The snowstorm that lasted for three days caused piles of wet snow, downed many trees and power lines that led to road issues and many accidents. Many families had to endure days without power to cook hot meals and to warm homes.
While many were feeling stressed and finding hard to cope with the challenge brought about by the nasty weather condition, Edison Garcia and Dante Cruz kept their cool and made themselves available for anyone who will need help. Edison and Dante are both part of the Bayanihan sa Winnipeg. Edison started the group six months ago. It is a network of Winnipeggers who are willing to provide help to anyone especially to the most vulnerable in the city.
On the first day of the snowstorm, Edison helped two people who needed to jump start their cars. “It was also the day of my third interview for a job I had been aspiring for,”said Edison. “Normally after I have helped someone, I just forget about it. I don’t expect anything in return. But that day something good happened to me, I got accepted for the job. After that, there were more requests for our help. Those were three vey busy days for Dante and me.”
Edison started the Bayanihan sa Winnipeg to continue what he was doing back in the Philippines. “Back home, I was a member of the Knights of Columbus 4th degree. My role was as Health Director. We did lots of projects for impoverished areas, such as medical mission, free circumcision operation and feeding program. At the same time, my wife was a pediatrician assigned to a health center. Even in our own house, we accommodated indigent people needing treatment. Helping vulnerable people has become a usual thing for me.”
Upon learning that the place under the bridge burned down where homeless people were camping, and despite hearing about the risks of going to said site, Edison still proceeded to check on the fire victims. “The area was a pitiful sight of people trying to salvage things from what remained after the fire. There was one person who was sick and on a wheelchair. I asked an old man what they needed. I heard him say “hot meals.” My heart was crushed. I did what I believed was the right thing to do, I brought them food and other immediate needs. I am glad there were generous people who donated. Another volunteer, Othello, joined me the second time I visited the camp.”
For decades back home, Dante did volunteer jobs and worked on many programs for helping the poor, like feeding program, providing free x-ray, ECG and circumcision operation, to cite a few. He was a fire volunteer before he got the job as a firefighter. “When my family arrived here in Winnipeg in 2010, I searched for volunteer groups to join because I would like to continue what I was doing. Volunteerism is an important part of my life. It makes me happy, motivated and energized as it gives me reason to do my best to make myself prepared for opportunities to help. It means that if there are times my body feels weak or if I face some challenge, knowing that other people might need my help motivates me to bounce back right away to the strong version of me. And it is the same thing that I tell other people, as sometimes I assist them through moral support and sometimes through financial support.”
“Even if I am here in Canada, I am still in touch with some volunteer organizations in the Philippines and try to be of help to them in whatever way I can. Because equally important to the volunteer works that I do are my co-volunteers. Before I can go out and say that, yes, I am helping and giving respect to the community, it should start with how I am treating my co-volunteers,” Dante said.
“The Bayanihan sa Winnipeg that Edison started is a like giving a bridge for someone to cross from the very vulnerable state to the point when the person will be able to start again and move on. We have come across newcomers living paycheck to paycheck who can’t afford house repair, or sometimes a single parent or an old person needing some help. Whenever I am available, I help them. I don’t expect anything in return. It makes me happy, hearing thank you is sufficient,” Dante added.
Bayanihan sa Winnipeg is meant for helping and making the lives of the people in the community better. “I did not form it just for the sake of having an organization, it need not turn into a registered not for profit organization. It will exist because of peoples’ good intention and willingness to help without expecting anything in return,” Edison said.
To join the volunteer group, send message to Edison though the fb page Bayanihan sa Winnipeg.