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Uniting To Help Flood Victims in Lismore

Coastal communities have a delicate relationship with the bodies of water that run along their borders. See how INC Giving volunteers traveled near and far to provide help for flood victims; provide care for mangrove trees; and showed a neighborhood that they are an important part of a community.


Uniting To Bring Help For Flood Victims In Lismore

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Lois Paula: On this episode of the INC Giving show, we travel to Chonburi, Thailand to see how mangrove forests make a difference. Then we travel to Lismore, Australia to see how flood victims found help from places near and far. And finally, we visit a Neighborhood Appreciation Day in Heathrow, United Kingdom, to see what a difference welcoming others can make. Don’t go away. Our episode starts now!

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Lois Paula: The INC Giving Project encourages volunteers in countries around the globe to share their faith through acts of kindness.

Lois Paula: Welcome to the INC Giving Show.

Lois Paula: For coastal communities, there is a balance between understanding the importance of protecting such a vital resource, but also protecting their communities from potential natural disasters. We’ll see why in this first story.

Lois Paula: In places like Chonburi, Thailand, mangrove forests help coastal ecosystems by preventing shoreline erosion and providing protection from floods and tsunamis.

Lois Paula: Yet mangroves are threatened by human activities in many ways. Globally, loss of mangrove forests is three to five times higher than that of terrestrial forests. From 1961 to 1996, Thailand lost about 56% of its mangrove forests due to the expansion of shrimp and salt farms.

Lois Paula: The destruction of mangrove forests is responsible for about 10% of global CO2 emissions caused by deforestation–equivalent to about 240 million tons of CO2 per year.

Lois Paula: For these reasons, INC Giving volunteers did their part and held a coastal tree planting, this time focusing on coastal areas in Chonburi, Thailand.

Bro. Maximino Vito: It’s not that really easy to plant on a muddy, muddy place, but we were able to do it. We were able to plant 100 mangrove trees. So we have accomplished that and we hope that some of the brethren will also have this kind of experience

Lois Paula: Since 2018, Thailand has been restoring mangrove forests. INC Giving volunteers from neighboring communities near Chonburi gathered and excitedly participated in mangrove planting.

Sis Maileen Vito: It has been a great privilege to be a part of this social civic activity held by the District of Thailand. It was a fun and great experience.

Lois Paula: This event will not only foster the relationship between the community and INC Giving volunteers, but also serves as a way of introducing the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) and how we care for our environment.

Director Pornthip Foiwaree: We would like to thank all the volunteers for joining this activity and tirelessly helping. And help in rejuvenating our mangrove forest’s resources by replacing the old trees that died adn making our forest beautiful and alive again.

Director Pornthip Foiwaree: We really appreciate your help and thank you so much.

Lois Paula: What an inspiring story. It’s awesome to see how our INC Giving volunteers are getting their hands and feet dirty to keep the coast healthy and safe. Thanks to our volunteers out there in Chonburi, Thailand.

Lois Paula: Our next story takes us to another coastal community that  also has a delicate relationship with it’s neighboring waterways. Take a look.

Lois Paula: The city of Lismore in New South Wales, Australia sits at the junction of Leycester Creek and Wilsons River. Being this close to these major waterways has brought life and growth to the city.

Lois Paula: But just as the river and waterways have given to the city, it has also taken. Flooding is always a danger the city potentially faces. But the recent flooding was unprecedented.

Lois Paula: The damage was undeniable. The shells of homes and buildings sat broken. Debris and abandoned cars filled the streets of this small, close-knit town.

Lois Paula: At the peak of the flood, water levels reached as high as the 2nd floor of many buildings, leaving many residents to face the aftermath head on.

Andrew Hayward: Devastated, lost for words. It’s quite traumatizing, actually.

Lois Paula: Andrew, born and raised all his life in Lismore drives around town thinking about his hometown and all the people he grew up with.

Andrew Hayward: Panic, frustration.

Andrew Hayward: I’m feeling this sadness because my home isn’t my house. My home is my town. My home is everything here.

Andrew Hayward: No one thought it was going to come up that high. So when it did come up this high, they said, “Get out.” And you didn’t have a chance.

Lois Paula: In just a few days, the lives of many here have been completely changed.

Andrew Hayward: They were unable to recover, and what’s lost are certain items, you know, family treasures, all that type of thing. They just left with everything they had on their back.

Andrew Hayward: 
People are just jumping in their boat and able to just pick up people and bring them to safety.

Andrew Hayward: There’s no words to describe–what what you see. This is the first time I’ve actually been crying about it. It’s to the point where there is almost no hope left.

Andrew Hayward: That is a big concern is people who, whether they’re going to be able to stay strong mentality, and whether they’re going to be able to come back from it.

Lois Paula: With their futures now uncertain, the hardest hit were family-owned businesses.

Lois Paula: Kylie, whose hotel has been in business for decades, with her parents as previous owners, assesses the flood’s toll.

Kylie Gilmore: I would say at least probably about $800,000 worth of damage, especially to the internal walls. We lost all our fridges, our refrigeration, our cool rooms have lifted.

Kylie Gilmore: [It’s] been hard to come back here and then not be able to have any control over it.

Kylie Gilmore:  So this awning was completely covered, was probably, when we got out, it was probably up to that line on the outside.

Andrew Hayward: It’s devastating to see such a, such a disaster like this because, you know, it’s not exactly something that happens everyday.

