A Painful Lesson In Giving To The Neediest

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – If there are overriding lessons overseas Filipinos learned in wanting to send their help to victims of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), two of them stood out!

First, they should send money, money, and money, only!

And second, handlers of donated monies should be bonded!

The nearly $20,000 raised by Filipino American volunteers in Chicago, Illinois was only spent for the transportation, hotel accommodation and food of the handler and the balance of $10,000 leftover was never returned by the handler to the Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago all because the FACC officers were so shock at the turn of events that they did not have an idea how to handle the fraud!

Because of their excitement to help, the FACC officers, who accompanied the handler to the bank to cash the nearly $20,000 money from the bank, realized too late that they were had by the angelic-looking volunteer-handler.

Sending goodies, like the hundreds of balikbayan boxes in many containers, should never be an option again. The goodies, like used clothing, could cost less than the freight or transportation cost. Aside from paying the forwarders, the sender would have to contend with the rigmarole of cuing up in the Bureau of Customs bottleneck. The trouble of getting clearances from such government agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Health so that the goodies are tax-free will just begin.

After going past the Customs, the sender will have to pay someone to take the goodies to Visayas or wherever the calamity is located, which is another challenge if the sender had not collected money during the donation raising but only the goodies!

After taking the goodies to the ground zero of the disaster area, the sender has no idea to whom he will be giving the goodies to. The sender does know if he was giving it to the neediest because the prospective recipient may not be able to refer him to someone, who has not gotten any help yet. The sender does not have a reliable contact in ground zero as to who really needed the most.


When a container was stuck in the Bureau of Customs in Manila, volunteers in Chicago were able to locate a recipient — Caritas of Manila. Because Caritas spent money to bail out the container from Customs, it had an excuse to sell the contents of the container to ukay-ukay (used-clothing-and-other-things store) to recoup their Customs expenses. This meant the donation did not get to the intended recipient in Leyte.

When I asked Caritas where the Chicago donation ended up, they lumped the contents of Chicago donation with other donations. The Caritas representative could not identify an individual recipient in the Visayas, which meant the Chicago donation was confined in Manila, where there was no typhoon victim who needed help.

Two years after typhoon Yolanda this week the Illinois Attorney General is yet to come up with results of its investigation on the failure of the concert promoter to return the $10,000 to FACC.

The officers of FACC, then headed by President Thelma Bascos and Vice President (now President) Dr. Rufino Crisostomo realized too late that they failed to get any  collateral of value from the handler, who volunteered to take the money to the Philippines. The officers of the FACC could have just easily asked the handler to apply for a bond so that in case, the money is lost along the way, they can always recoup the money from the bonding agency!

The well known forwarding company, LBC, volunteered to deliver hundreds of boxes in many containers but the LBC never made an official report where the hundreds of boxes ended up.

I’ve been tired of reminding LBC about it but it seems they want the matter to be charged to experience.

There were other individual fundraisers, who took advantage of the situation, by collecting donations only for their relatives because they are the only ones they knew. Never mind if their relatives were not the neediest.


So, next time if individual fund raiser will approach you, ask them first if they can provide you names of the neediest recipients that you can cross-check with Philippine Red Cross or the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The DSWD has list of the neediest – recipients of the Conditional Cash Transfer benefits. Otherwise, you might end up giving money to those who might not need them the most.

Don’t believe appeals by some people that donations of goodies could be flown by C-130 because if donations are only used-clothing and other hand-me-downs, the cargo plane will be burning thousands of dollars of aviation fuel carrying your donation that will only cost a few hundreds of pesos. The aviation fuel cost could still be donated to the neediest!

And next time, donate by thinking of taking your donation the fastest and least expensive way: remit your money to recipient whom you think is the neediest. Instead of paying for expensive freight, you will only spend small amount for remittance money without going thru the hassle with the Customs.

If the recipient has the money, he will have the ability to buy what he needed most at the same time the money you sent would prop up the local economy. Remember in these modern times, the Philippines practically has everything that we can buy in America. Their only problem: the neediest recipients don’t have the wherewithal to buy what they need!

Definitely, they cannot sell the used-clothing that we send them so that they would have money to buy what they need! (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

Leave a Comment