One day she was selling suman, producing rugs, and collecting used bottles. The next day she was packing rice, canned goods, and biscuits for the people of Marawi. Erna Gonjoran, 58, is living in Baseco Manila. She has eight children and seven of them have their own family. Currently, she is living with her son who works as a helper. Erna used to sell rice cakes and other Filipinos native delicacies to support her daily necessities at home with her son. She usually starts working at 5:00 in the morning until 10:00 in the evening. “I usually make the rice cakes early morning,” she said in the vernacular. Apart from selling rice cakes, Erna is also an active leader of a people’s organization in Baseco, a slum area with 8,700 households in Manila. She said their group produces rugs, wallets, mats, bags and other materials made of scraps and recycled materials, which gave them additional income.
A Red Cross 143 volunteer
A Red Cross 143 volunteer, Erna serves for five years now at the Philippine Red Cross Manila Chapter after a barangay councilor introduced her to the organization. She enjoys engaging in various Red Cross’ activities—disaster deployment, relief repacking, training, among others. “I always join Red Cross whenever there are activities like this. I had trainings in disaster management and flood in Baseco. I really feel happy that I can help others especially in times of calamities,” she said. When asked about doing volunteer works despite her age, she says she wants to volunteer as long as she has the strength to do so. “To those who want to volunteer, just visit our barangay to be a Red Cross 143 volunteer,” she exclaimed. Erna is just one of the volunteers who took part in the packing of relief goods at the warehouse of the Department of Social Welfare and Department for those affected by the crisis in Marawi. Along with hundreds of other volunteers from various Philippine Red Cross chapters in Metro Manila, Erna devotes her precious time and effort to be of service to others without expecting anything in return. She may lack the financial capacity like those who will receive the relief packages in Marawi, but this did not hinder her. As the saying goes: “Volunteers don’t get paid not because they are worthless but because they are priceless.”