Philippines

100 Days Later, Typhoon-Stricken Regions Still Need Help

One hundred days have passed since Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines, leaving 6,201 people dead and more than 1 million homes either damaged or destroyed. ChildFund has been on the ground since the immediate aftermath, assisting with food and water distribution, setting up Child-Centered Spaces and helping families rebuild homes and livelihoods. And yet, the people of Capiz, Leyte, Cebu and Bantayan islands still need your help as they try to get back on their feet. Consider making a donation to ChildFund’s Philippines Relief and Recovery Fund.

“It is a war against hunger and disease. It is a war against negative coping strategies families feel forced to adopt. It is a war against thirst, and it is a war against international news cycles and ambivalence,” says Isaac Evans, ChildFund’s director for global safety and security.

 100 days Capture

A Report From the Philippines

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

As part of our 75th anniversary blog series, we take a look at ChildFund’s long history with the Philippines, as captured in a 1959 letter by Dr. Verent Mills.

75th ChildFund logoChina’s Children Fund continued to grow throughout World War II, assisting 45 orphanages by November 1944, only six years after CCF was started. At the end of the war in 1945, CCF founder Dr. J. Calvitt Clarke saw that the organization’s income exceeded the known needs in China. That’s when CCF began its work in other Asian countries, including today’s focus, the Philippines.

We began sending funds to orphanages in the Philippines in 1946 (in fact, on Feb. 7, our board voted to help Filipino children), and we still support children in the Philippines, with everyday needs and when disasters strike, including Typhoon Haiyan, which claimed thousands of lives and destroyed homes and livelihoods for millions.

historic Philippines

A local garden in the Philippines, circa 1970s.

Our support for children in the Philippines has deep roots. In August 1959, Dr. Verent Mills, who was then Christian Children’s Fund overseas director, wrote to Dr. Clarke from Manila during a visit to a cottage-style orphanage, Children’s Garden:

“Mrs. Pangindian and others were at the airport and we drove by the Methodist Church to pick up Dr. Mosebrook, who returned to Manila just two weeks ago. Then on out in the rain to Children’s Garden, where the little ones sang a song of welcome. The whole place looks so neat and clean and the shrubbery and flowers are beautiful. Everything is always kept in tip-top shape here and the children appear very happy. The same cottage mothers are there and they are very proud of their children.

1977 philippines

Local women display their handcraft work, one of our Philippines projects in 1977.

The new clinic and sickbay is near completion and will be quite an asset to them, for it is difficult to segregate the ill children in the cottages. As soon as the weather changes they intend to build the other cottage.

Dr. Perez, who sends her special greetings to you both, stated that as time goes on the needs are becoming more pressing than ever, due to inflation, and the cost of living is going up constantly. … There is more unemployment than ever and market prices of everyday commodities continue to rise daily.”

 Mills continues, “The relatives of many of the children we are helping are very grateful. Likewise, the local citizens are rallying around the project and helping equally as much as we are giving.  If Voluntary Agencies only had the wherewithal to do more we could accomplish so much good and create more goodwill between other countries and our own.”

undated Philippines photo

Many children remained in poverty and were on a waiting list for our Philippines orphanages in the 1950s.

In closing, Mills writes that there are more than 200 children on the waiting list for Children’s Garden and that Dr. Perez hopes that in 1960, the orphanage could take in some of these children if they can build three more cottages.

“Also Dr. Mosebrook has asked me if he can raise locally for building an additional cottage. Would we take on the support of the children at $10.00 per month? I told him we would. I thought it would be an encouragement and an incentive. Children’s Garden in the Philippines is but one of our many Homes of which we can be justly proud.”

Learning How to Count to Eight

By Isaac “Ike” Evans, ChildFund Director of Global Safety and Security 

I’ve been in the Philippines nearly a month now, supporting our emergency response to Super Typhoon Haiyan. I’ve learned a lot on this trip, but one thing I will carry with me is being able to count to eight in Cebuano. I did not learn it because I read it in a book or used language-learning software. I learned it by placing eight bags of dried noodles into larger plastic bags – hundreds and hundreds of times: Ousa, duha, tolo, opat, lima, unum, pito, walo.

The eight bags of noodles, combined with other food items, were enough to feed a family of five for five days.

Ike Evans

There’s Ike (right), packing food in Cebu City.

The other day, I went to Sacred Heart Church here in Cebu, where staff and volunteers have been packing food and non-food items nearly every day for the last month. I’ve stopped in before, but this time I wanted to thank them and help with packing, to experience what they were doing for us. Of course, I had no idea what I was in for. The labor – packing and moving combined food items weighing about 90 kilos (200 lb.) – is especially tough here, where the temperature and humidity are high. Sheets of sweat ran down my face within minutes.  

