The first we heard of Typhoon Haiyan—a powerful cyclone that devastated parts of Southeast Asia in November 2013—was from Patrick, a videographer we had just hired to help us with an “explainer video” to promote our company, Matchnode.
We’d been drawn to Patrick based on his past videos, reviews from clients and strong communication during our first interactions. The quality and professionalism of his work stood out, so we weren’t concerned about our project when he informed us that a large storm was bearing down on his home in the Philippines. But we were concerned about him.
That conversation happened on a Tuesday, and he told us he would likely drop out of touch as the storm hit—which he did, when Haiyan arrived just two days later.
In the following days, we watched from Chicago as the tragedy unfolded, the distance shrunk because of our connection with Patrick. Our little video faded out of importance, replaced by our concern for Patrick, his family, and the victims of Haiyan.
We were relieved to hear from Patrick the Sunday after Haiyan struck; he was unharmed in Manila. After a few tense days, even relatives in areas that were harder hit were able to join his family in the capital.
Just a week or so later, Patrick was back at work and delivered a video that was exactly what we needed. We were happy to be able to help his family and friends recover not just by paying him for the work he did, but also by making a donation directly to him—which oDesk facilitated by waiving their fees for direct donations to Filipino freelancers in the aftermath of the storm.
We also gained an appreciation for the real value of fair pay, regardless of where people call home. Because Patrick’s rate is fair but competitive, he’s able to provide stability and quality of life for himself and his family—even in the face of such destruction—by working online for clients around the world.
In the face of Typhoon Haiyan: A letter from Patrick
Here’s what Patrick had to say about being in Manila during Haiyan, how being an oDesk freelancer affected his life during and after the storm, and how we can still help the victims.
I live in the capital and was very lucky that the only effects were electric and communication line disruptions. My Internet was gone for a few days. Power was going on and off. I had a few client deadlines that I missed due to this. I was very grateful that oDesk automatically sent a message to all my clients. (They do this for all ongoing contracts with workers in the Philippines, whenever we have a bad storm affecting us.)
We had a hard time communicating with our relatives due to the damage to the communication lines. It was difficult to bear because we had no clue what was going on in their region. Even the news wasn’t able to reach us for a week. Fortunately, they were fine. Their area was hit by the storm but it wasn’t as bad as [the city of] Tacloban, which was entirely devastated by strong winds, water and storm surges.
During Haiyan, I created an online fundraiser to help feed the survivors of the great storm. Fortunately, I had good-hearted clients like those at Matchnode who contributed to the drive through ad budgets and actual contributions. I was able to raise $400, which was doubled by the Canadian government to $800. It was able to feed several families for a week, which was a big help considering this is for their immediate survival.
Right now, Tacloban City is slowly rebuilding. It will take about 6-12 months to be able to get back to normal, aside from the thousands of lives lost. Fundraisers are still ongoing. For more details on updates and on how people can contribute, visit the Philippine Red Cross Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/phredcross.