Gershon is a 40-year-old farmer who has always worked on the land. He doesn’t talk much about the reason why he has, in his words, a “bad leg”, which makes getting around slower and harder. One early morning in November 2005 his mother, father and brother were massacred by soldiers during a land dispute, along with 18 others, in Leyte province, Philippines. Amongst the family, he alone survived the San Agustin Massacre, but bullet injuries meant his right leg has been permanently demobilised.
In 2018, project staff from a local CBM partner organisation visited Gershon’s village in Leyte Province, and conducted an orientation on disability rights. People with disabilities, family members, local council and other community members came along. This set the wheels in motion for establishing a small village level Disabled Peoples’ Organisation (DPO) which, with support from a local CBM partner organisation and local council, became a formally registered DPO.
Gershon’s DPO is focused on raising awareness on disability and encouraging more people with disability to get involved. He has also been trained on Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Management.
Gershon led the DPO in developing a mapping process that sets out all the houses in the village (around 500), marking out where people with disability and older people live. It also shows the vulnerable places around the village where flooding might occur when a cyclone hits. He says, “Its use (the map) is helping the DPO and the village council have an idea who should be evacuated first and where they should evacuate to. It’s a practical thing we can do to support pre-planning”.
Their DPO is fully aware of the type of hazards their village faces and they now know where to go to and who to call when a disaster strikes.
Gershon and the rest of the DPO members also now have a disability ID card, which gives them discounts on medication and services. “We didn’t know how to apply for this before”, says Gershon. They have also managed to get the council to allocate them funds for repairing and repainting a room in the local hall which they will set up as a small rehabilitation center.
Gershon says, “I thought it was the end when the massacre happened, but now I understand why God has saved me during that fateful night. He wanted me to influence and encourage others especially those who already lost their hope because of disability. I survived because God is still not done with me.”