Rising From The Masses: The Surge of COVID-19 Initiatives From The Public

By Xandra Velasco , UN SDSN Youth Philippines Volunteer | Published on December 1, 2020 5:16:25 PM

March of 2020 found a sudden influx of people infected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Philippines. This necessitated a swift response not only from the government but also from its citizens. In the span of less than a month, companies, organizations, and individuals found ways to come together in order to address the same goal: combat COVID-19.

Quarantine protocols were immediately put in place in order to control the spread of the virus. Schools, malls, and other public areas were closed in compliance with the rules of the Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine. However, despite the limited physical contact among individuals, the interconnected nature of the digital world allowed for swift information dissemination.

Companies and organizations against COVID-19
Even though a majority of the population in the Philippines was under lockdown, the drive to contribute to furthering COVID-19 efforts was present in the Filipino people. In fact, companies such as GCash and Aboitiz Foundation used their platform in order to garner donations (both monetary and in-kind) to aid hospitals.

The flexibility of GCash as a digital bank made user transactions easier. GCash took this a step further by dedicating its platform to supporting healthcare workers, as they launched a built-in fundraiser in their mobile app to encourage GCash users to donate. This was especially helpful for users without bank accounts since they were able to contribute to the cause through the application.

Meanwhile, Aboitiz Foundation provided support to multiple beneficiaries, offering over 4,000 COVID-19 testing kits in various areas. They have also given monetary aid to many individuals whose jobs were halted due to the pandemic. The group of companies also created a website called Kinder, which provided a platform for crowdfunding, featuring different causes by NGOs and social impact projects.

Both GCash and Aboitiz Foundation worked with the UN SDSN-Youth PH, an organization that involves the youth sector, encouraging them to participate in social issues. UN SDSN-Youth PH had launched the COVID-19 Dashboard, a website grounded upon fighting misinformation against COVID-19. It aims to spread awareness against COVID-19 in a world of fake news.

Never Powerless
Initiatives born from the passion to help emerged from the masses. One such example is Help from Home (HFH) the Philippines, a COVID-19 information hub that aimed to provide details about efforts responding to the pandemic. It was started by a small group of friends that came together to create a coordination hub where they could channel help to initiatives that needed it.

HFH gave the Filipino people the power to help despite the lockdown. The initiative’s vision was to help everyone—be it citizens, civil organizations, or government institutions—in making data-driven decisions in addressing the needs of hospitals, frontliners, vulnerable sectors amidst the COVID-19 crisis in the Philippines.

The site itself provided exposure for various initiatives, containing details of what they did, which hospitals or communities they are serving, how people can help, etc. Hence, HFH was able to create a directory that gave the general public transparency as to where the finances were going. Furthermore, HFH subjected each initiative to verification before featuring them on the HFH website. Hence, this process allowed them to combat donation scams, giving donors viewing their website more security when it comes to giving donations.

Slowly, HFH expanded its platform to become a member of a network of civil society organizations (CSOs), wherein the data they collected was used in advising CSOs where they could channel their help. In addition, they were also able to create a monitoring system for the needs of hospitals, health institutions, and barangays, in partnership with different organizations. Lastly, they were able to launch the Linkages stream, which connected supply and demand.

Through the initiative, HFH was able to verify over 300 initiatives that were featured on the website. Hence, they were able to engage over 120 barangays, distribute about 240 000 food packs, linked 40 hospitals to donation drives, mapped 700 hospitals nationwide, and provided over 1 million washable face masks.

Moving forward
As quarantine protocols continue to shift, and the priorities of volunteers and partner organizations become involved in other responsibilities—such as academics and work from home commitments—initiatives like HFH have started to wind down their operations around the end of June to the beginning of July.

HFH is now concluding with a project called Stories of Hope where they feature the key milestones from their partner initiatives so that the public can see the human faces of the efforts made amidst the pandemic. GCash still plays a key role in managing digital transactions. Aboitiz Foundation continuously maintains its website. UN SDSN Youth - PH improves its COVID-19 dashboard daily, consistently providing verified data from credible sources, furthering knowledge to its constituents.

This doesn’t mean that the fight against COVID-19 ends there. The initiatives, fundraisers, and donation drives that emerged from companies, organizations, and the general public are ways by which the pandemic can be addressed. They have showcased the power of the masses to make a change.

However, the pandemic necessitates collaboration among its different sectors. Therefore, it is also imperative for the national and its local governments to take action and accountability in supporting Filipino health workers and ensuring the safety of the general public. It is only through consolidated efforts and proactive policies that the fight against COVID-19 can be won.

Velasco, X. (July 15, 2020). GCASH is SDSN Youth’s newest Fundraising Partner. Retrieved from https://covid19.sdsnyouthph.org/article.php?id=32/

Velasco, X. (July 29, 2020). Aboitiz Foundation aids in Covid-19’s efforts by becoming SDSN Youth’s partner. Retrieved from: https://covid19.sdsnyouthph.org/article.php?id=36&fbclid=IwAR2e_wa6MrtFFEQo-KnSEpUjC5edQD7FWOqAITjv-ti5AF0qtEKgsa3a8yk/

Nacar, P. (March 27, 2020). Design: And A Half Design Studio Launches “Help From Home”, an Index of Citizen-Led Initiatives to Help Frontliners and Those Affected by COVID-19. Adobo Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.adobomagazine.com/philippine-news/design-and-a-half-design-studio-launches-help-from-home-an-index-of-citizen-led-initiatives-to-help-frontliners-and-those-affected-by-covid-19/

Data Churner:
Sabrina Carlos
Program Intern, UN SDSN Youth Philippines

Graphic Designer:
Alleya Era
Volunteer, UN SDSN Youth Philippines