Kim patiently rested her hand on Irma’s shoulder leaning in to catch every word. Irma was speaking emphatically with tears in her eyes. I nodded with empathy. I was very moved by words my ears did not understand but which broke my heart.
A few weeks ago I traveled to the Philippines with a group of World Vision bloggers to see firsthand how World Vision has come alongside families and individuals recovering from super typhoon Haiyan that devastated the island of Leyte and Tacloban City one year ago. Haiyan was the strongest typhoon ever recorded and it took almost 7000 lives and left 1.5 million people homeless.
While in the Philippines I visited a World Vision ADP (Area Development Project). The day we visited a sewing class was underway. Typhoon Haiyan not only took lives and homes it took many livelihoods. The rural people survive by working in coconut tree farms or rice fields. Most of the coconut trees were blow over or damaged in the devastating winds of Haiyan. It is estimated it will take 10 years to recover a new coconut crop and the rice fields flooded and are damaged.
Kim, Irma, Jennifer and I sat on plastic chairs in a quiet hallway. Irma wanted to tell her story — a story of unspeakable fear and amazing survival. Often Kim, our translator, had to politely stop Irma so she could translate. I knew I was only getting a tiny bit of the whole story yet her face, body language, and her very being told a story in itself. She looked ninety and was probably in her sixties. Rural life in the Philippines is a hard life.
Irma had been in her home, probably a 10 x 10 foot structure, when Haiyan hit. It came too early. Everyone believed it would make landfall at 9:00 AM but it sped up during the night and slammed into the Philippines at 5:00 AM. People were unprepared. The winds were so strong Irma’s home immediately collapsed onto her, her husband, and their two grandchildren. Through tears Irma describes sheer fear and panic.
She explained, “The boards, the roof, they were all on top of us. We couldn’t move. I kept telling my husband we needed to leave. I could hear the trees falling down all around us and I was afraid one would fall and crush us. I said we needed to get to the rice fields because there are no trees. He thought that was crazy and had to drag me away from the opening. We then crawled under what remained of our eating table.”
“The storm stopped or so we thought. But it was they eye. We didn’t know what an eye was. So my husband left to check on our two cattle. He shouted back they were both dead. Then the winds came again and he could not get back to us. He clung to the trunk of a coconut tree. We could see him wave every now and then.”
As Kim translated this dramatic and scary story tears streamed down Irma’s face. It is amazing everyone she was with survived but her son in law in the next village was hit by a falling tree and died that day. Irma was overcome with emotions of gratitude that World Vision had come to her aid in providing shelter and that now she was learning dressmaking. She was a survivor and she was proud and it was an honor to hear her story.
Tomorrow super typhoon Hagupit is due to hit the Philippines exactly one year since super Typhoon Haiyan. My heart is breaking for these brave and resilient people. Haiyan was a destroyer. The poorly built homes were flung around like twigs as were bodies and livestock. And the people recovered. They cleaned up. They buried their families and friends. It was only a year ago, and although the Filipino’s are some of the most joyous and pure spirited people I have met, the pain is still palpable. It is everywhere. In every face. In every home.
(street view after super typhoon Haiyan 13 months ago)
Hagupit, or as it is called in the Philippines “Ruby” is due to hit tomorrow. Pray with me these people are spared.
And we can do something tangible. This brings me comfort in the face of such worry and concern. Support the work of World Vision in the Philippines. It is nothing short of amazing what was accomplished in a short time with relief and recovery after typhoon Haiyan.
Here is how World Vision is preparing for super typhoon Hagupit:
– Prepositioned 5,000 kits containing items like food, water and hygiene items for rapid initial response.
– Prepositioned supplies including tarps, water purifiers, and solar lamps for families still living in tents following Haiyan
– Produced and distributed thousands of emergency preparedness handouts to families. These explain where to evacuate, what to take along, emergency contact numbers, etc.
Join me in prayer and in supporting the work of World Vision’s Disaster Relief Fund.