28 February 2014

The Yellow Boats of Hope

Yellow Boats of Hope
If you have not yet visited coastal areas ravaged by typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) late last year, then you may have not yet notice the proliferation of one primary color in the shores near fishing villages. Bright yellow boats now dominate the relaxing scene that was a few moths ago was a site of death and destruction.

Images surfaced later showing fisherfolks trying to survive with whatever they can hold on, including catching fish using old refrigerators.

When asked about the help they need, most of them said they would give anything to get boats - and her comes the "Yellow Boat of Hope," a group that aims to restore hope among the fisherfolks.

The Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation was formerly referred to as the Philippine Funds for Little Kids. It started as a national movement to help children who used to swim to school in the mangrove village of Layag-Layag, Zamboanga City. The idea behind it is to pool our own individual little funds to help these children get to school safe and dry.

Funds used for the boats have come from all over the world, not really from the rich but from ordinary individuals who just want to help.

"Fisherfolk are not comfortable with dole-outs," said Anton Mari Lim, co-founder of the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation.

"These are people who have long been supporting their families through the only means they know," Lim said.

The Yellow Boat of Hope has enough funds to build 400 more boats but the group targets to build 1,000 this year. But Lim said their boats are not just given away.

"The fishermen have to do their part,” he noted.

Instead of sending boats that are ready to use, the Yellow Boat of Hope tries to give communities materials for boat-building.

This setup is convenient, Lim said, not only for the donors but also for the recipients, who can be assured of the boat’s quality.

"There is, after all, a reason why boats are designed differently," Lim said. "The boats have to fit their needs."

About 250 of the 300 boats they have so far provided were built by fisher folk and their neighbors in affected communities.

Boats have been sent to Tacloban City, Tanauan and other parts of Leyte as well as Guian and other parts of Samar.

"Each boat has its own story," Lim said, as he thanked donors for sending funds and volunteers for organizing efforts.

"As soon as you give them the boats, fishermen know that their livelihood has been restored," Lim said.

"But more than that, their sense of dignity is restored. They will not keep asking. They’re not incapacitated," he added.

"Give a fisherman a boat and he can feed himself and his family. But if you let him build a boat, you restore hope," Lim said.