Hampshire couple sending hundreds of boxes of aid to disaster-struck families in the Philippines

Daily Echo: Antonia and Ian Bennett Antonia and Ian Bennett

IT ONLY took two days after the devastating super typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines for Antonia Bennett to know that her family were safe – but it felt like a lifetime.

Buxt the relief she and her husband Ian felt was tinged with sadness when they saw the devastation wrought on her home country and heard stories of friends’ families who hadn’t been so lucky.

They knew immediately that they wanted to do something to directly help the communities of their friends’ families and began collecting food, clothing and other items.

They have been overwhelmed by the response that they have had, with donations swiftly filling their home in Boorley Green near Hedge End and now taking over a storage facility they have been loaned.

The couple explained that rather than send aid through large organisations, they are making up personalised boxes of food, clothing, pots and pans, blankets, torches and other essential items, to be sent directly to individual families in need in two badly-hit villages: Dulag and Barug.

“You hear a lot in the news about aid not getting to the people who need it,” says Ian.

“Our basic objective is to get a minimum of 100 boxes directly to named families and then there will probably be another couple of hundred boxes that go to respectable community leaders to be distributed, so we’re getting the names of people the local community can vouch for.”

The couple, who have been married for five years, have sent aid to the Philippines a number of times before, but because of the scale of the disaster, rather than sending 20 or 30 boxes as they have done in the past, they decided to aim to fill a shipping container with much-needed supplies.

And through their contacts – Ian runs his own IT company and Antonia works at the University of Portsmouth – as well as posters distributed around the area, they have managed to collect a vast amount of donations.

They are now turning their attention to raising enough money for the donations to be shipped to the Philippines and delivered to those in need once the infrastructure is in place. They are hoping the aid will arrive by February and estimate they will need £5,000 to £6,000. So far they have raised around £1,500.

“These villages were even worst affected than Tacloban, but the people who live there are complaining that aid isn’t coming their way,” says Antonia. “They walk half a day to get to the nearest relief centre to queue for food. They say money is almost useless because there are no commodities you can buy because it’s all gone.”

Among the people who are helping Ian and Antonia collect and sort donations are Liza Jones and Eric and Sharon Asuncion, who have family who have been affected by the disaster. Eric’s aunt and uncle were killed by the storm surge which saw the water level rise rapidly after the typhoon had hit, while his wife’s family have all lost their homes.

Daily Echo:

Eric Ascuncion, Antonia, Liza Jones and Ian with some of the donations

“My wife had advised her parents to tie themselves to each other with a rope rather than just hold hands so that even if they were blown away they would stay together,” says Eric.

“Luckily they tied themselves to the concrete foundations of their neighbour’s house. Their own house lost the top floor.”

Liza says: “Because my cousins all lived near the beach in bamboo houses, their homes are gone.

They have only had relief three times since the typhoon. The first time they had two kilos of rice, a tin of sardines and a packet of noodles to last a week. After that they just had rice – it isn’t enough for a week for a family, when there are a dozen of them.”

Antonia believes that it is because people feel a direct connection to those they are helping that they have been so generous. “I have explained to them that I am collecting for my friends, their families and the community,” she says.

“We are putting a letter in each box asking them to put a message on a website we’re setting up to say they have received the box and also a picture of themselves with it so everyone can see they’ve been delivered to the right people.”

“The response has been wonderful,” says Antonia.”

  • Ian and Antonia are seeking donations of four inch nails, 18” x 18” x18” boxes, money for shipping and the loan of a banding machine to seal the boxes. You can transfer money to Inside Philippines, sort code: 60-20-03 account no: 34640029. For more information about how you can help and to arrange a donation, email ian@inside.co.uk

Comments (2)

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5:05pm Tue 31 Dec 13

chimneysweep 1234 says...

Wow your a true lovly couple im sure you are a true hero and and your wife ..It puts us to shame we don't donate enough ill contact you to make donation sir
Wow your a true lovly couple im sure you are a true hero and and your wife ..It puts us to shame we don't donate enough ill contact you to make donation sir chimneysweep 1234

8:23am Thu 2 Jan 14

Ian-Bennett says...

Thank you. We will be back from the Philippines on the 3rd.
Thank you. We will be back from the Philippines on the 3rd. Ian-Bennett

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