My colleagues, Joel and Martin, were with me that day, and after an hour or so of heavy lifting, we settled into other work: packing rice, sardines or noodles into the bags. Eventually we found our niche, taking noodles from boxes (thousands of boxes!) and placing eight bags into a small plastic bag. Joel and I worked as a team – as a machine, really – while Martin packed canned sardines into other bags. We were moving quickly, so we counted aloud to make sure we were putting the right number in each bag.

Joel soon fell into his native Cebuano, and a game of sorts was afoot. Soon enough, I would learn to count in Cebuano, but only to eight. There were many laughs as I tried to first remember, then sound the words out and slowly develop mastery. After a couple of hours, Martin said it was time for me to go; the others had already worked well past quitting time but would not leave as long as I was there.

Sorry and a bit embarrassed, I got up slowly. The work was harder and more monotonous and dirtier than I had thought. But now I can count to eight in Cebuano, and the story of how I learned to do it is one more memory that helps restore me when the work of providing relief gets me down.

food packing in Cebu City

ChildFund’s food packs, assembled at a church in Cebu City, fed hundreds of families in the Philippines.

Filipino Children Still Need Our Help

By Martin Nañawa, ChildFund Philippines

The past two months have been filled with challenges for families in parts of the Philippines as they cope with the devastation and loss caused by Typhoon Haiyan. Martin Nañawa, a communications staff member in our Philippines office, has spent this time reporting on the children, youth and adults affected by the typhoon, the worst in recent history in the Philippines. Today we feature a compilation of some of his recent reports. Please consider making a donation to ChildFund’s Philippines Relief and Recovery Fund to help these communities.

As of Dec. 15, Typhoon Haiyan has claimed more than 6,100 lives, with nearly 1,800 missing and almost 28,000 injured. More than 1 million homes were damaged, and 550,000 of these were destroyed. The estimated total cost of damage is $36.6 billion.

Giving Thanks

Filipino boys

Justin (center) and his friends.

Here is a vignette from Martin, reflecting on the storm’s toll:

“Are you sure you don’t want anything?” I asked the young boy. I was suddenly concerned. When I was 10 years old, I wanted a lot of things for Christmas. Justin just looked back at me and said, “I’m alive, Mama and Papa are alive. All three of us are alive.”

Justin and his family were sheltered at the evacuation center at the Special Education Center at Tacloban. Their home had been destroyed in the winds and catastrophic storm surge caused by Typhoon Haiyan.

As ChildFund Philippines’ communications officer, I’ve been on assignment with ChildFund’s Emergency Response Team since Nov. 7, before the typhoon made first landfall. I’ve been with the team through rapid assessments in Leyte communities at Ormoc City, Palo, Tolosa, Tanauan and Tacloban. Other ChildFund teams were in Bantayan in northern Cebu and Capiz, Iloilo and Toboso in the western Visayas.

Everywhere I trained my camera lens, it found a unique form of misery: homes flattened for miles around, as if the entire landscape had been carpet-bombed, vehicles strewn about like toy cars and trucks flung about by a now unseen force. Every kilometer or so, I’d find distress messages painted on pavement or concrete. Regrettably, cadavers by the roadside were an even more frequent sight.

Devastation in Leyte

Devastation on the island of Leyte.

I remember shooting dozens of photos in all directions the first time I walked through the Leyte corridor. When I thought I’d captured everything, we’d push on into the next community to find more of the same. It took a while before it sank in that I could fill memory cards and still fail to capture the full extent of the destruction, hunger and misery.

I turned to see the row of young faces lined up next to Justin. Two 9-year-old boys sat with him at a little table. Next to them, there were three more wooden tables lined up, and when the children caught my glance as I scanned the room, they all smiled back at me. The boys were in the middle of an exercise from ChildFund’s psychosocial support modules for emergencies. They were writing and drawing their wishes and thanksgiving for this Christmas.

Soon other children were volunteering the entries they had written. Each time I’d lift my camera to my face, these smiles grew wider, and boys automatically touched their chins with their thumb and forefinger, vying for attention in my viewfinder. After a long day in the field, wading through my countrymen’s anguish, scenes like this at CCS sites have become the respites I look forward to.

I could feel my legs starting to go numb from squatting to talk to the kids. Standing up to stretch, I bumped my head into something hanging from the ceiling. It was a parol, a handmade Filipino Christmas lantern fashioned like the star of Bethlehem. I wasn’t sure who had hung the parol there, but I could see a few more of them dotting the corridor. Despite the circumstances, Christmas had found its way to this small space in Tacloban.

CCS in Leyte

ChildFund officials, including Asia Regional Director Geoffrey Petkovich (pictured), paid a visit to a Child-Centered Space in Leyte recently.

