AN aid mission to the Philippines involving south-west secondary students has returned confident it achieved its goals.
Local youth worker Geraldine Edar-Ralph led the Alternative to Schoolies trip and said aid in the form of food and toiletries for people affected by the recent super typhoon Haiyan was given to a trusted Red Cross worker.
The worker had distributed the supplies to people in the cities of Bogo and Medillin in the north of Cebu island where Haiyan caused widespread devastation.
Ms Edar-Ralph said safety concerns prevented the group from distributing the aid itself but she was confident it went to people in need.
She said she was shocked to learn the donations from the group was the first to reach the recipients two weeks after the typhoon hit. “People were desperate,” Ms Edar-Ralph said.
The group took over about 30 large boxes of donated toiletries that included soap and toothbrushes and used money donated to buy staple food items in the Philippines including rice, noodles and canned foods.
Ms Edar-Ralph said cash donations enabled the group to buy about five tonnes of rice as well as building products such as corrugated iron.
The 14 young people in the group packaged the contributions into bundles for families of five.
Leading the group to the Philippines was at personal cost to Ms Edar-Ralph whose husband John Ralph fell gravely ill while she was on the three-week trip.
Mr Ralph suffered kidney failure but Ms Edar-Ralph was only told of his serious health problems when he was on the path to recovery.
He is presently on dialysis at St Vincent’s hospital in Melbourne.
Ms Edar-Ralph also lost seven members of her extended family, an uncle and six cousins, in the typhoon.
She and other group members attended her uncle’s funeral during their stay, bringing home the tragedy of the disaster.
While she had a lot to contend with, Ms Edar-Ralph said it did not stop her from leading the group to complete two projects at a school at Indangan near Davao City on Mindanao island where previous Alternative Schoolies trips have also completed work.
She said the group had fitted out and painted a school library whose construction had been begun by earlier Alternative Schoolies volunteers.
“We have now officially opened the Australian School Library,” Ms Edar-Ralph said.
The group also built footpaths between the school buildings, which were much appreciated because the school is in a flood-prone area.
“It was a huge achievement for the young people to see the project finished,” she said.
Ms Edar-Ralph said the group had redirected about $2500 it had raised for the school projects to relief for the typhoon victims.
The Filipino-born Ms Edar-Ralph has led four aid trips to the Philippines and two of the 14 on the recent trip have been on previous trips.
She said a fifth trip next year was in the pipeline with some young people already putting their names forward.