Services for the forgotten: Todu Guam fills the gaps until GovGuam can learn to care more

Bolaven could have hit Guam. It could have been a big storm. It could have wrecked the island. More homeless. More without medication, food, and water. And more without mental health services.

It wasn’t. Thank God. But it’s just a matter of time before another Mawar comes – possibly a stronger one – and the gaps in services, the shortcomings of the government of Guam, are no where near being filled to competency.

We saw those gaps on full display following Mawar, in a so-called recovery effort where the people most in need literally were forgotten.

Tucked inside Yigo’s Chalan Ramirez is the Zero Down Subdivision. It is a shanty town, by and large. Some people do not have sanitation fit for decent human living. Clearly, in the days following Mawar, government leaders and officials were unaware that Zero Down is home to people so poor, that Machananao Elementary School quietly opens its doors around 3 a.m. every weekday so children can shower and brush their teeth.

And if leaders knew this, then obviously they didn’t care.

Because no one from the government showed up to help the people of Zero Down after their lives were uprooted by Mawar.

Thankfully, the American Red Cross did. Their volunteers brought meals to the residents there every day. Loving neighbors like Jon and Kat Savares volunteered their time to cut down felled trees and clear them from the roads to make them passable for emergency vehicles after it became clear Guam Department of Public Works wasn’t coming to the rescue.

And the only healthcare and hugs these poor people got were from the Todu Guam Foundation.

“We went there after the storm and we realized no one was checking on these people,” foundation president Lena Calvo-Rodriguez said. “So, every day we’d call who we could because the phones were down so often and we’d head up there. It was just Red Cross and thank God for them because how else would these people have food? And water?! They were so thirsty!”

Despite the warehouse full of canned goods and water bottles under the government’s control, that highly-lauded food and water drive by the politicians didn’t reach the forgotten people of Zero Down.

So, Todu Guam bought whatever cases of water employees could find on the little gas they had in their tanks (due to the Darwinian rush to the pumps), and handed the bottles out at Zero Down.

That’s the beauty of a non-profit organization. It isn’t bothered by the same regulations the government has to and should follow. It also can react to situations without inefficiency and bureaucracy.

And, so when the Todu Guam team arrived each day, they brought with them whatever they had in the way of nutrition, and their medical supplies. Because some people were hurt during Mawar and had bleeding and open wounds.

And no one checked on them until Todu Guam washed and bandaged the wounds.

Because some of the children were running high fevers.

And no one checked on them until Todu Guam brought their thermometers and fever reducers.

Because disabled people were sleeping on molding mattresses surrounded by filth under blue tarps. And no one helped them to live as human beings should until Todu Guam showed up to the poorest neighborhood on Guam.

The neighbors Guam’s leaders forgot about.

The Todu Guam Foundation is a highly under-recognized non profit organization with such untapped potential to make the difference we’ve quite mistakenly relied upon our government to make. The difference – and Mawar showed this to us – is that GovGuam will fail to be something we can depend upon, and Todu Guam, at least for the poor, the most vulnerable, and the forgotten, is a source of care we can count on.

Here are photos from that time. Look, the Todu Guam employees even look sincerely happy to be there, despite everything they and their families also were going through:

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