ChildFund’s Response

During the relief phase immediately after the typhoon, ChildFund and our local partner organizations assisted in distributing food and non-food necessities, establishing Child-Centered Spaces (CCS) to provide safe places for children to gather and address the trauma they had experienced, providing nourishment for children and mothers and educating children while schools were closed.

During the recovery phase, which is ongoing, ChildFund and its partners help to restore community members’ livelihoods, strengthen child protection mechanisms and build emergency response capacity for future disasters.

In Roxas City, two Child-Centered Spaces continue to operate at a reduced schedule, now that schools there have reopened. In Ormoc City, three CCSs continue to operate, and teachers at an elementary school have received training in psychosocial support to help their students heal from the devastation. The teachers note that this process has been helpful for them, as they too have suffered great losses. Schools have closed for the holidays in many areas.

In Tacloban, Tolosa, Tanauan and Palo on the island of Leyte, seven CCSs continue to operate, and two more spaces, including one funded by Barnfonden (ChildFund Sweden), are in the planning stages. Both are expected to open by the start of 2014. Funding from UNICEF for a nutrition project in Tolosa, Tanauan and Palo was approved Dec. 18, and this project’s staff will coordinate with UNICEF representatives in Tacloban. Food and non-food essentials are still being distributed in this region.

On Bantayan Island (Northern Cebu), day-care workers and other local representatives attended psychosocial training for their work with children who are still feeling the emotional effects of the storm’s devastation. Most participants still show signs of stress (like crying while telling their experiences).

The facilitators provided non-intrusive, practical care and support; assessed needs and concerns; listened to participants without pressuring them to speak or share; comforted them and provided activities to calm them. ChildFund staff members also helped participants connect to appropriate sources of information, services and other social support.

Also in Bantayan, electrical power has been restored, but many children age 5 and under are moderately to severely malnourished. The World Food Program is addressing this problem, as providing the proper nutrition requires special attention.

Please consider making a donation to help children in the Philippines; we are still collecting funds, and they will make a big difference in the lives of thousands. Thank you.

Filipino children say thanks

Young Haiyan Survivors Help Each Other

By Martin Nañawa, ChildFund Philippines

In the weeks after Typhoon Haiyan, Martin Nañawa, ChildFund’s communications officer in the Philippines, met many people who suffered fear and uncertainty during the storm. Here are the stories of two young women who work as teachers and are now volunteering in our Child-Centered Spaces to help children in their communities.

Darlene pressed her cheek against the sheet roofing of her home. She feared that otherwise the wind would tear her from the rooftop. Still, she tilted her face as far upward as she could, and squinting into the lashes of rain, she cried and cried, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I’ll be good! I’ll change, I promise!”

If heaven had heard her, it made no sign. Though Darlene could barely hear herself over the roar of wind and rain, she pressed her appeal longer and louder.

***

destruction in Palo

Palo was laid flat during Typhoon Haiyan.

Ivy watched the wind rattle her home’s windows and a glass door facing the patio. The tempo picked up so violently, she instinctively moved to brace the windows, if only to keep them in place. Her mother cried, and adrenaline shot through Ivy. Like a great, invisible fist, a gust of wind smashed through her windows and door. She felt time slow to a crawl as slivers of glass hurtled toward her. Her arms felt leaden, refusing to rise fast enough to shield her face. Her mouth opened to scream, but she spat back what she hoped weren’t tiny shards of glass.

Next, a wall of water was rushing into her home, and Iris latched her arms desperately onto a doorway, struggling against the current that threatened to throw her deeper into her house.

Shimmying her way wall to wall, Ivy inched away from the doorway over to her brother, who was further back in the living room behind her. They both lost their footing, and the waves of floodwater threatened to sweep them out of their now absent front door, into a gurgling blender of waves and debris outside.

Just then, Ivy turned to see the family’s refrigerator barreling towards her, top first like a battering ram. She and her brother just barely waded out of the way when the fridge spun lengthwise. The refrigerator then became a form of protection when it barred the doorway, just as Ivy lost her grip and would have been swept outside.

***

angels on the church

Angels at the devastated church.

Days later, Darlene looked up at the clear Leyte sky and wiped the perspiration from her brow. Above her, stone angels peered calmly back at her from the cathedral’s steeple. She traced the cathedral’s silhouette with her eyes, checking how many angels survived the typhoon. From where she stood on the ground, Palo Cathedral seemed largely intact. Though rooftops were ripped clean off, the angels stood calmly in place.

Darlene followed the angels’ gaze to the edge of the cathedral’s yard. Freshly turned earth marked the final resting place of 300 men, women and children. The mass grave was a grim reminder of the fate so many suffered during Typhoon Haiyan’s path through Leyte and the Visayas. Also, it was a personal reminder of the fate Darlene was spared when she clung for life on her rooftop. “I promised to be good,” she reminded herself.

