Natural disasters often come unannounced but they always leave behind a trail of despair and destruction in their wake, wreaking havoc on the lives of those affected. Despite the road to recovery being a long and arduous process, these survivors have managed to overcome obstacles and rebuild their lives. Mercy Relief has witnessed the indomitable spirit of our beneficiaries over the past decade.
A Look Back at Mercy Relief’s History
Mercy Relief was officially launched by then-Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as Singapore’s first independent, non-government, humanitarian organisation. Our disaster response team was first deployed to Bahorok, North Sumatra of Indonesia in 2003 which has been hit by devastating flash floods. For the next 15 years, Mercy Relief has continued to respond timely to disasters and implement longer-term sustainable development programmes to supplement our relief efforts across communities in Asia.
Mercy Relief has been involved in several notable natural disasters that were widely covered by the media such as the Sichuan Earthquake (2008) and the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (2011). Other relief missions include the South Asia Floods (2004) which hit Bangladesh, China, India and Nepal and the Mount Merapi Eruptions (Indonesia) in 2006 and 2010. We also had our first collaboration with the Singapore Air Force, Singapore Armed Forces and the Singapore Civil Defence Force which provided logistics support during the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.
Mercy Relief always aspires to provide timely and effective aid within 72 hours from the point of appeal so that we are able to respond to our beneficiaries as quickly as possible. In a bid to reach out to more people who are displaced from their homes, Mercy Relief expanded our operations to include places affected by armed conflicts such as Lebanon (2003), Sri Lanka (2009) and Gaza (2012).
A beneficiary of the Myanmar Floods Relief Ops in Buthidaung, a town in the Rakhine state.
However, relief efforts are only the beginning in the disaster recovery process. What sets Mercy Relief apart is our focus on longer-term projects that are sustained over a few years after the disaster to help improve the community’s resilience to future crises. Through mitigation and preparedness programmes, the impact of a disaster is reduced and the community readiness for future disasters is increased. All of which is achieved through Mercy Relief’s five focus areas for sustainable development projects namely, water and sanitation, shelter, sustainable livelihoods, healthcare, and education.
Volunteers sharing good hand-washing habits with the young children of Cambodia during Project ScWASH.
For instance, during the Typhoon Haiyan Relief in the Philippines (2013), on top of distributing relief food packs and mobile water purification systems to meet the basic survival needs of affected communities, Mercy Relief also initiated the Building Resilient Communities Programme for affected communities and found ways to enhance their economic resilience through increased livelihood opportunities.
Some of our other projects in other countries include:
- Provision of Safe Drinking Water & Livelihood Enhancement (Sichuan, China) which saw improved sanitary conditions and also enhanced livelihood possibilities like using the water for poultry farming for 2,301 villagers.
- English for Everyone (EFE) (China, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam)
- Healthy Community through Water and Sanitation for Hygiene (WASH) Programme (Cambodia & Timor-Leste)
- Skill Training and Enterprise Programme (STEP) (Cambodia) which included the construction of a 120-square-metre training block and a vocational training curriculum to equip disadvantaged communities with the necessary skills and knowledge that are relevant to market demands. The STEP focuses on three key areas – garment-making; beauty & wellness, and agriculture farming
Key Milestones for Local Outreach
Participants getting ready at the start line of the Ground Zero Run For Humanity held on 14 August 2016.
As a home-grown non-profit organisation (NGO), Mercy Relief deeply values its partnership with local stakeholders and generous support from the public. Mercy Relief has been taking steps to create new and innovative platforms to engage Singaporeans.
Some of our past highlights include:
- 2009: Produced by six final year students from Nanyang Polytechnic’s School of Interactive & Digital Media (SIDM), Mercy Relief launched Little Mercy Games to raise awareness about the ongoing humanitarian needs.
- 2015: Mercy Relief launched Code Blue, an educational computer game featuring a humanitarian disaster relief mission.
- 2010: Mercy Relief launched MOVE, a six-year overseas volunteer expeditions programme, which was aimed to develop volunteers into regional humanitarians.
- 2015: The first humanitarian run in Singapore was organised by Mercy Relief where it simulated the experiences of a survivor of a natural disaster for the participants.
- 2017: Mercy Relief was recognised by National Council of Social Service (NCSS) as an associate member in light of our efforts to support the local social service sector.
Celebrating 15 years of impact
To commemorate our 15th Anniversary Celebrations, Mercy Relief will be organising Ground Zero Carnival, Singapore’s first humanitarian-themed carnival on 22 and 23 September 2018 at Our Tampines Hub. Visitors can look forward to a wide range of exciting activities such as an experiential exhibition and learn about what survivors have to go through after a disaster. If you are new to Mercy Relief, we welcome you to visit our booths to find out more about the work we do!
A warm message to volunteers made by the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.
Singapore remains safe from natural disasters but the same cannot be said for many of our neighbours. With the kind support from our volunteers and sponsors, Mercy Relief has been able to intervene effectively in times of crisis. However, many of the vulnerable communities still require additional assistance to rebuild their lives. With our skills and experience on the ground, Mercy Relief is well-placed to introduce the necessary development projects with our native partners, but we still need your help! Kindly donate to us today so that together, we can support the indomitable spirit of the affected communities. All donations to our Impact Fund will be eligible for 250% tax relief.