Mission aids typhoon victims

MERCURY SERIES - Making A Difference

Illawarra Sunrise Rotary Club started 2014 in "service above self" mode by sending a team of volunteers to the Philippines.

The club is known for providing a hands-on approach to delivering overseas aid programs and sent a team of 13 people to the Philippines.

It was led by the club's International director and project manager Rotarian John Bilboe and team leader and Rotarian Myra Robinson.

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The group included Illawarra and Sydney Rotarians, along with Friends of Rotary, who spent 17 days in the Philippines in January.

Their mission was to deliver medical and feeding programs as well as demolish and rebuild homes to assist the most needy in the community.

Illawarra Sunrise Rotary sends a team to the Philippines every year and this time it was able to take 50 second-hand computers sourced from local businesses in the Wollongong area.

"Now in its 10th year, the group worked in the city of Bacolod on the island of Negros and specifically the village of Kabugwason which has approximately 7000 people," Mr Bilboe said.

"The mission was even more vital this time, due to the devastation just prior to Christmas caused by Typhoon Yolanda to the northern part of the island of Negros, which resulted in 50,000 homes being destroyed."

Mr Bilboe said it was a hectic 17 days.

"There was so much need and devastation in the old Sagay City area," he said.

"We were told that our Rotary team were the first overseas people to visit the area and offer aid."

The Philippines project was solely between Illawarra Rotary Sunrise Club and Metro Bacolod Rotary Club, Philippines.

"The first day was very eventful in that we sorted out 50 boxes of computers, clothing and medical equipment and the building team started building and renovating a number of homes," Mr Bilboe said.

"Then, on the first Friday and Saturday, we headed to the north of Negros to Old Sagay City where they were devastated by the typhoon Yolanda. We handed out around 500 parcels of clothing, toys and food in that area to those in need. More than 2000 people came. The police had crowd control due to the numbers."

The Illawarra Sunrise Rotary Club mission was a carefully planned event and the team packed 50 large boxes before they left to send ahead.

When the Rotarians arrived, they took those items out and then repacked 500 bags with clothes, toys, medical items and purchased local items as required. A total of $35,000 was raised for this year's project.

"Large 50 kilogram bags of rice were bought and repacked into two-kilogram bags for the typhoon victims," Mr Bilboe said.

The trip to Sagay was a typical day on such a mission.

It started at 6am to travel about 2½ hours to the north of Negros to distribute parcels and hold a medical mission.

"The building team were also very busy," Mr Bilboe said.

"They demolished a hut on a small block and mixed concrete on the road for foundations. They then built up from there with hollow concrete blocks and steel frames.

"Another part of the project was to build an early child care development centre with the help and support of the local skilled trade people and government officials. These projects would not happen without our Filipino partners."

Another day involved running a medical and food program at a local church at Green Plains, with two local doctors and nurses.

"Our team of nurses and helpers from Sydney were involved," Mr Bilboe said.

Illawarra Sunrise Rotary public relations officer Tony McAdam said the club regularly attracted media interest in its annual Christmas raffle and annual race day, but this was another example of its great work.

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