Based on a zoom interview with Fr. Geowen Porcincula CM, former team leader of Vincent Helps at its institution and present Vincentian Foundation Assistant Executive Director.
The Philippines, a country frequented by the most serious calamities worldwide from the strongest typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions among others, has always been beset by compelling needs for urgent interventions to save people’s lives and sufferings. This striking call gave rise to creation of “Vincent Helps”.
Vincent Helps, an initiative by the Congregation of the Mission Philippine Province, informally started as an immediate response to the Taal Volcanic Eruption on Jan 12, 2020 which has affected hundreds of thousands of families in the nearby municipalities in Batangas, Province. This occurrence happened barely more than a month before the lockdowns brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Upon eruption around noontime, the CM seminarians organized themselves to distribute food packs to the victims. The team was at ground zero on the same night and started distributing hot meals on Sunday evening. At that time, it was just a program under the pastoral ministry of the seminary. For the next three days, the meals were cooked and prepared in Tagaytay City, an adjacent location facing Taal Volcano and where significant number of victims evacuated. At the Villa Sta. Luisa Retreat House of the Daughters of Charity in Tagaytay, they planned how they could reach and help more victims. This led to the collaboration with the St. Vincent School of Theology (SVST) and St. Vincent Seminary Philosophy department for more impactful involvement and interventions.
Organization, Tagline and a Logo
For the response to be organized, different teams were created. The operations team were those who worked on site. The supply team took care of the goods and logistics to and from Manila (and other origins) and Tagaytay. The social media team was in charge of documentation team and is based at SVST. It was the social media team who created the tagline giving birth to phrase ‘Vincent Helps’, inspired by the quotation from St. Vincent on how we should help the poor: “To help the poor is as if putting of a fire” implying the sense of urgency illustrated by the logo of St. Vincent running and one foot on tiptoe.
Since its creation, ‘Vincent helps’ developed into a brand of the congregation now being recognized by the Philippine Vincentian family for quick and urgent response. All initiatives and support for all unprecedented events, crisis and calamities can now be channeled through ‘Vincent helps’.
With the development of intervention programs, after the quick response initiatives, the victims of eruption were not left alone even after the popular outpouring of assistance from various stakeholders already diminished. As a matter of fact, ‘Vincent helps’ continued with the second phase of the program intervention through a housing rehabilitation project in San Luis, Batangas.
Almost at the same time, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted to sudden lockdowns that impacted the lives of the poorest communities in the Philippines. At this point, ‘Vincent helps’ evolved into a COVID-19 response program. Since then, the Vincent helps’ initiative became better known for its programs as a result of wider reach in terms of network and engagements.
The ongoing COVID response team served the homeless communities and those living under the bridge with assistance of more than 30 million pesos worth. The lockdowns initiated by the government to control the spread of the disease resulted to loss of jobs. For simple daily wage earners, this deprived them of their basic needs especially food. Vincent helps came to the rescue to provide them with supplies good for a week followed by initiating start-up social enterprises. The ‘Enteng-dahan’ (a Filipino term translated as Vincent’s store) facilitated a reselling business for those who became jobless due to lockdowns. They were tapped as repackers and delivery men which became their source of livelihood. Food carts (on bicycle) were also provided to the homeless families and ‘dwellers’ under the bridge.
In November 2020, a series of strong Typhoons that devastated a vast area of the Philippines led to the emergence of the typhoon response team that will address the needs of victims of the most severe typhoons that struck the country. Simultaneous to actions of the ongoing COVID response team, interventions to answer the needs of typhoon victims were organized.
In December 2021, a Category 5 Super Typhoon again hit the Philippines causing vast damages severely impacting lives of significant portions of the country. A new response team was created for this purpose headed by Fr. Geowen, this time in collaboration with the Vincentian Foundation. Not only the Philippine Vincentian Family heeded the call to collaborate and support these initiatives but also the International Vincentian Family.
Truly Vincent helps’ diversified programs led to addressing various forms of poverty with urgency. Initiated by the CM of the Philippine Province, supported by various stakeholders and the whole Vincentian family, it is truly reflective of Vincent’s love for the poor, inventive unto infinity.
Melodee Marciana E. de Castro
Famvin Communications Commission