Darlene

Darlene tells her story, aided by an illustration.

The sound of children’s laughter roused Darlene from her reverie. Two young girls ran past her while chasing a ball. Then a line of giggling children hemmed her inside a small circle. One of the girls walked up to her, having just retrieved the ball that had gone astray. Darlene turned to address the young faces ringed around her; she announced the next game.

It was Darlene’s first day as a Child-Centered Space volunteer with ChildFund. She got the call for volunteers from a sister at the academy where Darlene is a teacher. Though fresh out of college, Darlene has had much experience working with children — and she promised she’d help out.

Friends and peers from St. Mary’s Academy similarly volunteered to work with ChildFund as it set up Child-Centered Spaces, or CCS for short, across Palo and Tolosa towns, just outside Tacloban City, which was hit particularly hard by the typhoon.

In a large green-and-white tent in the shadow of Palo Cathedral, ChildFund staff members and volunteers assigned young people in groups according to age — infants, children and adolescents — play games appropriate for each group. These weren’t just games for the sake of fun. The children’s world had just been hammered into ruin, and the CCS was perhaps the one place in Palo where children could be children for at least a few hours a day.

Ivy and banner

Ivy, second from right, holds her CCS banner.

Ivy’s CCS group assembled at the cathedral’s parking lot, not far from Darlene’s group. Just like Darlene, Ivy signed up as a CCS volunteer, and they were both so overwhelmed by the turnout of children, they had to spread their groups beyond the tent and across the cathedral’s lot. Like Darlene, Ivy is a teacher. Classes remain suspended in devastated areas of Leyte, but she regards her service as a CCS volunteer a fit expression of gratitude for having survived the typhoon.

The volunteers received an orientation in using the CCS modules to help children overcome the trauma, which were designed in consultation with a leading wellness center. Dozens of children come to these spaces every day on the cathedral grounds. Both Ivy and Darlene understand the commitment it will take to see CCS activities through the holidays and into 2014.

While setting up the space, ChildFund staff members held a workshop to help CCS volunteers manage their own emotions. Ivy, Darlene and their peers had just survived what could be the strongest typhoon in recorded history.

“It sounds childish, and I couldn’t say I’ve been bad before, but bargaining seemed to be all I could do as I clung to that rooftop,” Darlene said.

“These children and I have been through the same experience,” Ivy added, “and when I help them overcome their fears, I feel myself making peace with mine.”

To help children in Palo and other communities devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, please consider making a donation to ChildFund’s Relief and Recovery Fund for the Philippines.

Philippines Children Make Progress After Typhoon

By Julien Anseau, Asia Region Communications Manager

As you approach Tambulilid school, the singing and laughter of children gets louder and louder. It’s great to hear children having fun and being children again.

child's drawing

Children are beginning to draw happier subjects at Child-Centered Spaces in the Philippines, post Typhoon Haiyan.

Nearly one month after Typhoon Haiyan struck islands in the Philippines, ravaged communities are slowly getting back on their feet. In the devastated city of Ormoc, ChildFund is addressing the immediate needs of impacted families by distributing food packs and essential items including hygiene kits, roofing materials and cooking utensils.

ChildFund is also focusing on providing psychosocial support to children. In disaster situations, children are particularly vulnerable. While parents are out looking for shelter, food, water and emergency assistance, children are often left unsupervised, increasing their susceptibility to abuse, exploitation and harassment. Children are often separated from loved ones and exposed to levels of destruction that have long-term effects on their psychological and physical development.

ChildFund was quick to establish Child-Centered Spaces immediately following Typhoon Haiyan to provide a safe haven for children to play, socialize, learn and express themselves in a caring and supportive environment. At Tambulilid school, where ChildFund established its first CCS after the typhoon, a young mother, Rein, says: “I leave my daughter here while I stand in the long distribution line for food. She is only 5 years old. It is important she has a safe place to play under supervision.”

At a CCS, children take part in activities that help them overcome the traumatic experience they went through. It is also a place where children can be children again.

children in Ormoc

ChildFund has helped establish 13 Child-Centered Spaces after the typhoon struck last month.

“For a few hours every day, I can forget what happened and play with friends,” says a smiling Angel, age 7. Marcela, a local ChildFund staff member, explains: “Children take part in drawing, singing, dancing, playing and storytelling, which allow emotional expression.”

Today, children are drawing. They are enjoying themselves. Marcela adds: “At first, most children drew pictures of the typhoon and the destruction, but in more recent days, they are drawing their family and friends. This is an important sign in post-trauma healing. Child-centered spaces help in this respect.”

