Day 7: Deployment begins in earnest. Mac heads out to visit the most damaged areas with Pernille and Faye (Filipino CP hotshot), while Cary, Sri, Subhas and Jess (Filipino FTR extraordinaire) meet the governor of the province (Leyte) and survey the damage in Tacloban City proper. Pernille and our team cover 7 of the most affected municipalities. The worst hit areas are completely destroyed; there are still bodies being found in the rubble. In Tanuan, one of the worst hit municipalities, over 1200 are dead and 300 remain missing. We meet the mayors of all the municipalities, and gain agreement to have their Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) social workers and Philippine National Police (PNP) Women and Children’s Protection Desk (WCPD) officers to come to Tacloban on Wednesday for training on RapidFTR.

Cary and the team are introduced to the governor who it turns out is a bit of a technologist himself. He has a team of crack programmers here who were due to travel to Manila to accept an award for winning a national programming challenge the weekend the storm hit. We ask if we could utilize their expertise as technical backstoppers and a help desk function for RapidFTR. The governor heartily agrees. The team reconvenes in the evening to share stories of the incredible damage and share joy over the news of the governor’s team.

Day 8: Cary, Sri and Pernille head out into the field to survey the remaining affected and less hard hit districts in Leyte while Subhas and Mac remain behind. Subhas works on some last minute coding fixes, while Mac tries to figure out a solution to charging our mobile phones in the field. Our solar suitcases can accomplish this task but we need to bring them around in order to charge.

A solution comes in the form of a project from one of the New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (NYU ITP) groups from a Design for UNICEF class: the Powerclip. The powerclip was built in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the New York area, and is essentially a device that you can directly attach to a car battery with USB ports. However, the main mode of transport in the provinces of the Philippines is motorbikes. Through a contact at the hotel we find a local mechanic who engineers a simple solution to charge phones from motorcycle batteries. We contract him to make 20, which we will distribute to the MSWD social workers and their police counterparts actively canvassing affected areas under their jurisdiction for possible cases of children separated from their primary caregivers.

Prepping at night for a training of female police officers and social workers the next day. Credit: Cary McCormick, Philippines
Prepping at night for a training of female police officers and social workers the next day. Credit: Cary McCormick, Philippines
More prep work. Credit: Cary Mccormick, Philippines
More prep work. Credit: Cary Mccormick, Philippines

Day 9: The training of the MSWD and Police officers solicited from the last 2 days begins in Tacloban city. Jess motivates the participants and explains to them the concepts and intricacies of identifying and documenting cases of unaccompanied and separated children, and then initiating family tracing and reunification (FTR), and then Cary trains on RapidFTR. The mostly female participants register themselves and get comfortable with the phones. Morale is high and they are excited to try it out in their respective municipalities.

Police officers from Tanauan trying out RapidFTR. Credit: Cary McCormick, Philippines
Police officers from Tanauan trying out RapidFTR. Credit: Cary McCormick, Philippines
Tacloban City social workers trying out RapidFTR. Credit: Cary McCormick, Philippines
Tacloban City social workers trying out RapidFTR. Credit: Cary McCormick, Philippines
Training. Credit: Mac Glovinsky, Philippines
Training. Credit: Mac Glovinsky, Philippines

Day 10: Jess, Cary, and Sri head out to do the first check-in on the MSWD social workers and police officers while Subhas and Mac head over to the acting HQ of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWD) to meet our young tech students who will be the help desk and backstop. The field team visits an evacuation center in one of the nearby coastal towns with the municipal social worker and police officer where they meet a 4 year old child with disabilities separated from her parents, our first case. They give the police officer, social worker and UNICEF child protection specialist the space to interview the young girl privately to ensure that her needs are known and followed up on, and she is documented in RapidFTR. Subhas and Mac meet with the students and train them on the requirements on the syncing and back end of the system. Subhas is considerably impressed by their programming skills. We imagine they may become part of the RapidFTR coding community. Back at the hotel at night, the 20 motorcycle chargers are completed.

Subhas and Batman briefing the teachers and students from the Governor’s technology program (who will be acting as tech support). Credit: Cary Mccormick, Philippines
Subhas and Batman briefing the teachers and students from the Governor’s technology program (who will be acting as tech support). Credit: Cary Mccormick, Philippines
Mac working with a self-taught mechanic to get USB power chargers made that charge from motorcycle batteries (to charge the phones in the towns where there is no power back yet). Credit: Cary Mccormick, Philippines
Mac working with a self-taught mechanic to get USB power chargers made that charge from motorcycle batteries (to charge the phones in the towns where there is no power back yet). Credit: Cary Mccormick, Philippines

Day 11: Cary, Sri and Jess return to the field, while Faye, Subhas, and Mac continue in Tacloban City. 9 more children are documented who are able to be followed-up by the municipal social workers to ensure they are safe and have their immediate needs met.

Day 12: Saturday, our counterparts in government are given the day off to piece back their own lives and homes that have also been affected. The team strategizes on how to extend our work over the following weeks to Eastern and Western Samar provinces, and further affected regions. Deployments are extended.

Mac Glovinsky
Innovations in Emergency Lead
mglovinsky(at)unicef.org

Read also:

Innovations in Emergencies reporting from the Philippines – First 6 days

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Read more about RapidFTR:

Lost and found: RapidFTR reunites families in refugee camps

RapidFTR helps reunite children and families in emergencies

Applications for family tracing and reunification

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