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A life-saving relief mission

Sam Manning’s co-op experience at a nonprofit research organization in the Philippines turned into a life-saving relief mission when a catastrophic typhoon swept through the island country last month, killing more than 5,900 people and causing some $1.6 billion in damages.

In the storm’s aftermath, the fourth-year international affairs major packaged thousands of pounds of donated rice, noodles, and sardines to send to the survivors. Many of them had lived in the seaside city of Tacloban, where 150 mile-per-hour winds ripped tin roofs off homes, snapped trees in half, and tossed large ships ashore.

“Hearing stories from people who had been in Tacloban and seeing the awful pictures of destroyed cities and streets lined with body bags compelled me to find a way to help the survivors,” Manning said. “I can’t imagine going through the trauma that they were forced to face.”

The young humanitarian volunteered in Manila and Cebu, two cities where the United Nations’ World Food Programme had established logistics hubs. In Cebu, he met a volunteer who had traveled more than 2,000 miles from Japan to look for his best friend whom had gone missing in Ormoc, a city destroyed by the storm’s massive surge.

One volunteer carries a 121-pound bag of rice into a sorting facility in Cebu City.

One volunteer carries a 121-pound bag of rice into a sorting facility in Cebu City.

“I haven’t heard from him since,” Manning blogged. “While I hope that he was reunited with his best friend, I know that he helped a lot of others along the way.”

So, too, did Manning, whose work in Cebu was labor intensive, an exercise in strength and endurance. Over a two-day span, he helped carry thousands of 121-pound sacks of rice from large trucks to an indoor sorting facility.

A score of Filipinos thanked Manning for his help, a gesture that did not go unnoticed. “It’s important to give your time because every single pair of hands helped a lot,” Manning learned. “Never underestimate what you can do. When you have the opportunity to help, do your best to make an impact.”

His enthusiasm for helping those in need dovetails with his co-op work in the Philippines. As a research assistant for Innovations for Poverty Action, Manning is conducting a randomized controlled trial to measure the impact of expanding access to credit for small and medium enterprises—an experiential learning opportunity for which he received a Presidential Global Scholarship.

“This type of research is the first step toward answering difficult questions about how to most efficiently and effectively reduce global poverty,” he said.