More than 300 children participate daily at Tambulilid, one of three CCSs run by ChildFund in Ormoc. “We conduct separate sessions for different age groups, where we provide age-appropriate structured activities,” Marcela says. “Many youths are trained facilitators and have volunteered to conduct sessions for younger children, because they want to be active in the community’s recovery. We have also mobilized many volunteers. ChildFund has worked in Ormoc through a local partner organization for many years, and we have a strong relationship with the local community. We train our volunteers to provide basic support to children dealing with distress and shock from their situations, and to recognize children who need to be referred for more specialized services.”

smiling children in Philippines

Although smiles have returned to children’s faces in Ormoc, many more need support in devastated Philippines communities.

Although food aid has arrived in Ormoc, malnutrition is still an issue as a number of children appear to be underweight. ChildFund provides food to children at the CCS. Marcela says: “The first day we opened the CCS, we served pancit (a type of Filipino noodles). It was the first time children ate a cooked meal since the typhoon struck. They were extremely hungry. They ate everything up quickly and they had a smile back on their faces. The second day we served pandesal (a popular bread roll in the Philippines made of flour, eggs, yeast, sugar, and salt).” Today, it is spaghetti with tomato sauce. It makes a nice change from the rice and canned sardines they eat every day in the evacuation centers.  

While the situation in Ormoc is improving, basic survival resources — food, drinking water, shelter and access to medical treatment — are still needed. Schools were expected to reopen sometime this month, but with school buildings extensively damaged, this is unlikely. Schools are in need of major repair to be safely occupied, and learning and teaching materials need to be replaced if classes are to resume as intended. There is still no date for the restart of pre-school and day care activities at this time — highlighting the critical importance of ChildFund’s Child-Centered Spaces.  

ChildFund has opened 13 CCSs impacted areas in the Philippines, but thousands of children still require psychosocial support to overcome trauma from the typhoon. With your support, ChildFund will be able to open more spaces for affected children.

The Amazing Gift of Sponsorship

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Willy Peeters arrived in Miami, Fla., in 1995, to start a business in scale modeling and design. He is from Belgium, but he decided to make a change and move westward, a shift he’s continued with a recent move to Texas.

75th ChildFund logoIn 1997, he was watching TV, when he saw a commercial for ChildFund, then known as Christian Children’s Fund. It flipped a switch in Willy’s head, and he decided to sponsor a child — a girl from the Philippines.

“I thought it was the right thing to do, to give a child a chance,” Willy says.

The child’s name was Khim, and she was in first grade. Today, at age 23, she is a teacher and the mother of a daughter; they live on Basilan Island, in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. ChildFund continues to work in this region today; although the island is often affected by storms, it was not damaged by the recent super typhoon Haiyan.

Khim

Khim, a former sponsored child.

“It was a coincidence that I needed a father’s love, which I found in him,” Khim says, “and he, who doesn’t have a child of his own, is fond of kids. I remember one staff member [from ChildFund] saying to me how other kids from the organization envy me for having Uncle Will. I felt really special, because he treated me not just as a sponsored child but as a part of his own family.”

Willy and Khim share a love of reading. Although we can no longer ensure that bulky packages get from sponsor to child today, back then, Willy sent Khim science books, which helped her in her education.

He still has a box of letters and pictures she sent him with updates through the years. “I will never get rid of those,” he says. Willy’s sponsorship of Khim continued until she was 18. He didn’t expect to hear from Khim again after the sponsorship ended, but he received a message on Facebook from her two years ago, when she was in college.

And last Christmas, Khim messaged Willy again to let him know that she had achieved another goal.

Willy Peeters

Willy Peeters

“[She] thanked me for sponsoring her because she [had] just passed the exam and is now a teacher, just like she always wrote she would like to be one day,” Willy says. “I could not have imagined receiving such a heartwarming present and that my simple efforts made such a difference in somebody’s life thousands of miles away. She has a great family now, and I couldn’t have been prouder of her for working as hard as she promised in her letters.”

Willy hopes one day to meet Khim in person, and he’s thinking about sponsoring another child through ChildFund.

“My uncle is really a philanthropist at heart,” Khim says. “He would always ask me what I am going to take when I reach college. He started sending money for my savings account, which I used when I reached college. Now, I am already a teacher with the help of my dear Uncle Will, through the help of CCF. Thanks a lot for helping us build our dream.”

Catch up with our ongoing 75th anniversary blog series.

In the Eye of Typhoon Haiyan

By Martin Nañawa, ChildFund Philippines

“Daddy, play outside?” little Yvo asked his father. The louvers at the foot of the door allowed in gusts of water spray that only excited the 1-year-old more. He struggled out of his clothes down to his underwear, as if he were about to go for an innocent swim.

Yves

Former sponsored child Yves meets ChildFund field manager Marcella Donaal.

