Hermie Yusay and 28 other fishermen of Barangay Gargato, Hinigaran in Negros Occidental gave up a day’s work at sea Saturday to help build and paint boats for victims of super typhoon Yolanda.
The 29 fishermen were themselves recipients of free motorized bancas from the Peter Project 1 of the Negrense Volunteers for Change earlier this year, which Yusay said has changed their lives.
The fishermen were joined by 143 other NVC Peter Project 2 volunteers from various parts of the province, who painted bancas mostly set to be sent to northern Panay fishermen.
Ten days after Yolanda hit on November 8, NVC launched Peter Project 2 to raise funds for motorized bancas after thousands of fishermen lost theirs to the super typhoon that lashed through the Visayas.
So far, NVC has received donations for 500 bancas, its president, Millie Kilayko said.
Yusay said that before NVC gave him a banca, he was a fisherman’s helper earning P50 a day. Today, with his own motorized banca, he earns as much as P650 on a good day and about P150 on a slow day.
“I know what it is like not to have money to feed my family, but the fishermen who were victims of Yolanda lost everything, they are in a far worse situation than I was,” he said.
Yusay said he and his fellow Peter Project 1 beneficiaries joined the NVC volunteers Saturday to contribute their labor. With fishing boats, the fishermen in Yolanda-hit areas will be able to earn a living, “It is important that they have the means to get back on their feet again,” he said
“My message to them is they should not lose hope, there are people who care for them and are doing their best to help,” added Yusay, who said he and the fishermen of Gargato are witness to this.
When NVC volunteers went to Barangay Gargato in February, Yusay was late for a meeting set for potential beneficiaries of two motorized bancas as he was out at sea. His 12-year-old son, Eric, came instead because he wanted to try to make sure his father got a boat.
The boy then took the NVC volunteers to his home that was a little shack where he had to prepare lunch for his siblings: Christian, 10, and April Rose, 4. Their mother had long left them.
Lunch was to be only rice, which he cooked with styrofoam he found in the garbage to fuel the stove. As the children ate, they drank not out of plastic cups, but from tin cans which they also found in someone's trash.
Kilayko said when she first met Yusay, she asked him what kind of dreams he had, and he looked at her with a blank stare and said, “I have no dreams.”
But on Saturday, Yusay said he dreams to be able to see his children finish college. “I can dream now because I have the means to try to make it a reality,” he said.
Kilayko said Yusay’s having lost the capacity to dream when they first met him pushed NVC to seriously expand beyond providing two boats.
And they named their campaign “The Peter Project”, after the man who was a fisherman before he became a disciple, she said.
“We designed The Peter Project to become more than just a boat-awarding facility. We crafted a comprehensive agreement with the fisherman, engaged and trained some of the wives in livelihood, and enrolled their children in NVC's nutrition program, she said.
Before the super typhoon, Peter Project 1 had 40 beneficiaries in Barangay Bocona, Ilog, and Barangay Gargato, Hinigaran.
On November 18, Kilayko said she posted The Peter Project 2 on Facebook and asked people to help NVC build boats for those fishermen who lost theirs to the super typhoon.
Since then, NVC has received donations for 500 boats that cost P20,000 each from people from various parts of the world, she said.
Not all donations came from people with a lot of money to spare, some families gave up gift-giving, others cancelled office Christmas parties, some sold bracelets, cookies, chorizo and the like, and children broke their piggy banks, all to make contributions to Peter Project 2, she said.
She also said 90 percent of those who sent in donations through Paypal on the NVC website (http://www.nvcfoundation-ph.org/projects/the-peter-project) were people they did not know.
“The warm and generous response of people for Peter Project 2 has become to us a living showcase of the magnanimity of the human spirit,” she said.
And that goes not only for those who donated boats, but also for the 143 people, who gave time and talent to help get the boats ready Saturday, she said.
The 143 volunteers included students, doctors, bankers, teachers, a balikbayan, Army reservists and artists.
Artist Dennis Ascalon jazzed up the boat of his team with paintings of fish, making it far more expensive than its P20,000 cost, the family of Dr. Ceres Baldevia spiced up their banca with thumb marks, and the team of Titat Benedicto did theirs with hand prints.
Interior designer Manon Hernaez and Natia, daughter of Paolo and Aio Esteban, painted creatures of the sea on their boat. For the Jacinto family, it was a shinning sun and stripes, for balikbayan Viky Torre it was a cross, and for the Army reservists, the peace signs.
“In our language, the symbol and shape of love is no longer a heart. The symbol and shape of love is a boat. And on it, it is inscripted: The Peter Project 2,” Kilayko said.*CPG