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People Power

Emelda Chavez breaks up concrete from her original house, which was destroyed during Typhoon Haiyan, to use as flooring material in the new home she and members of the Kaongkod Fishermen’s & Farmer’s Association are helping to build with supplies provided by PWRDF partner FARDEC.

September 28, 2014

By Simon Chambers

I’ve now reached Tacloban City, the worst hit place by Typhoon Haiyan which devastated the Philippines almost a year ago.  So far, I’ve visited projects implemented by six different PWRDF partners on 4 different islands.  One thing that has stood out for me in every place I’ve been is the power and strength of the Philippine people.

In doing all our work, PWRDF comes alongside people in communities.  We work with those communities to identify the problems they are facing and work with them to find ways to overcome those problems.  We do this because we know that the people living in the community are the experts in their situation, and they know far more about what will or will not work in overcoming the issues than we do.

There are several cliches along the lines of “a hand up not a hand out” that can be used to describe the philosophy PWRDF uses, but I heard one of the best versions from Amalite, a woman who lost her home during Haiyan, and shortly afterwards began volunteering with Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild homes for her neighbours.  She said, “we are homeless not helpless.”

The example of Amalite and the dozens of people like her has been inspiring.  Instead of lying down and waiting for whatever else life might throw at them in the face of an event like Typhoon Haiyan, they get up and get to work rebuilding.  But not just rebuilding for themselves.  They rebuild for their families, their friends, their neighbours, their community, and their country.  They learn new skills, implement new technologies, find new ways to make money to support themselves and their families.

It’s truly an honour to meet and learn from these incredible people.  I only hope that I can capture their commitment and their hope in the words that I write and the photos that I take so that you, too, can have a sense of what is being accomplished here!

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