His father, Yves, braced himself against the door, fearing it would blow open under the sheer force of Typhoon Haiyan’s winds. But he calmly turned to his son and tried to explain the difference between a super typhoon and a light morning rain shower. Yvo did not understand the gravity of the situation, but he knew to trust and obey his father, and he contented himself with dancing from one foot to another, stamping at the puddles of water building at his feet. Yves, however, kept watch at the door, fearful for his family’s safety and praying that the typhoon would disappear.

Suddenly it did. As quickly as the winds picked up at around 8 that morning, the whole of Ormoc City fell calm. The skies cleared, and it was as bright a noon as they were used to. Yves and his family ran outside the public school classroom where they’d sought shelter. People bumped into each other, walking around, arms outstretched and gazes fixed on the sky. Some laughed, showing their expressions of relief and disbelief and hugging each other. It was almost too good to be true.

Ormoc destruction

A scene of devastation in Ormoc.

Something told Yves it was. He spun around where he stood, surveying the horizon. Long fingers of clouds clawed at the very periphery of the entire Ormoc skyline. Then, to his horror, Yves remembered a lesson from his childhood. He picked Yvo up and ran, shouting and waving at his fellow evacuees, “Turn back! Turn back! It’s not over! It’s just the eye of the storm,” he gasped.

Typhoon Haiyan was merciless when it resumed its battery of Ormoc. Even the shelter of the concrete classroom felt frail amid winds that this time blew in the opposite direction. Glass shattered, and corrugated iron wailed inhuman cries as sheets tumbled in the wind and crumpled like paper. “I tried to film the carnage with my camera phone, but I relented, fearing the wind would tear my phone from my grip,” Yves said.

Child-Centered Space

ChildFund set up Child-Centered Spaces in Ormoc and other affected areas in Philippines as soon as possible.

Hours later, it was truly over. Typhoon Haiyan had now crossed the island of Leyte and was now wreaking havoc on the islands of central and western Philippines. There were no cheers and celebration this time, however. In the fading daylight, even young Yvo seemed to understand. Typhoon Haiyan had devastated Ormoc City.

The first 24 hours were challenging. Yves found that the home his family rented had been largely ruined in the typhoon. Some sections of roofing remained intact but not enough to lend any comfort or shelter from the elements. His family would continue to reside at Linao Elementary School, where they had sought shelter during the typhoon.

The ensuing power and communications blackout covering the whole island of Leyte did not prevent word from reaching Ormoc of other towns and cities struck by Typhoon Haiyan: Palo and Tolosa were severely devastated, and Tacloban City had fallen. Death, hunger and the overwhelming number of requests to the local government had driven people past desperation in Tacloban, and there were safety and security concerns.

ChildFund was one of the first international organizations to reach Ormoc after the typhoon. “Residents feared Ormoc would become the next Tacloban, if the situation became more desperate,” said Philippines Rapid Response Team leader Erwin Galido.

children laughing

For a little while each day, children get the chance to have fun and perhaps forget a moment about the storm’s wreckage outside.

Despite these apprehensions, or perhaps specifically because of what was at stake, ChildFund committed to assist all of the residents of Ormoc City — not just the sponsored children and families supported through the local partner organization.

ChildFund’s Rapid Response Team — carrying tents, sleeping bags and other provisions for survival —  proceeded into Ormoc, located the local partner staff members and their  flooded office. ChildFund’s team needed a new base to establish a supply chain of food and essential non-food aid. It turned out that Yves was able to help.

Yves’ workplace, a small hotel where he was night manager, had survived the typhoon. Yves has two jobs, both as a manager and teaching hotel and restaurant management, a degree he achieved thanks to his sponsorship through ChildFund. Despite his city’s grim circumstances, Yves reported for work.

Yves learned that other Ormoc residents, government officials, small vendors and entrepreneurs decided to report for work too. He also heard that a few aid organizations and nongovernmental organizations had landed in Ormoc and was sure that ChildFund was among them. No sooner had he hoped to hear word then he ran into ChildFund’s Response Team, right in the hotel lobby. It was a happy reunion between ChildFund staff and a former sponsored child, despite the circumstances.

Child-Centered Space

Child-Centered Spaces also provide children with nutritious food and help them feel secure.

Yves offered to move ChildFund’s operations into the small, modest hotel. It had a generator, which operates at key hours of the day, allowing the team members to charge equipment and keep in touch with the response center established in neighboring Cebu Island. ChildFund also immediately established Child-Centered Spaces, which offer activities for children and youths to help them understand and recover from the psychological trauma of the destructive storm. UNICEF noted that ChildFund was the first international organization on the scene to establish these psychosocial support activities in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

Child-Centered Spaces are also the entry point for child protection activities in evacuation camps. The density of displaced populations, along with the lack of privacy and sharing of common latrines, place many children at risk during times of emergency. ChildFund staff members and volunteers make sure that referral and child-protection mechanisms are in place and that people know how to employ them.

