With muscle power and donations, firm reaches out to Philippines
Insurers Lancashire Group has gathered ten boxes of clothing as a gift for a struggling community in the Philippines.The company operates a charitable foundation which sends aid overseas as well as to Bermuda charities. Crucial recent projects have included raising $50,000 for disaster relief in Haiti, and sending volunteers to the Philippines.Greg Lunn, the CEO of Lancashire Group’s Bermuda office, explained the philosophy behind Lancashire’s charitable work.“We know that a lot of our work involves the outcomes of disasters, and we think it’s important to recognise that many places in the world don’t benefit from insurance, so it keeps us grounded when we try to provide them with opportunities. What we do isn’t all about work.”The Bermudian donations will be shipped to an area where Lancashire Group staff have been involved in building of houses.The company’s Foundation has worked in close tandem with the charity group International Care Ministries (ICM) since the project was approved in July.Corporate finance officer Denise O’Donoghue said: “The Foundation asked the company here in Bermuda if any of us would be interested, so a few of us put our names forward. We went to work with ICM, to see what they do in the Philippines in terms of adult education, medical help, housing and their tuberculosis clinic. We also went in partnership to help build houses with them.”The best priced flights were available for September, a hot and rainy time of year in the Philippines, and the Lancashire group flew east on September 11.With one week in the Philippines, the group set to work at a settlement called Gawad Kalinga, where about 30 families of political refugees are building small houses.Located in the Negros Occidental province near the centre of the Philippines, the region was thunderously hot, and the team’s work there would seem closer to most people’s idea of punishment than any kind of holiday.Philippines native Anna Tabanda said: “Those temperatures would be normal for me. And luckily there were no rains. But even so, it was really hot.”The Lancashire team went from the district capital, Bacolod City, and joined others mixing cement and hauling rocks for the next six full days.Robert Herron, a member of Lancashire Group’s London office, said: “The way the labour system works, the people there had to work a certain number of hours to qualify for assistance. We were working alongside them, helping to build new homes.“It was like a workout every day. It’s menial, manual labour in a lush, very hot area. We got blistered hands pumping water, carrying rocks and bricks. There’s a chance back at the hotel in the evening to have a cold beer or two and reflect on the day, and once we took a trip to some waterfalls nearby. Apart from that, there wasn’t a lot of time to ourselves.”Ms O’Donoghue said: “It was a very emotional trip for us. I think the high part was how friendly people were. Even in desolate areas where we heard a lot of sad stories, particularly from orphans, the people were incredibly friendly to us.”She said she organised the clothing collection in Bermuda as quickly as possible after returning from the Philippines.“People asked me for everything I could give, and clothing was something they really needed out there. It means a lot, knowing where they’re going.”Mr Lunn said the company hopes to send staff overseas regularly, both as a team building exercise with London staff and a chance to share benefits.Foundation head Charles Mathias said: “Rather than just being a Foundation, we try to get staff involved as well. For example, we’ve been working closely with Kiva, which gives small loans in developing countries, usually to small groups who are trying to start their own businesses. We’ve asked staff to pick individuals to donate to, and in this office in Bermuda over 90 percent of our people have made one or more loans.”Internationally, the company is also a key donor to groups such as Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders), and Operation Smile which provides basic surgery to children in developing areas who are born with facial deformities such as cleft palates.Since its 2006 inception, the Lancashire Foundation has grown into a leading supporter of Bermuda charities.Bermuda work includes the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, the Family Centre, the Sunshine League and the autism support group Tomorrow’s Voices.To learn more about the Foundation’s work, check the website at www.lancashiregroup.com.