November 7, 2014
By Simon Chambers
On November 8, 2013, the most powerful typhoon to ever make landfall struck the Visayas region of the Philippines. With sustained winds at over 230kph whipping up a storm surge as high as 6m, the damage was devastating. Millions were displaced, thousands were killed. Entire communities lost their homes, their crops, their schools.
Around the world, people watched the newscasts, and Anglicans in Canada responded with compassion and generosity through PWRDF to provide relief. Over the ensuing weeks, over $800,000 was donated to PWRDF for our work through the ACT Alliance and through our Philippine partners who were already providing food, water, shelter, sanitation and more to affected communities.
It is now one year later, and the work of rebuilding after Typhoon Haiyan continues. The work of distributing food and water, medicine and tents has ended. Now, the focus is on rebuilding homes, jobs, and communities.
Communities like Kampingganon, where over 90% of the houses were damaged or destroyed in the typhoon, where 61 people have joined together to form a people’s organization working with the Farmer’s Development Center (FARDEC), a PWRDF partner already active in the region. The members of the organization are working together to repair each other’s houses with supplies provided by FARDEC. By working together, they can repair a house in about a week.
FARDEC is also paying the organization members when they are working on the houses so they can continue to support their families while they work together to rebuild their homes. The organization members are also putting some of their pay into a fund which they use to give micro-credit loans out to members of the group, which are repaid with interest rates substantially lower than what money lenders charge in the area.
In Sillion, PWRDF has worked with Lutheran World Relief (LWR) to provide housing to families who were told they were ineligible for government-funded reconstruction efforts. LWR focused its work on the most vulnerable people in the community: seniors, widows, people living with disabilities, nursing mothers, and fisherfolk and farmers who are the poorest people in the community. LWR’s generosity inspired people like Amalite Batilo to become volunteers with the project, helping to build many more houses in Sillion and other villages. “I want to help my neighbours,” Amalite said. “I find contentment in helping others.”
A longer-term problem facing the fisherfolk of Sillion and other communities is the damage to spawning grounds. Many mangrove trees, which provided shelter to spawning fish, were destroyed by Haiyan. The sandy seabed was also altered by the storm. Today, fisherfolk catch 2-3kg of fish per day when before Haiyan they could catch 5-10kg. They do not know when the fish populations will recover. In order to supplement their income, many women from the community now make seashell necklaces to sell to merchants or to the nearby tourist resort.
The work of recovering will continue for years in the Philippines, and PWRDF will be there alongside its partners, working with and supporting the Filipino people in rebuilding their lives, their communities, and their future.