The UP Open University (UPOU) has been planning for the development of a massive open online course (MOOC) on disaster risk management even before Typhoon Yolanda devastated central Philippines.
According to Prof. Primo Garcia, UPOU Information Office director, the “Yolanda experience” has reiterated the need for a more concerted and proactive approach to natural disaster management. This is why the planned MOOC will be offered for free so that it can equip more individuals and institutions in meeting and overcoming challenges in disaster management.
Apart from this, UPOU’s response to the typhoon’s aftermath started last 13 November 2013, when the Faculty of Management and Development Studies launched a donation drive. The donations in kind were handed to the UP System for distribution to those affected in Tacloban, Leyte.
On 13 December 2013, another donation drive was undertaken during the UPOU General Assembly. This time, employees gave school supplies, toys, and other items for the affected children in the area. These were sent to target communities through WeDpro, Inc., a non-profit collective in the Philippines that works in the area of human rights through gender responsive development programs, and of which a UPOU faculty is a board member.
In addition, Garcia told the UP Forum on 13 January that UPOU, in cooperation with UPOU Foundation, Inc. (UPOUFI), was able to raise almost P70,000 in cash donations from its constituents. The funds will be used to help some families in their recovery and rehabilitation from the calamity.
UPOU credits the success of their relief efforts to institutional partnerships and to its worldwide community. Linking up with the UP System, UPOUFI, and WeDpro, Inc. helped facilitate the transmission and distribution of relief goods on the ground. As a borderless campus, it was able to tap the support of its students from all over the country and the world. In fact, a substantial amount of donations came from students based abroad. UPOU relied more on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to inform its constituents about the relief efforts.
Garcia noted that the UPOU experience has shown that university extension programs need not be complicated, top-heavy initiatives. Encouraging the public to help in the university’s relief efforts must be complemented by engaging members of its own university community to participate in these activities.
“Public service is basically a culture,” he said. “It cannot be sustained unless the university as a whole feels it has a stake in it. [Public service] can only be achieved if everyone in the university can find a role in its implementation.”
Finally, Garcia emphasized how, in this day and age, social media plays an important role in organizing development initiatives. “UPOU is in a good position not only to adopt these media [in seeking] support for public service efforts but also to do empirical work on social media-driven networks for development.”
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