Reporting by ChildFund Philippines
Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we check in on recovery efforts in the Philippines following a deadly typhoon last December.
It’s been more than six weeks since Typhoon Washi (known locally as Sendong) struck the Philippines Dec. 16, 2011, bringing severe flooding that damaged or destroyed nearly 52,000 houses around the island of Mindanao. More than 1,200 people lost their lives in the storm, according to the Philippines government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. An outbreak of leptospirosis (a severe bacterial infection) has claimed additional lives in the aftermath of the flooding.
During emergencies like these, ChildFund invests in psychosocial interventions for children through child-centered spaces (CCS). The intention is to mitigate the traumatic impact among children by providing normalizing and expressive activities like playing, singing, and simple arts and crafts activities.
ChildFund operated CCS activities at two storm-evacuation locations for the first two weeks following the typhoon. The response grew to six locations that are continuing to operate. More than 900 children have received support. In addition, ChildFund distributed 2,000 packs of emergency food as well as 2,000 nonfood kits (blanket, detergent, eating utensils).
Youth facilitators have been a virtual force multiplier for ChildFund’s staff operating the child-centered spaces. Twenty-six youth, already enrolled in ChildFund’s programs in the Philippines, volunteered their time over the Christmas break to lead activities for younger children.
Christine, 14, hails from a community not largely affected by Typhoon Washi. She had started enjoying the Christmas break when ChildFund’s local partner, Kaabag sa Kalumban Pinaagi sa Kabtangan sa Katilingban, came to her community inviting youth to volunteer. She signed up without a second thought. ChildFund staff oriented her and her peers as youth facilitators before taking them to the child-centered spaces.
Jam, a 13-year-old youth facilitator, says, “I wanted to spend time with the [displaced] kids, especially after what happened to them.”
Both Jam and Christine agree it was difficult at first. Many of the younger children misbehaved, but the teens stuck to their commitment of volunteering every day, even on Christmas Eve.
“We feel we’ve returned the smiles and laughs they lost, along with their homes and even loved ones, in the flood,” Christine says. “Some of them were in terror, when we first started CCS,” she adds. At the end of her volunteer time, Christine says she could see how much the children improved. “Their faces glow with sincere happiness and laughter now,” she says.
After spending their holidays as youth facilitators, Christine, Jam and their fellow volunteers returned to school in early January. To carry on CCS activities, ChildFund trained additional youth and parent volunteers who had survived the storm but were living in shelters. Training sessions began with participants processing their own survival experiences and continued with training in stress debriefing, gender-based violence concerns, games and use of other tools for child-centered spaces.
Now efforts in the Philippines are focused on the temporary or permanent relocation of the 36,000 people who remain in the 56 evacuation centers, most of which are public schools. Those who lost their homes are moving into new relocation camps. Children also are returning to school, thanks to a Department of Education mandate that allows displaced children to transfer schools without paperwork. Some adults have noted, however, that the camps are far from their former livelihoods.
ChildFund Philippines plans to conduct community-based child protection training sessions to ensure children’s needs are not overlooked during the recovery phase. In addition, ChildFund is helping families recover their livelihoods, which will be key factor in rebuilding their lives.
by Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines
Perspiration beaded on Phillip’s forehead as he stacked boxes of bottled water in a second-story classroom at Macanhan Elementary. The school has functioned as one of five evacuation centers housing more than 40,000 displaced families after tropical storm Washi (locally known as Sendong) tore through Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on Dec. 16.
Phillip has called the evacuation center home for the past 12 days, including Christmas. A 23-year-old youth with a demeanor more resilient than his stocky build, Phillip has been actively volunteering at the center, assisting with the hauling, storage and distribution of relief goods. On this day, Phillip helped move and distribute 516 bottles of drinking water and 1,800 packs of instant noodles delivered by ChildFund.
Richard Tener, the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s appointed camp manager, says 90 percent of Macanhan residents were affected by the flooding that ensued after the tropical storm. Thirty-eight families, including Phillip and his four younger siblings, have found shelter at the Macanhan Elementary evacuation center. Still-standing homes in the school’s periphery house an additional 218 displaced families. Richard tells me that many fled homes that are now partially damaged or heavily silted from the floods. Some families, including Phillip’s, lost their homes completely and nearly all of their belongings.
