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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
ChildFund, along with our partners in the ChildFund Alliance, has launched an appeal for $10 million for immediate relief and long-term recovery for children and families affected by Typhoon Haiyan, which slammed into the Philippines over the weekend.
We have identified three priority areas for our emergency response efforts: Ormoc City and Roxas City, where we have programs and sponsored children, and Tacloban City, a non-program area that is also identified by United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination as among the hardest-hit localities.
Our immediate goals:
Establish Child-Centered Spaces in Ormoc, Roxas and Tacloban – two centers in each city.
Distribute food packs (rice, noodles and canned goods) for 3,000 families.
Distribute non-food items (bath soap, children’s underwear, sanitary supplies, baby diapers and laundry soap) to 3,000 families.
The contents of the food packs are based on government recommendations for relief items. For the non-food items, ChildFund chose a selection of basic necessities to fill gaps in the standard packs provided by the government and other entities, thereby getting a broader selection of essentials to families.
We are also in the process of setting up an operations center in Cebu, which has been declared by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to be the staging point for any logistics and personnel going to Tacloban and other eastern provinces. Cebu is the closest city to the hard-hit areas, and we have approval from a university to use a large space in its complex for staging.
Updates on ChildFund-Supported Communities
Iloilo: ChildFund’s local partner organization there is providing support to an evacuation center in the city. The local government has declared a state of calamity and is seeking help from nongovernmental organizations. The local partner plans to establish a Child-Centered Space and distribute bottled water and food packs.
Ormoc: We have yet to reconnect communications with our local partner in Ormoc City. Many towns and communities in Leyte province still cannot be reached. A small response team is seeking to reach the area by ferry, but security is a high concern. Ormoc remains largely unreached by relief efforts.
Negros Occidental: Our local partner with the Child Labor Project in Negros is still assessing damage and accounting for children and families. The community has been declared a disaster area, with immediate needs for food and shelter. Our local partner is coordinating with the Provincial Department of Social Welfare and Development to address these needs.
Bacolod City: No reports of storm damage.
Update on Vietnam
Typhoon Haiyan weakened to a tropical depression on Monday as it crossed into Vietnam. Based on initial reports, no significant damage was expected in the inland communities where ChildFund works. These program areas include Bac Kan, Hoa Binh and Cao Bang, and they are located in the remote, mountainous regions of the north. There have been reports of strong winds and rain in coastal areas, and some damage to trees and rooftops in Hanoi, where schools have been closed. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.
You can help families in the Philippines with a donation to our Emergency Action Fund, and this video featuring Philippines National Director Katherine Manik has up-to-date information about what ChildFund is doing to help families in typhoon-stricken areas:
ChildFund is closely following the path and impact of Super Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda), which made landfall in Leyte, in the Philippines, Nov. 8, and is pushing west-northwest over the northern tip of Cebu Island in the Visayas as it makes it way to the South China Sea. Nearly 13 million people could potentially be affected by the storm.
Haiyan is currently packing 268 kph (166 mph) winds, making it the strongest typhoon to take aim at the Philippines all year. Meteorologists describe Haiyan as more powerful than last December’s Typhoon Bopha, which leveled villages in Mindanao, flattening homes and trees alike.
National and local government authorities began making emergency preparations earlier this week, and communities identified as directly in the typhoon’s path were issued pre-emptive evacuation warnings. Nearly a million people evacuated as the storm bore down on the islands.
ChildFund is participating in coordinated response and needs-assessment planning with the government and other NGOs. We are coordinating closely with our local partner organizations in potentially affected areas. Emergency response teams prepositioned supplies, including emergency kits and tents, and made arrangements with local suppliers to access food and non-food relief supplies. We are also preparing for the setup of Child Centered Spaces in the storm’s aftermath so that children will have a safe haven.
View this video update from Katherine Manik, national director for ChildFund Philippines.
