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The Forgotten Phase

Cira Divino (right) and her 11-year old grandson are thankful that PWRDF has not forgotten the people of Bohol, but are still here helping to rebuild houses destroyed in the earthquake. Photo: Simon Chambers

September 22, 2014

By Simon Chambers

I’m back in Cebu after spending the day on Bohol island. I’m in the Philippines for a couple of weeks visiting our partners here, in case you hadn’t heard that news yet… Our first visit today was to one of the barangays where PWRDF has provided funding for the construction of houses after the October 2013 earthquake that devastated the region.

The local People’s Organization showed me a video they had made about the earthquake response, and they said two things that stuck particularly in my mind. The first was that the rehabilitation phase is the “forgotten phase” of relief work- more on that in a minute. The second, and the one that brought tears to my eyes, was that part of what made the earthquake forgotten for people who don’t live on Bohol was Typhoon Yolanda (known as Haiyan in Canada). Typhoon Yolanda “took priority for our neighbours in more need.” Having seen some of the destruction of the earthquake, the willingness of the people of Bohol to put down their own reconstruction to work for those in an even worse plight was tremendously inspiring!

Now back to the forgotten phase. For the locals, the phrase was talking about how the government seems to think that once the distribution of food and emergency shelters is over, the disaster has been responded to. They are very thankful of the efforts of PWRDF and other international agencies that are still there, helping to rebuild houses and infrastructure.

This phrase- “the forgotten phase”- was important to me, as well.

Re-building houses takes longer than the media’s attention span on disaster relief. Photo: Simon Chambers

Part of my job is to tell the stories of disasters to you, the supporters of PWRDF. It’s easy when a disaster like Typhoon Haiyan is in the media and right before us to be thinking about the people who are trying to rebuild their lives. But the news media has a short attention span, and quickly moves on to other topics, taking our attention with them.

This means that, for most people living in Canada, disasters end with the relief phase, too. PWRDF is usually there for years after a disaster- we’re still doing projects in Haiti almost 5 years after the earthquake. Part of why I’m here in the Philippines *now* is to gather stories of the relief and reconstruction work for the first anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan (and of the Bohol earthquake, whose anniversary will be on October 15.)

So please keep checking in over the next two weeks as I blog from the Philippines. I may not be posting daily, but I’ll do my best to write regularly!

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