BY THERESA CUA
Every year, APC looks to support its members in their philanthropic initiatives across the region. However, even as COVID-19 continued to restrict travel for most of 2021, this has not prevented the APC team from convening members and guests to discuss specific issues and challenges to they face in their respective countries.
Predictably, COVID-19 relief continues to be a top concern across the membership, as the Delta variant surged throughout Southeast Asia. Thus, we checked in with our members: what initiatives have they been doing for their communities during the pandemic? What lessons have they learned? Where do they need more support?
Here is a brief snapshot across three countries as we convened members working in or interested in Myanmar, Vietnam, and the Philippines:
Myanmar faced a third wave of COVID-19 cases in July. In August, APC members came together for an Emergency Briefing on the COVID-19 situation in Myanmar to delve into the situation on-the-ground, and how they would be able to support relief efforts.
The country faced a slew of challenges—from high infection rates, lack of access to vaccines and medical care, loss of jobs, to the closure of schools. Emergency relief is complicated by the current political situation, which made foreign funds from donors difficult to enter the country. To support organisations working directly on the ground, donors would have to find experienced intermediaries familiar with facilitating funds into the country.
Given the present challenges in the country, members noted that donors will have to accept uncertainties and less transparent processes, and rely on trusted networks in order to remain engaged in Myanmar.
Since the meeting, APC members have mobilised over $200k towards various civil society organisations in Myanmar to support their emergency relief work.
Vietnam saw a similar surge of COVID-19 cases, despite having one of the lowest rates of infection in the world for most of 2020. This led to a strict lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City and 18 other provinces from mid-July until end-September to curb infection rates.
In early September, APC invited its members and guests in Vietnam to discuss how they were supporting communities through their businesses and personal philanthropy during this period.
Participants discussed how food security was one of the main issues communities faced during the lockdown. Prohibited from leaving their homes, people were unable to buy food, and farmers were unable to sell their produce. Nguyen Tuan Khoi from Food Bank Vietnam shared how they worked to bridge the gap between farmers and communities experiencing food shortages by buying food, cooking to redistribute to needy communities, and also by working with the Ministry of Rural and Agricultural Development to connect vendors with markets in need.
Members and guests also shared how it was crucial to work with the government on common goals, and to leverage existing community networks in order to provide quick solutions to immediate problems brought about by the lockdown.
In September and October, APC convened its members and partners from the Philippines to revisit the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Pilot, which was ideated in 2019 and set for implementation from 2020.
The Pilot, which brought together the Ayala Foundation, the Knowledge Channel Foundation, the Zuellig Family Foundation, the Jollibee Group Foundation and the Philippine Government, aimed to look at improving whole child development specifically in health, nutrition, social protection, and learning through advocacy; training child development workers, parents and caregivers; and capacity building for local government stakeholders. Whilst the Pilot was delayed and disrupted when COVID-19 hit, the group was able to continue implementing the Pilot by pivoting online.
The group agreed to continue working together moving forward, and expressed interest in developing a national ECD campaign to put ECD on the national agenda.
APC is currently working with the group to convene the second APC ECD Forum, this time with a specific focus on the Philippines, in Q3 of 2022.