Philippines Update: 6 Months On

On the 8th November 2013, the biggest storm in history ripped through the centre of the Philippines affecting 14.1 million people. Six months on and painstaking efforts continue to be made to rebuild homes, livelihoods and lives. The Church of Ireland donation through the Bishops’ Appeal totalled €180,682 and £89,154 and here we explore the impact it has had on the lives of those so drastically affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

In the weeks and months following the typhoon, emergency relief packs were delivered firstly to those who were considered the most vulnerable, targeting poor households with elderly people, pregnant women, women with new born babies, people living with disabilities and female headed households with large numbers of children.   Bishops’ Appeal distributed Church of Ireland donations through Christian Aid and Tearfund partners on the ground who have work with the various Filipino communities over decades, empowering people to be able to respond to and overcome everyday poverty.

These local partner agencies successfully utilised their networks to distribute food packs including water, rice, salt, corned beef, canned fish, cooking oil and jerry cans to some of the hardest hit communities across the Philippines. Non-food packs were also distributed including basic household items such as blankets, sleeping mats, buckets, cooking pots and essential hygiene items. Emergency shelter materials such as tarpaulin, ropes, shelter repair kits, GI sheets, tools and nails were also distributed to families who required shelter and tools to repair their homes.

Amidst such tragedy and loss, communities have reiterated again and again that they did not feel alone or forgotten in their destitution. Survivors continue to speak of their gratitude that people as far away as Ireland cared about their survival and their wellbeing. Their thanks were first and foremost for our compassion and concern. However much or however little one contributed, the act of solidarity will always be remembered.

Sometimes one person’s story touches us amidst the millions affected. Marina Acaylan lost her home of 32 years to the typhoon. The boats her husband worked on, the port he worked from and the markets where she sold rice cakes were all completely destroyed. Marina walked the beaches full of debris looking for her two cooking pots that had been washed away. After taking out a loan and finally paying it back, these two pots represented the only things in the world that she owned.   After working so hard to obtain them, they symbolised their efforts for a better life and in an instant all had been ripped away. Now with international support including that from the Church of Ireland, Marina has received survival kits and has obtained a job. An exhausting painstakingly slow, new beginning. And yet, with their strength and resilience, and with our continued prayer and support, these new beginnings can take place.