Child-Centered Spaces

Our work in Ormoc and other cities and villages has just started, but we’ll continue to press forward.

One such Child-Centered Space was set up at the Linao Elementary School, where Yves and his family are sheltered. ChildFund staff members and trained volunteers from the local partner gathered children sheltered there to play, draw and express their emotions. Infants, children, and youth are grouped separately, and little Yvo gets to join the below-5 age group.

“Daddy, play outside!” Yvo shouts when it’s time for Child-Centered Space activities. This time, Yves knows it’s safe.

In Ormoc: ‘It Was the End of the World – We’re Lucky to Be Alive’

By Julien Anseau, Asia Region Communications Manager

Julien, who has joined ChildFund’s emergency response team on the ground in the Philippines, provides a firsthand view of the damage wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in Ormoc, 60 miles southwest of Tacloban, where ChildFund have been working with children for many years and is now focusing its response.

As the ferry from Cebu pulls into Ormoc, the devastation before me is unbelievable. Buildings and houses have been flattened, electricity pylons blown down, cars turned over, palm trees ripped apart. As I disembark, people walk toward me holding out their hands and asking for food. I note the long lines of people desperate to board the ferry back to Cebu, as many try to leave this hard-hit island.

Filipino children regroup after the storm

Sunny, 13, (third from left): “I was very scared. I could hear the roofs being blown away and houses crumbling.”

My first destination is the coastal community of Naungan. Children are on the streets, fetching water, looking for food or just hanging around doing nothing. I meet Sunny, a barefoot 13-year-boy who is sponsored through ChildFund. “I was in the school (evacuation center) with my family when the storm hit,” he tells me. “The wind was furious and howling. The noise was deafening. It went on for hours. It was dark outside and the school was shaking. I was very scared. Everyone was screaming and crying and praying. I could hear houses being smashed away and I thought the school would be next. When the storm ended, we went outside and could not believe the destruction. It was the end of the world. We’re lucky to be alive.”

As in other parts of Ormoc, 90 percent of the houses in this coastal community have been completely blown away. There is no electricity, and we’re hearing that power likely will not be restored for four months. All schools are closed and are in use as evacuation centers for the thousands who no longer have homes to return to. Everywhere I go, people are going hungry and asking for food. There is a huge need for rice, a staple of the Filipino diet. Noodles and canned food are also needed. Food aid is only just reaching Ormoc, and it’s only trickling in.

Filipino girl who survived storm

Michelle, 18: “People in the evacuation center were screaming, crying and praying. I cried and cried.”

I head back into town. There are long lines of people waiting for fuel and food, adding to the chaos. As I walk along the crowded main street littered with debris, a voice calls out, “Hey, ChildFund.” I turn to see a young woman. It turns out she recognized my green T-shirt. Michelle, 18, is also sponsored through ChildFund. She tells a similar story to Sunny’s. Her house has been badly destroyed and her dad is desperately looking for construction materials to fix it. There is a huge need for roof tarpaulins and plastic sheeting in Ormoc, as the rain continues to come down, making living conditions miserable. Pneumonia and flu are already major concerns, particularly among children.

Next, I meet Manny, 21, who participates in ChildFund’s youth programs. He shows me his house in the area of San Isidro, where ChildFund serves 144 children. “This is my house,” he says when we arrive. “This is how I found it after the storm. Everything is lost, everything!”

Filipino youth in front of destroyed home

Manny, 21: “This is my house. This is how I found it after the storm. Everything is lost, everything!”

As ChildFund responds in Ormoc, we know that children are particularly vulnerable in disaster situations. Many children are wondering the streets unaccompanied, while their parents look for food and water. Children who have survived this typhoon have lost their sense of security; their world has been turned upside down. The need for psychosocial support is great.

Late last week, ChildFund has opened its first Child-Centered Space in Ormoc. These are safe havens for children to come together, take part in structured activities and, for a few hours, forget the typhoon and just enjoy being children again. I learn that 114 children of all ages have come to play, draw and sing. For the first time since the typhoon hit, smiles appear on their faces. These activities help children deal with trauma and restore some normal routines to their lives. ChildFund also provides food to the children.

As we look ahead to the long-term needs in the Philippine islands battered by the storm, we see a huge need for rebuilding homes and restoring livelihoods. Yet, local officials and communities fear Ormoc will be overlooked and that aid will bypass them because of pressing needs in nearby Tacloban.

On the day of my visit, it continues to rain and it’s getting dark, hampering relief operations. The people of Ormoc are bracing themselves for another uncomfortable night. For thousands of young people like Sunny, Michelle and Manny, it means going to bed hungry, sleeping in damp conditions and reliving the nightmare of one week ago when the storm struck.

