1

I saw the dead body of our office assistant on fire. She was sitting on the chair with blood dripping from her body as she burned.” survivor Shahrukh Khan, 16, says. It was not immediately clear how the female employee’s body caught fire, though her remains were also later seen by an AFP reporter in a hospital mortuary.3


Reason Behind The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Led Massacre

The mass murder carried out by the Pakistani Taliban was so horrific, so brutal, that even the Afghan Taliban condemned the massacre as “un-Islamic”.1

The Pakistani Taliban justified the attack as retaliation against the Pakistan army’s continuing offensive in the country’s so-called ‘tribal belt’, which borders Afghanistan and where the Taliban draw much of their support. Peshawar is close to the Afghan border.1

TTP spokesperson Muhammad Umar Khorasani said the assault was carried out to avenge Taliban fighters and their families killed in the Army’s offensive against militant strongholds in North Waziristan. “We are doing this because we want them to feel the pain of how terrible it is when your loved ones are killed. We are taking this step so that their families should mourn as ours are mourning”.4“This is a reaction to the killing of our children and dumping of bodies of our mujahideen” a spokesman of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said.1


A Strategy Born Out Of Desperation

To be sure it is difficult to distinguish between desperation and strategy. The gunmen were there to make a statement, that they were bringing the fight directly to the families of the soldiers who were fighting them.1The killings was in retaliation for a major military offensive in the region.2

The militants know they won’t be able to strike at the heart of the military. They don’t have the capacity. So they are going for soft targets” said Talat Masood, a retired general and security analyst.4

It may be too early to tell whether the Pakistani military offensive is a triumph or not, but the attack on the Peshawar school is proof that the belated campaign is taking its toll, and the Taliban are hurting.1


A History of Carnage

The attack comes as US and Nato troops this month end their combat mission in neighboring Afghanistan, 13 years after the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime for harboring those responsible for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.4

Taliban fighters have been waging attacks across Afghanistan as well, and some US forces will be deployed to train and advise Afghanistan security forces to combat the threat. Tuesday’s attack, shocking even by the standards of Pakistan, sparked condemnation world-wide and led the Pakistani government and military to reaffirm their determination to defeat a group that has killed thousands since it began its insurgency in 2007.4


A World in Mourning

Karachi declared 3 days of national mourning for the 132 children and nine school staff massacred by the terrorists on Tuesday. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif described the attack as a “national tragedy unleashed by savages”.4

The barbarism of this attack is an affront to all civilized peoples. There can be no justification for this tragedy, which has dishonored Islam. Today, every person of goodwill is a father, mother, brother and sister to the people of Pakistan” Philippine President Benigno Aquino said.4

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, “Many of these extremists like to characterize their struggle as a struggle of Muslims against the Western World. But that clearly is not true if the largest number of victims that we’re seeing are actually Muslims. And that makes the situation all the more heartbreaking and all the more tragic.”4

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott offered his own sympathy to Pakistan, as his government deals with the fallout from a cafe siege by a deranged Islamist gunman.4

The uncle and cousin of injured student Mohammad Baqair, center, comfort him as he mourns the death of his mother who was a teacher at the school which was attacked by Taliban, in Peshawar, Pakistan on Dec. 16, 2014. Image © Time.com

May We Never Forget the Peshawar, Pakistan Massacre

What: Peshawar, Pakistan Massacre
When: December 16 2014
Where: Main hall of the Army Public School and College in Peshawar, Pakistan
Who: Atleast 7 militant gunmen of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)
Wounded: 124 (121 of them children)1
Death toll: 16 members of the school staff including the female office assistant burned to death, 132 students (ages 10-18). 148 casualties in total.1

 

References:
1Philippine Daily Inquirer, Editorial. ‘My Brothers and Sisters’, December 19, 2014.
2Philippine Daily Inquirer, At Large. ‘Bloodshed in a time of peace’, Rina-Jimenez-David. December 19, 2014.
3Philippine Daily Inquirer via AFP. ‘I saw death so close, says teener who survived carnage’, December 18, 2014.
4Philippine Daily Inquirer, ‘World one in revulsion vs Taliban bestiality’. Christian V. Esguerra. December 18, 2014.