Lois Paula: But driven by his love for the town and the people in it–and as a member of the Church Of Christ, Andrew, among many others across the east coast of Australia, moved to action and traveled for as long as 8 hour to lend a hand and help businesses get back on their feet.

Brother Richard Esperanza: And so, brethren, from all over our district, namely in Sydney, Brisbane, Queensland area, also the Gold Coast, they all came down to Lismore.

INC Giving Volunteer: Or that’s been–we’re going to place a new one.

Kylie Gilmore: And they are just the best workers I’ve ever seen in my life. They are amazing.

Lois Paula: INC Giving volunteers had the opportunity to help Robyn, whose entire family also came to help her sort through the damage.

Robyn Richardson: 
Right from the beginning we’ve–to have the inside of the house demolished and have all of the inside of the house taken away, washing the outside of the house, all the mud off and spraying the inside of the house with a vinegar and water solution and mold killer to try and inhibit the mold.

Robyn Richardson: It looks super clean. It’s amazing. And, and it gives you a sort of relief that somebody cares.

Janelle Javier: 
It’s always a really nice feeling to be able to come here and help people. It is very heartbreaking to see and you can hear it in their voice. But coming here, it’s it’s nice to be able to help them out.

Janelle Javier: And they did explain to us that they are going to turn this place into an evacuation center for people to live in while their housing is unaccommodatable. So we’ve been in the bathrooms cleaning out. A lot of the other brethren have been in the other rooms, have been scrubbing the walls, cleaning floors and moving all the equipment and furniture downstairs.

Janelle Javier: Actually a couple of years ago, we were here in the exact same spot with the same thing, floods. It’s good to come back and see people and for them to be able to accept our help.

Bro. Richard Espranza: There are people who are in need. We have to extend help. This is to follow the commandment of our Lord God. And we are joining the campaign of the Church Administration–their leadership, the leadership of Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, our Executive Minister, that in times of needs of our fellow men, not only our brothers and sisters, we should be there to help them.

Robyn Richardson: It’s heartwarming. It’s, like it’s a terrible situation, but it’s so heartwarming to think that Australia can come together the way it has. So it’s wonderful.

Lois Paula: In addition to helping clean and restore the buildings in the community, a donation of school supplies and toiletries were shared.

James Jamias: We’re all in this together. Yeah, especially during times of calamities that, like, we could work together to rebuild.

Gillian Rayner: I have a sense of trust that people will get through this. In a way, it’s crises that bring everyone together.

Gillian Rayner: That has touched me the most has been the strength of the human spirit to support each other as a community. And I’m seeing this and it’s beautiful. It’s really moving.

Kylie Gilmore: Church Of Christ, thank you so much. You’re unbelievable. Your workers is incredible. Their kindness, you know, they’re all just so lovely. I think a lot of us here need to learn from that and yeah, couldn’t do it without them.

Andrew Hayward: My hope for tomorrow would be to get Lismore back on its feet so we can have business as normal. Because if we can help businesses, that we can actually get them to the point where they can make the restart themselves, so that all the clean up, all the disaster and they can start afresh.

Lois Paula: Our hearts go out to the community of Lismore. We pray for a speedy recovery. And thank you to Andrew for giving us such an up close and personal view of this story. Thanks to the INC Giving volunteers who didn’t hesitate to lend a helping hand even when it meant an 8 hour one-way trip.

Lois Paula: This just goes to show that it doesn’t matter how near or far communities in need are. And while some deal with natural disasters, there are those who experience a less visible challenge.

Lois Paula: In the United Kingdom, over 9 million people suffer from loneliness. And although it is a familiar feeling for everyone, studies have shown that those deprived of social interaction are at risk of other health complications.

Lois Paula: But the Church of Christ (Iglesia Ni Cristo) has been tackling this issue since 2011, when they held the first Neighborhood Appreciation Day. Events such as these are one of the many ways the Church acknowledges the positive impact of human connection within communities, as seen recently in Heathrow North, United Kingdom.

Andrea Basilio: We sent flyers to our neighborhood. We were able to let our neighbors know about the activities that [are] going on in our [local congregation].

Lois Paula: One of the guests of this activity was Riza Lemi, who noticed a positive effect on her mom.

Riza Lemi: She’s [My mother] been attending worship services and activities and she seems really like happy about it. And I just wanted to know what it was like and just meet people that’s in the community.

Lois Paula: The guests were introduced to all of the volunteer projects organized by the Church.

Riza Lemi: To just know what was happening in the Church and community and how they were helping the less fortunate people and I also enjoyed meeting like all the people here. They were very nice and friendly.

Lois Paula: Performances and gifts prepared by the youth volunteers of the Church Of Christ were given to the guests as their way of saying their thanks. This outreach was not only a way for guests like Riza to find out about the Church, but to foster new relationships and strengthen existing ones with the members of this community.

AndreaBasilio: And on top of that, I also made new relationships with people.

Riza Lemi: I just really appreciated what they do and what they actually have for the community. Everyone was very, very friendly. I was so welcomed. I didn’t feel like I was an outsider at all which was very, very nice.

Lois Paula: It’s always so special to see the bonds within a community grow stronger through events like this. All it takes is the choice to volunteer our time to help others. And as we can see, many great things can happen no matter what the challenge is.

Lois Paula: Now that does it for us on this episode of the INC Giving show. We hope this has inspired you to recognize the needs in your area and to go out and make kindness contagious.

Lois Paula: I’m Lois Paula. Remember, whenever you possibly can do good to those who need it.

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Available downloads

Uniting To Help Flood Victims in Lismore