ChildFund has launched the Philippines Relief and Recovery Fund to respond to both immediate and long-term needs in the Philippines. Relief-phase interventions will include distribution of food and non-food items, responding to immediate health needs and establishing Child-Centered Spaces. The recovery phase will include restoring livelihoods and focusing on education, health and nutrition of children, while strengthening community-based child protection systems and conducting disaster risk reduction and emergency response training and capacity building.

Learn more about ChildFund’s response and how you can help.

Assessing and Responding to Devastation in the Philippines

Reporting by ChildFund Philippines staff

As we begin to understand the scope of Typhoon Haiyan’s toll on the Philippines, ChildFund staff members and our local partner organizations are in the devastated communities, distributing aid and assessing needs. You can assist by making a donation to our Philippines Relief and Recovery Fund. Here is the most recent report from our Philippines colleagues:

ChildFund has started to implement its emergency response in these priority areas: Ormoc City, Roxas City and Tacloban City. An operations center has been established in Cebu City as the staging point for logistics and personnel deployment to Tacloban and other Eastern Visayas provinces. Procurement of relief goods (food packs and non-food items) is ongoing simultaneously in Manila and Cebu City.

Below is a summary of the results of the rapid assessment done by our staff on the field:

damage in Ormoc City

Ormoc City was one of the most devastated localities in the Philippines. ChildFund was among the first aid organizations to reach the city.

Ormoc City, Leyte: The entire population of about 100,000 families has been affected. Food and potable water are their most urgent needs. Only 35 of the 110 barangays (districts) have received food packs, which are good for two days only. There are no local suppliers. There is also no electricity. Although there is a water supply, not all water is potable. At this time, 90 percent of roads and bridges are passable. Public buildings have sustained major damage. The local government can arrange for the transportation to deliver supplies from Cebu City.

Our local partner has accounted for all 271 enrolled children. Most of them have damaged houses. Meanwhile, the office of our local partner is severely damaged.

Roxas City, Capiz: The entire city sustained heavy damage from the typhoon, affecting 12,123 people, or 2,499 households. Nearly 5,000 children are affected. More than 10,000 people have left their homes and are currently living with relatives, in makeshift tents or at designated evacuation centers. ChildFund staff has determined the presence of 450 families in 20 evacuation centers. There is no electricity in the entire city, but cell phone network coverage has been restored. There is a potable water supply, but it is running low. 

phones recharging

Cell phones recharging in Ormoc.

ChildFund operates in 13 of the 47 barangays in Roxas City. ChildFund is in close coordination with the city’s Social Welfare and Development Office.  So far, ChildFund is the only nongovernmental organization present in the area. ChildFund has initially distributed 200 units of 6-liter bottled water. Food and non-food items are still being packaged and will be ready for distribution shortly. The staff is in the process of setting up a Child-Centered Space in Culasi, one of the hardest hit barangays. The staff members have conducted a preliminary session for 30 children. More sessions will take place in the following days.

Iloilo City, Iloilio: Our local partner has initially conducted activities for children and distributed 200 units of bottled water at one evacuation center. Based on the assessment of the ChildFund team, the municipality of Estancia is being recommended as another area for response since it is the hardest-hit municipality in the province.

distributing water

Distributing water in Ormoc City.

Tacloban City, Leyte: Its population of 220,000 people bore the brunt of the typhoon, with the death toll being placed so far at 1,774 by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. There are 13 evacuation centers hosting about 15,000 people.  Although we do not have programs in Tacloban, ChildFund has an assessment team standing by.

Toboso, Negros Occidental: All barangays of this municipality were affected. Some 1,256 families or 5,213 people are in evacuation centers. There is no electricity in the municipality, and it most likely will not be restored until December. Food and non-food items are the priority needs.

ChildFund Philippines

ChildFund Philippines staff members meet at the national office to prepare their response to the typhoon.

ChildFund is coordinating with the Social Welfare Office and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. So far, ChildFund is the only organization coordinating with the local government unit, which can provide transportation for the relief goods. Community Watch groups, barangay officials and teachers also can be mobilized for relief operations.

San Carlos City, Negros Occidental: ChildFund works in six of the 17 barangays in San Carlos. The entire city, home to more than 13,000 people, was affected. The local government, which through the Social Welfare office provided relief goods in the evacuation centers during the typhoon, now is giving priority only to families whose houses are totally damaged. There is no electricity. Food and non-food items (mats, blankets, mosquito nets) are needed. ChildFund is coordinating with the Social Welfare Office and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental: No reports of storm damage. Our local partner has accounted for the 2,560 enrolled children in Roxas City, Iloilo and Bacolod.

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