By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: In the time of the coronavirus pandemic, the spirit of ‘bayanihan’ (helping hands) is alive among Filipinos all over the world, not to mention in Kuwait, where some groups are exerting extra efforts to help Filipinos in dire need of assistance. Because of the lockdown, some Filipinos have not received their salaries, while others have run out of money and need support for their daily survival needs.

Kuwait Filipino Mother’s Organization Chairperson Violeta Sarah Yousef Malana said the group is helping the most vulnerable Filipino families, both in the Philippines and Kuwait. They provide baskets of groceries that can last for days. “The very reason our group was formed was because we want to help Filipinos in need. We share whatever blessings we have,” she said, adding Filipino mothers collect whatever extra they have in their kitchens to share with less-fortunate fellow Filipinos.

“We have Filipinos in dire need of food, so we are supporting them. If we wait until our government’s support comes, they’ll be in a worse situation. So at least before help arrives, we do our part,” said Malana. The Philippine government through its agencies – the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) – promised to provide at least $200 to those who have no salaries overseas to spend in times of crisis, but for some bureaucratic reasons, the aid isn’t ready yet.

“We heard about the situation of some Filipinos not just in Kuwait but throughout the region. Help is underway, but while the assistance is yet to come, I call upon Filipinos in Kuwait and other areas and those who have extra means to share something with their fellow Filipinos who are in need of food. We will be coming up with clear guidelines on how and who are allowed to receive assistance from the Philippine government, but while we are still processing the fund, we urge individuals to support each other for now,” OWWA board member Dr Chie Umandap told Kuwait Times from his Manila-based office by phone.

No salaries
Since March 1, 2020, some Filipinos have stopped working upon the directive of the Cabinet, thereby receiving no salaries for the month of March and probably the coming months too. “Our battle is just beginning – we don’t know what will happen in the month of April and May. As much as we want to work or get extra income, these options are not possible at all. We pray we can all return back to normalcy soon,” said Mira, a salon worker.

Another group of Filipinos helping fellow kabayans is the Ilocana Women’s Organization in Kuwait (IWOK), headed by president and coordinator Mariam Al-Zankawi. “Just like other groups, we get donations from our members, gather and repackage them to be distributed to the needy. We deliver to Filipinos from Jahra to Fahaheel but there are still many who need our help,” Zankawi said.

“We may be poor and lack money and resources, but the spirit of helping hands among us Filipinos cannot be discounted. This makes us all proud, because whatever calamities we face, we always rise up from where we stumbled and try again – that’s what we call the Filipino spirit. We will overcome and we pray for Kuwait for continuously sheltering us and keeping us safe. We pray for the safety of citizens and expatriates alike. Let’s help each other in this time of crisis, follow government instructions and be safe all the time,” she said.