ABOUT SOUTH EAST ASIA
Written by Brett Madron
Based on an Interview with Gregg D. Garner
How Did You Get Started?
Our organization's work in South East Asia has a history dated back to the 1970s. This is when Mike Garner (then a Marine based in Subic Bay, P.I.) met Trinidad (a Filipina from the Islands) and together they experienced a series of events that led to their marriage and heightened awareness of the systemic issues that pervaded the country.
Some years later, when Gregg Garner (Founder of G.O.D. Int’l) was about 5 years old, his parents Mike and Trinidad took their children to the Philippines where they served as missionaries. This was Gregg's first encounter with the developing world, and it impacted him deeply as he lived there, even attending public school, for the time they did. From a young age, he knew that he wanted to find a way to help as the need continually hit ‘close to home.’
It wasn't until 2006, roughly 10 years after the founding of G.O.D. Int'l, that Gregg, Mike and Trinidad returned to the Philippines with an internship team to visit family, old friends and assess needs that G.O.D. Int'l could address in the coming years. From 2006-2010, Mike and Trinidad played a most significant role in situating our organization's presence in the Philippines, where our work in South East Asia began.
What Systemic Issues Exist in South East Asia?
The systemic issues in the Philippines are numerous. With our current personnel, our efforts are directed towards the following issues:
Maternal and Infant Health.
Maternal and Infant Health is a major issue, particularly among the more impoverished communities that we work in. Women don't have the education or the resources to choose the correct nutritional options for themselves and their children. Because of this, both mother and child suffer, particularly in the vulnerable moments surrounding birth. Such scarcity in nutrition and childbirth education for mothers and babies has contributed to high maternal and infant mortality rates.
In 2007, Tara Garner (Founder and Director of the Institute for G.O.D. Int’l’s Childbirth Education program) visited the Philippines and began to assess maternal and child health needs. The personnel working in this area of need with our organization are trained to teach childbirth education, support women in birth and provide post-partum care for women to ensure their ongoing health. Tara has since befriended Vicki Penwell, founder of Mercy In Action, a non-profit organization focused on the crisis of maternal health, particularly in the Philippines. This relationship has provided our development workers with an opportunity to be involved with Mercy In Action’s on-site seminars in the Philippines.
Youth Development & Primary Education.
A common misconception when seeing the multitude of street children in the Philippines is that they are homeless and have nowhere to turn. From our examination of the issue, the issue is not homelessness as much as a lack of opportunity for children to participate in the school system and other social organizations. With parents often working hard to provide for the family, the children find themselves with idle time and drift towards tourist areas. Offering children structured, educational programs beneficial to their development is one way of curbing this systemic issue. Finding avenues for proper health care and nutrition, in cooperation with organized sports programs that teach cooperative values, will improve the overall health of the children. Furthermore, we are experienced in providing alternative primary education to those who are unable to participate, for a variety of reasons, in the formal school system.
What are You Doing Currently?
At the end of October, 2013, the South East Asia regional team chose a specific geographical hub on the island of Leyte. Not more than two weeks later, on November 8th, Typhoon Haiyan, the most significant storm to hit the Philippines in recent history, devastated the lives of people in this very location. Authorities say that at least 20,000 lives have been lost, and millions more are homeless. This thrust us into deeper considerations about 'disaster relief' than we had ever faced before.
Since that time, we have taken multiple trips to the Philippines--initially to evacuate some victims, also to assess ways in which we can assist people in the recovery, and to find a plot of land from which we would offer long-term assistance and sustainability to a local community. (Read More on this Topic)
While our efforts provide shelter and feed people who are in search of very basic needs, we also recognize that people need more than relief. They need education and empowerment unto sustainability. We have no naive dreams of fixing every problem caused by the typhoon. Rather, we recognize that our organization's full-time presence can be of assistance in a small locale where we can affect the education system, the options for shelter, the food production, and the health of individuals and families in need.
We have been able to provide meals for over a thousand people, and have re-built a home for a family who lost theirs in the Typhoon. (Read More) We have provided financial support to a maternal and infant health organization that assisted hundreds of birthing mothers just after the typhoon. Other funds have been sent to help with the day-to-day needs of families who were devastated by the typhoons effects.