“It was about four in the morning, when the waters rose around our home,” Phillip narrates in Filipino. The rain, water and winds forced Phillip and his four younger siblings to abandon their home, seeking safety on their neighbor’s rooftop. From that rooftop they watched helplessly as the raging floodwaters tore their home down and carried the remains away, along with their belongings. “Lyak na lang; wala kaming magawa dahil sa lakas ng tubig, [All we could do was weep; we could do nothing against the strong current],” Phillip says. They remained huddled on that rooftop, rain lashing at their backs, for two hours until it appeared safe to flee to safety around 6 a.m. That’s how Phillip and his siblings came to shelter at Macanhan Elementary School.
Relief aid has not overlooked this evacuation center, Richard, the camp manager, reports. ChildFund, along with various donors and agencies, had distributed sufficient goods to allow him to plan a Christmas program and some semblance of Noche Buena, the traditional Filipino Christmas dinner. It was decided among the evacuee community, however, not to push through with the program due to sheer fatigue. Everyone was too tired and weary. There would be no Christmas celebration in the mud and congestion of the evacuation center.
Yet, Phillip was determined to have Christmas. So on Dec. 25, Phillip took his four siblings – two brothers and two sisters – to church to give thanks. They were alive and well, and that’s more than could be said of others from his community. “Bahay lang naman ang nawala [We lost only our home],” Phillip says, hinting at the strength of his will and determination to persevere.
Despite the bleakness of his family’s circumstances, Phillip – having had his Christmas – continues to help haul and distribute relief supplies received at the evacuation center. He is determined to help his family and community to recover and rebuild.
In the Philippines, ChildFund is working with children and youth to understand their experiences of poverty and provide them with psychosocial support to build their self-confidence. In addition, youth are gaining hands-on experience and skills to help them meet the future.
Meet Regine, a youth leader with ChildFund Philippines, who has a remarkable story of achievement.
This week, we’re bringing you reports directly from the Philippines, where the ChildFund Alliance is meeting for business sessions and ChildFund project visits.
By Cheri Dahl
Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs
The trip from southern Luzon from Manila took almost four hours. For the last hour, we traveled on a narrow dirt road punctuated with rocks and deep pot holes. It was extremely slow going and very bumpy. I have suffered from motion sickness since childhood, and my insides rolled miserably with every bump.
We are visiting Nagsinamo, a community located in the southern Luzon area of Quezon. It is the largest island in the Philippines and is mostly agricultural, with corn, rice, bananas and lots of coconuts as the main crops. ChildFund serves more than 5,000 children in this area.
The rough travel was forgotten when we rounded a curve in the road and were greeted by a marching band of children dressed in bright red and yellow band uniforms, complete with majorettes twirling batons. It was an unexpected and magnificent greeting.
Most of ChildFund’s services are offered at the Nagsinamo elementary school. Members of the parent committee are anxious to tell us about the challenges children in their community face. Parents alert us that quality education is critical for their children to have better lives. ChildFund has partnered with the parents and community to improve school enrollment and completion rates. We’ve also worked to help parents understand what they can do to help their children succeed, even though many of the parents have only had primary school education.
We visit a peer-tutoring program where older students are trained as facilitators to tutor children who are academically challenged. The program is working. All of the area children now attend school. In just two years, primary school completion rates have climbed from 51% to 90%.
Later we’re invited to an “EcoArt” session, where formerly sponsored children, age 18 to 20, now teach the younger children to protect the environment through recycling and how to use discarded materials to create art. They also teach children about the geography and culture of the countries where their ChildFund sponsors live.
I was partnered with 8-year-old Arizel to learn a song and dance that teaches how to greet one another in Japanese, English and Spanish. As I get to know the older children, they begin to open up. Many tell me about their sponsor. They share what sponsorship meant to them and how it has inspired them to help the younger children in their community.
As I approach the classrooms, I am struck by two odd sights. Outside of one classroom is a bench lined with coconuts and straws. Outside of every classroom, there are umbrellas — a reminder that this area is accustomed to seasonal typhoons and frequent flooding.
I visit classrooms where the children proudly greet me in English and share their dreams to become nurses, teachers, boat captains and policemen. One 8-year-old boy was too timid to speak up. His classmates were quick to share that he would be a singer. I asked if he would sing a song for me. He shyly came to the front of his modest classroom and began to sing in the most amazing voice. What an unexpected treat!
We leave the community as the sun is going down. Children, and even some adults, run alongside the jeep waving goodbye and yelling “miss you!” It is a great ending to a great day.
This week, we’ll be bringing you reports directly from the Philippines, where the ChildFund Alliance is meeting for business sessions and ChildFund project visits.
