Three people from different parts of the Philippines joined by one organisation – the World Food Programme (WFP). This is the story of three humanitarian workers from WFP's offices in Manila, Cotabato, and Iligan, sharing the challenges and inspiration they encounter in their work.
Marlon Laher, Driver, WFP Manila Country Office
Photo credit: WFP/Arlene Robles
Meet Marlon Laher. He has been a driver for WFP’s Manila office since May 2006. Marlon was one of the first drivers to come on board when WFP re-established its presence in the Philippines to assist in the conflict-affected areas of Central Mindanao.
For him, the most challenging part of his work is when WFP responds to emergencies.
“We are usually one of the first persons to arrive in the vicinity and everybody’s thinking that we're already bringing food for them,” he explained.
“As a driver, our most important job is the safety of our passengers. Then we also help assess road safety. So if the Logistics guys call us, we can tell them what type of vehicles can pass by a road that has been affected by a disaster,” he added.
Marlon has responded to so many disasters, he fails to remember the exact names of all the typhoon emergency operations conducted by the organisation. However, what he does remember are the challenges he saw on the ground.
“Like during Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), it was emotionally difficult for us to see the people affected by the disaster. As soon as we arrived, we saw the casualties, people crying and the destroyed houses. Everything was gone – which is why as a humanitarian worker, I am always encouraged to help the poor, especially during disaster relief operations. We make sure that we give the right food to the right people.”
Nine years on the job and he is still inspired to continue his work for WFP.
"It feels good to help others," said Marlon. "In the first place, we are helping fellow Filipinos. If foreigners themselves come here to help us, then what more us, fellow Filipinos? We'd gladly go out of our way to help each other."
Apasrah Bani, Field Monitor Assistant, WFP Iligan Sub-Office
Photo credit: WFP/Raihanna Datuharon
Meet Apasrah Bani. She has been a Field Monitor Assistant in WFP’s Iligan sub-office since February 2007. As a child, Apasrah always dreamt of becoming a community worker. Working in the community, however, is definitely a challenge for Apasrah as she has to bring together different people towards one goal.
“The most challenging part of my job is to be able to bridge the gap between the people in the community and the local government units,” she said. “The province where I am assigned has unique and complex dynamics compared to other provinces; so my work requires patience and perseverance.”
Being part of WFP has widened Apasrah’s experience and allowed her to extend help to more people, especially as she, herself, is a survivor of the armed conflict in Mindanao.
“For me the most inspiring experience as a humanitarian worker is responding at the onset of emergencies. I can always relate to the experience of internally displaced persons (IDPs) because I was also once an IDP during the 2000 armed conflict in Lanao Del Norte,” she explains. “There is always the feeling of happiness when you see the people smiling back at you amidst the difficulties they are facing and there is always that sense of fulfilment when you see them recovering from shocks knowing that you’re part of that journey.”
For her, compassion is the one legacy that she wants to leave behind as a humanitarian worker.
“Working with compassion is what matters most,” Apasrah said. “If I may quote the statement of the late Maya Angelou ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’”
Jofer Siodora, Logistics Assistant, WFP Cotabato Sub-Office
Photo credit: WFP
Meet Jofer Siodora. Since April 2007, he has worked as a Logistics Assistant based in WFP’s Cotabato sub-office. Believing in the principles, goals and objectives of the United Nations (UN), it has been Jofer’s dream to work for the UN. So when he learned about the job opening at WFP, he applied and fortunately, was offered the job.
As a logistics staff, he is one of the first persons to arrive during an emergency and this is where he faces a lot of challenges.
“I have this dream of witnessing how a community develops through the work we do but, in reality, when we go to the ground and talk to the beneficiaries, there is so much that still needs to be done. We can only do so much because we have limited resources,” Jofer shares.
Being a logistician, he wants to see improved systems so that people affected by emergencies are immediately reached.
“I want to establish a transport contract nationwide, via sea and land, in a cost-efficient and cost-effective manner with transport companies that can meet WFP’s requirements with a quick turnaround time, particularly during emergencies,” he said.
After eight years of working for WFP, Jofer remains committed to doing his work especially, when he interacts with the communities helped by the organisation.
“When I am in the field visiting schools under the school feeding programme – seeing the pupils having their meals during lunch time, greeting me and seeing the smiles on their innocent faces really inspires me to do my job well because I know that we, as WFP, are one of the reasons why there are smiles on their faces,” he said.