They say that there are three events that connect the Dutch: football competitions, Queen’s Day (soon to be King’s day) and Sinterklaas. There’s a fourth: philanthropy. According to the World Giving Index, more than 50% of the Dutch gladly give to charity. About 5 billion euros or 650 euros per member of the population go to charitable institutions annually.
This habit of philanthropy was proven once again when radio and television networks joined together on Monday to raise funds for the victims of typhoon Yolanda. The GIRO 555 broadcast marathon, organised by coordinating agencies such as the Red Cross, Oxfam Novib, Cordaid and Unicef, started at 6 in the morning and ended at 12 midnight raising a total of 18.5 million euros, an amount roughly equivalent to 1.1 billion pesos.
Everyone was a volunteer that day — famous singers, actors, broadcasters, office workers, housewives, cooks and helpers. The great equaliser was simply the willingness to help — the hungry, the thirsty and those who were left homeless by the most destructive typhoon ever on land.
Those who wanted to donate had the chance to personally bring their donations to the Institute of Image and Sound in Hilversum, The Netherlands or call a hotline number to pledge their financial aid. Famous Dutch people auctioned personal items raise funds for the cause – from football shirts, branded shoes and clothes used in films.
Others contributed by feeding the volunteers or being part of the team answering the phones. In one call center in Zoetermeer alone, 150 volunteers signed in for evening duty.
“We do this with pleasure. We don’t hope that these things keep happening where there would be a need to do it but when needed, we do it gladly,” said Marieke Kolen, Client Director of SNT, the call center that made its facilities available for the telethon. SNT has four branches in the Netherlands. All branches were full of volunteers during the campaign.
Mark Verschuur, married to a Filipina and first-time volunteer, was hard at work when GMA News interrupted him. “There’s a lot of work to be done to rebuild the houses, to rebuild the community, people have no food, they have no water so there’s a lot of help necessary to get the community running there again. That also means we have to work hard here,” he said.
10 percent of the volunteers are Filipinos. Those who did not have the chance to answer the phones gladly took the opportunity to feed the call centre team for the evening.
“I first signed up to man the phones but since my Dutch was not yet so good, I decided to just make sure that the people behind the phones would have enough food to eat,” said Myra Colis, a Filipina living in the Netherlands for barely a year now.
She teamed up with Rhea Escano to serve what another group of Filipinas in Zoetermeer led by Christina de Jong prepared that night. “I volunteered because I saw how other countries helped the Philippines. That is an encouragement for me, a Filipino, to also help in my own way. At least in this way, I can help my country in this time of need even if I live far away,” she said.
At the end of the evening, the volunteers went home with full tummies and happy hearts. “It’s really rewarding, the people who call are also very appreciative that you are helping out by receiving their calls and there are many Dutch people who are willing to donate to help the Philippines,” Verschuur said.
“We had a lot of calls with a lot of nice people and a lot of donations from small to big amounts… the lowest one was five euros and the biggest was 1000 so that’s nice!” told Marjan van Loon, an experienced volunteer.
The telethon may have ended but donations are still being accepted by GIRO 555 – a Dutch account number dedicated to charity. The day after the telethon, the fundraising campaign already hit almost 25 million euros.
This amount is still expected to increase since fundraising activities continue in the country. In-kind donations are also still being collected. A plane bound for the Philippines will take off for the second time on Thursday to deliver medical supplies, food and water. #