By Cheri Dahl
Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs
It’s close to midnight when I exit the Manila airport. Even at this late hour the air is hot, thick and moist — a big departure from the crisp fall temperatures I left behind in Virginia more than 24 hours ago. I’ve come to the Philippines to meet with ChildFund Alliance colleagues from 11 countries and to collaborate on how best to help deprived, excluded and vulnerable children.
I see a familiar face at the baggage claim. Hiroshima, a board member from ChildFund Japan and his wife Mae Grace are here. Hiroshima teaches social work at a university in Tokyo. “MG,” as his wife is called, is Filipino.
We exit the airport and catch a waiting shuttle to our hotel. I am struck by the calm stillness of the air. I was expecting whipping winds and roadside flooding — too much Weather Channel I suppose. Prior to my departure, I had kept a close eye on the weather reports. Typhoon Mirinae slammed into Manila only days ago, toppling trees, damaging homes and taking lives. It was the fourth storm to batter the Philippines in less than 90 days.
MG shares that even though tropical storms are expected here, her parents, who live in a neighboring city, report that the quick succession of recent storms has taken its toll on residents.
Later in the week, we will visit communities in metro Manila and Quezon where ChildFund serves children and families. Some have been severely affected by the recent storms. I am looking forward to talking with the families and learning more about how they cope with the constant threat of severe weather and flooding.
On the ride to the hotel, MG teaches me to say hello and thank you, “maramirg Salamat,” in her native language. I love the musical lilt of the words, and I am relieved to arrive at the hotel at least able to greet and thank my hosts.
For more on ChildFund’s work in the Philippines, click here.
Following severe flooding in the Philippines, many families find themselves without a home and are struggling to return to a normal life. Today for our blog series “31 in 31,” we take a detour in our scheduled plans to visit a family in the Philippines who is just thankful to be alive.
By ChildFund Philippines Staff
Catherine and her two siblings are elementary school students. Their father is a pedicab driver and their mother works as a maid. They live in a small house, constructed of light materials alongside a river.
When Typhoon Ondoy hit, heavy rains kept the family at home that day. Around 10 a.m., the family noticed the river rising and overflowing its banks. Alarmed, Catherine and her parents and siblings started packing and trying to save their most important possessions.
But as the heavy rain continued, water quickly penetrated their house, which caused the family members to panic. The couple’s attention turned from saving their belongings to making sure their children were safe. The only way out of their house was to go onto their roof. Almost 16 hours passed before the water finally subsided. They were wet, hungry and uncomfortable.
Catherine tells ChildFund Philippines staff that she was extremely nervous and was afraid as she saw the water rising. She cried as she talked about losing her school supplies. Her father says that the experience of losing their belongings is tragic, but that life is more important than personal items. Things can be replaced, but life cannot, he says.
More on the Philippines
Population: 97.9 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 450,000 children and families
Did You Know?: More than 7,000 islands make up the Philippines, but only about 2,000 of them are inhabited.
Natural disasters create chaotic situations that put already vulnerable children in grave danger. In the past week, ChildFund International responded to two emergencies in Asia that have killed hundreds of people, destroyed homes and disrupted livelihoods.
In Indonesia, a deadly earthquake in Padang leveled schools, hospitals, businesses and homes. ChildFund Indonesia National Director Sharon Thangadurai says response has been quite slow because there are blackouts in the earthquake area, phone lines are cut and roads connecting neighboring cities are damaged.
“Our assessment team was able to reach Padang area … but they have no access to phones with the electricity being out,” Thangadurai says. “They will conduct the needs assessment and then travel to a nearby city to report back the status of the situation and what are the most critical needs for children.”
ChildFund Indonesia is currently working with the local government to establish Child Centered Spaces for displaced children.
“Our priority will be to provide the needed emotional support to children who always bear the brunt of major disasters like this,” Thangadurai says.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Super Typhoon Parma made landfall over the weekend, but the area where ChildFund works has been spared from the worst.
“Because the typhoon went more along the coastal area, there has not been significant damage in our ChildFund program area,” ChildFund Philippines National Director Dennis O’Brien says. “The damage will be manageable; however, our vulnerability is that typhoon season is still with us.”
This typhoon comes on the heels of Typhoon Ondoy, which caused severe flooding in the country. ChildFund continues to work with the local government to meet the basic needs of more than 18,000 children and families.
“We have five evacuation centers, housing 500 families, where we have set up Child Centered Spaces for children,” O’Brien says.
We will continue to update you on theses situations as information comes from the field. For the latest information and to donate to the relief updates, click here.