Young Geniuses

Aid workers are not only known as extensive travellers, they are also known for their creativity when the situation calls for it. Emergencies require it in order to come up with the craziest ideas; most especially when one does not have immediate access on the right resources and a natural disaster is already brewing nearby. One example of this crazy idea was when we needed to secure our mobile phones while monitoring and waiting for Typhoon Ruby to come knocking in Visayas. We did not have those fancy zip-locked bags but one colleague was brilliant enough to come up with a cheaper option. “Condoms!” he announced and brought out his whole stash of it. It was hilarious in the beginning but he taught us how to properly clean them before utilizing them and viola, instant water-proof protective gears. I will swear to its effectiveness. My phone remained dry and functioning despite the harsh wind and rain when we were doing the usual rounds.

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Who said that condoms can only be worn as protective gears by penises?

Of course we thanked our colleague profusely after knowing that when he purchased those condoms a few hours earlier, the lady shopkeeper was eyeing him contemptuously. She probably thought, “The nerve of this guy to even think of having sex when the whole region is going to be hammered by yet another typhoon. We barely survived Haiyan!” Anyway, my colleague hardly cared and did not bother explaining himself as there really was no need to.

Pure genius, right? Yes and I walk around feeling proud because we do come up with creative ways like this to get by; but here is a more interesting note in this line of work. We are not the only ones who are creative around here. When you need to travel to far-flung places in order to reach communities then you will see more geniuses (and younger too). While doing missions, I had the pleasure to meet children and youth survivors of super typhoon Haiyan. After knowing that many of them have been left orphaned by the disaster, I always have this dark cloud hovering above my head about the possibility of these children bearing the tragic consequences of events like the super typhoon that happened last November 8, 2013 – consequences like child labor, prostitution, hunger, deteriorating school systems, or succumbing to criminal life at a young age. Although there are those consequential possibilities, there are also redeeming factors referred to as resilience and “making do.”

These days you will see privileged kids fiddle with their gadgets, whine about playgrounds missing some much needed structures like monkey bars or swings, and mope around when their parents do not give them what they want, but during my travels around the ravaged areas of Visayas, I became a witness to young survivors’ resourcefulness.

They do not have tablets, ipads, and iphones but they have what many children are missing these days – a big imagination. They can pretend the whole day that the styrofoam they are holding which they found adrift at sea is like what those rich kids are fiddling with.

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Schools have been destroyed and playgrounds have been wiped out so monkey bars are no more; however, some trees survived the super typhoon so why not climb them, right?

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The storm surge swept all their belongings to sea and toys became a luxury, but the INGOs donated slippers and canned goods so they used the cans (after devouring what’s inside) and slippers for a “tumbang preso” game.

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They know that they can utilize big spaces by playing tag and “seven-seven-up” all day long!

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They can hardly afford wheelbarrows and wagons but they found materials with a semblance of the mentioned toys which they then utilized to their delight. Ropes and plastic boxes that are just lying around can go a long way to creative children who have time in their hands.

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If you thought for one second that after a storm surge claimed so many of their friends and family they will hate the ocean forever, you are wrong. They will still frolick in those waters but just to make sure they feel safe (even though all of them know how to swim), they created make-shift floaters by using sandbags and stuffed them with styrofoams.

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I have travelled in different parts of the globe and have met so many interesting characters but none of them outmatched my awe for these young survivors. They will always have my utmost respect.

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