By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines
Rosemary was sure she knew how to raise her children in a healthy way. She knew to feed them good food, and she knew to work hard so she could feed her five children well. When she could afford it, she would put meat on the table. “Rich children have meat all the time, and none of them are malnourished,” she believed.
Like many mothers in the Philippines, Rosemary thought expensive food was nutritious for her children. That’s why, as a washerwoman, she would accept as many wash loads as she could. But hand-washing laundry from neighbors in a largely low-income community doesn’t yield Rosemary much profit, and often, she found herself barely able to put food on the table, much less the variety that she believed was good for her children.
ChildFund established a “Supervised Neighborhood Play” (SNP) site in her community in 2011, which taught community members about early childhood development — emphasizing nutrition, activities and parenting methods that help infants and toddlers develop healthy cognitive, emotional, social and physical skills. In Rosemary’s village, her sister’s front porch was the SNP center. She did not need much convincing to enroll her youngest three children.
But her excitement about this opportunity soon turned to shock when she learned that her children were malnourished. All three were underweight, Rosemary discovered at a weight and growth monitoring session.
But Rosemary’s anxious questions were answered by the SNP volunteers, who were trained by ChildFund. She learned that she didn’t need to attempt to feed her children food that she couldn’t afford. In fact, the most nutritious food she could give her children was relatively inexpensive and widely available: moringa leaves, okra, squash, water spinach and string beans. These vegetables easily grow in the Philippines and are the prime ingredients or additives in many simple dishes.
Rosemary was thrilled to have this information.
“I was excited to try the nutritious dishes I learned to prepare at SNP parenting sessions,” she says. And instead of buying vegetables at the market, the SNP program helped her start her own backyard vegetable plot by providing her with the seedlings she needed. Meanwhile, her children were also given vitamin supplements to hasten their recovery. Growing her own vegetables helps Rosemary defray food expenses, allowing her to better support her elder two sons in school.
Enrolling her children in home-based ECD services has proved pivotal to Rosemary’s family.
“My children are learning, and staying healthy,” she says. “I’m excited to see them growing taller.”
By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines
Each morning, Marialyn wakes to the voices of fishermen returning from a night at sea. A cool ocean breeze carries the scent of salt and brine through the slatted bamboo floor of her home, which is built on stilts in a Philippines seaside community, keeping her family safe from all but the largest of ocean swells.
The eldest of three siblings, 17-year-old Marialyn helps her younger brothers get ready for school. But Marialyn herself won’t be going. She’s heading to work, a necessity because her family has a hard time supporting itself without her income.
Jerwin, Marialyn’s 14-year-old brother, is sponsored through ChildFund, which has helped him stay in school. But Marialyn, who was in college studying for an education degree, has taken a break from school to work. She started out at a cannery, tedious and sometimes dangerous work that doesn’t pay well.
In the Philippines, 5.5 million children and youth between ages 5 and 17 participate in some form of work. More than half — 3 million — are engaged in hazardous labor. In 2002, the International Labour Organization launched the World Day Against Child Labour, set annually on June 12, to call attention to the millions of children and teens who work.
ChildFund has been engaged in direct interventions against the worst forms of child labor for years now. In many cases, ChildFund has prevented children and youth from remaining or falling into hazardous forms of child labor and human trafficking, helping them return to school. We’ve also worked with communities to develop safer and more stable ways to help families earn money.
Marialyn no longer works at the cannery because of one of the programs ChildFund supports: the Pintado cooperative.
“ChildFund had initiated training for T-shirt printing in my community, and I thought I’d make myself useful and try,” Marialyn says. The thought of learning a trade that employed her creativity, as opposed to labor at the cannery, was appealing. She found herself easily taking to the craft, and she also learned other skills necessary for entrepreneurs, such as bookkeeping. Before long, Marialyn and other young people in similar circumstances had assembled the cooperative.
Pintado’s first client was ChildFund and its local partner, printing T-shirts for staff to wear. This venture turned out well, and soon more orders for shirts were coming in. Pintado’s members learned to apply their screen-printing techniques on more kinds of fabrics, and they began to print canvas tote bags. As bookkeeper, Marialyn keeps track of orders, materials and operating expenses. She has to be certain the numbers add up.
Pintado began earning a profit, and Marialyn and her peers made their first paychecks. Marialyn bought groceries for her family, and business has remained brisk. She also found herself saving a little money for her return to school.
Marialyn is determined to return to college the next school year. She’s applied for a scholarship, and the money she saves from Pintado will fund her upkeep at school. “I want to finish my education so I can be a teacher and help others learn,” she says.
By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines
World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
It’s quiet in the neighborhood around Nabilid Elementary School. The school sits amid a small community of 10 houses and a sari-sari store that sells packets of instant noodles, soda and junk food. The peace is only broken by the roar of an occasional jeepney bus, carrying children and their adult guardians to and from school in this section of the southern Philippines island of Mindanao.
Amid the dust and black exhaust, passengers have to cover their noses and mouths with handkerchiefs. Thirsty children walk straight to the school’s canteen after arriving, seeking something to drink.
Because the school’s water system doesn’t work properly, children go for artificially flavored juices or cola, which are cheaper than juice. Nabilid’s water taps were installed incorrectly, so mud gurgles from them.
Lacking funding to correct the plumbing problem, the school is forced to ration water collected in large drums, but soon this situation is set to improve.
ChildFund has a long-standing partnership with Nabilid Elementary, supporting early childhood development programs, child-friendly teaching methods, teacher training, peer mentoring among older students and stocking of learning materials and books for students. “Nabilid’s made good with ChildFund’s support, adopting ECD in their curriculum and developing their faculty,” says Marlene, a ChildFund Philippines staff member. “ChildFund recognizes, however, how water is specifically crucial to the success of our efforts here.” This is why ChildFund is installing a clean and functional water system at Nabilid.
Marlene is monitoring the progress of the water system’s construction at Nabilid and five other schools in the southern Philippines. “Though seemingly oblique, providing a safe water supply is in fact crucial to ECD services at schools,” Marlene says. Activities like hand-washing and personal hygiene education, as well as and some parent-education activities like nutritious food preparation, become difficult without water.
“Completion of the water supply systems in these five areas alone will benefit a total student population of 20,000 boys and girls,” Marlene notes. Nabilid’s new water system is expected to be fully functional by the end of March.
The school administration is appreciative of the progress and matches ChildFund’s contribution by committing labor and some construction supplies. ChildFund’s local partner agency will also help the school design common sinks just the right height for younger children. The School Governance Council has also pledged to maintain the water system once it’s in place.
ECD sessions continue while the Philippines’ older students are on summer break, which began in mid-March and continues through May. Over these months, Nabilid’s teachers expect more heat and dust. Once the water starts flowing, though, children will have a school environment that’s more conducive to learning.
Were you inspired by today’s blog? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.
By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines
On International Women’s Day, we’re spotlighting some of the amazing girls and women we’ve encountered in ChildFund-supported communities. We honor their struggles and cheer their successes.
“Not today, Sister,” the woman whispered to Jo-anne. They had the street to themselves, but the woman spoke in hushed tones. “You shouldn’t go today,” she repeated.
Jo-anne understood the advice. Danger was afoot, according to the woman, who is a member of the Tausug indigenous communities in the southern Philippines. Jo-anne is a nun who works for a local organization that partners with ChildFund.
Jolo is the largest island in the Sulu archipelago, which comprises the southernmost tip of the Philippine Islands. There, rolling hills give way to pristine coastlines of crystal clear water and fine white sand. In the provincial capital, also named Jolo, the exotic durian fruit is found in such abundance that a mere breath of air yields a trace of the fruit’s distinct yet controversial smell (imagine garlic plus old garbage).
Despite Jolo’s beauty, the island is not a tourist destination because of abductions and frequent clashes between government and armed groups. Private investors and even development agencies have withdrawn to the safety and convenience of cities like Davao and Cagayan de Oro in nearby Mindanao.
Jo-anne was born in the Mindanao mainland. Her father was a farmer, and her mother was a public school teacher. Growing up in a community of Christians and Muslims, she developed an appreciation for different beliefs and cultures. Jo-anne worked as a government agricultural technologist for five years until 1999, when she decided to join a religious order.
As a nun, Jo-anne served in different provinces in Mindanao. Her assignment to Jolo in 2011 as a project manager posed unique challenges.
Jo-anne had to learn the Tausug language and its culture, which is different from the mainland’s. “Children were my first tutors in the local language,” she says.
Another concern was safety. On her commute to work, Jo-anne often saw curious crowds flocking to fresh crime scenes. Other times, the motorcycle taxi driver would share news of an armed clash between government and militia the night before. “That kind of thing always used to scare me,” she says. “It came to a point where I confronted myself, asking if I would let fear keep me from my work.”
Working in partnership with ChildFund did much to help Jo-anne allay her fears. “ChildFund’s reputation for working in some of the most difficult circumstances in the Philippines lends me much credibility,” she says.
Also, Jo-anne’s work with Tausug children endeared her to their families, particularly mothers, who grew protective of her. When possible, one or two mothers accompany Jo-anne when she travels to rural villages to visit ChildFund project sites or the homes of sponsored children.
Sometimes, Jo-anne hears, “Not today, Sister. You shouldn’t go. You should stay in town today.” This is the warning mothers share whenever news of troop movements, incursions or other dangers reaches their ears. When Jo-anne is already in the field, the women make sure she is properly accompanied and escorted home or to town. Jo-anne’s thankful to be included in the local “warning chain,” despite being an outsider.
“I’ve learned being a woman in these circumstances is an advantage,” Jo-anne says. “The Tausug regard women highly, mothers particularly.” Though Jo-anne has chosen a religious life, the Tausug mothers identify with her because she has devoted herself to the wellbeing of their children.
Today Jo-anne continues to travel all over Jolo. She remains cautious, but because of this web of protection, she is no longer as scared.
“When I arrive home at the end of the day, I exclaim my thanks, not for making it back safely, but for the mothers who’ve adopted me as one of their own.”
By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines
In this small agricultural village in Eastern Luzon, children below schooling age don’t own closed-toe shoes. In many low-income communities across the Philippines, pragmatism leads children to wear flip-flops, which are relatively inexpensive and remarkably durable. Even when their parents can afford a pair of shoes, children still go about their casual business in flip-flops, preserving their shoes for school, church or other formal occasions.
Many young people in this village, much like other parts of the country, will own their first pair of shoes only when they begin school, where shoes are part of the uniform.
Nonetheless, on the porch of a small home in this village, children younger than 5 learn to tie their shoes long before they ever own any. These children attend a home-based Early Childhood Development (ECD) program ChildFund supports in areas unreached by government day care centers. Home-based ECD sites like this are known as Supervised Neighborhood Play (SNP) centers, staffed by local volunteers. They are not professional day care workers or educators, but ChildFund trains them to be effective and innovative.
Innovate is just what Mabeth did. The SNP volunteer started with rolls of colored paper, felt markers and all the creativity she could pool together to make her front porch a learning environment for children. She hung paper cut-outs illustrating animals and objects that correspond to letters in the alphabet. In place of printed charts describing parts of the body, Mabeth’s front porch has hand-drawn illustrations. Mobiles hang from the ceiling describing different emotions children experience, such as happy, sad, and scared.
One cardboard box stores all the children’s shoes — shoes made from paper. They have a double-layer of colored paper for a sole and a loop of paper on top. Colored string is used for laces. “Poor children [in this neighborhood] often don’t have shoes, and I feel it’s important they learn to tie their laces like other children do,” Mabeth says.
Children at this SNP site may not yet own closed-toe shoes, but the innovation of ChildFund volunteers helps make sure they have many opportunities for development early in their childhood.