Wednesday, December 25, 2013

No end in sight

December 24th, 2013
No end in sight
On December 16th I was in town and walking around with Jenn and Ruchelle doing some shopping for the kids and realized that it was Ruchelle’s birthday tomorrow. I told the girls that we were going to celebrate with a lunch and asked Ruchelle what she liked to eat. She said that we don’t have to celebrate and I told her that just because there was a typhoon doesn’t mean everything has to stop and insisted that we get some chicken, other Filipino favorites and a birthday cake. I then asked them to invite Bella and Gemma and we can have a celebration. Ruchelle’s brother cooked up a feast and we all got together for lunch. It is a tradition here that the person celebrating share the food with neighbors and it wasn’t long before a small line of children gathered in front of the house with plates and spoons in hand. People here are not shy about receiving free food and there was a lot to go around. Ruchelle was very touched by the gesture and it turned out to be a day for her to remember. If you were there to hear the girls singing and laughing, you would never know that each one of these girls lost their homes and all their personal possessions.
Ruchelle’s birthday celebration
It has now been 19 consecutive days of living without electricity, which may not be that long for people here but is certainly something we in the Western countries are not used to. It means going to bed far earlier than usual but also waking up before 5:00 am as the roosters, dogs and pigs come to life. There are now some streetlights in downtown Tacloban but still no electricity in the homes and businesses across the entire province of Leyte. There are however, lots of advantages to not having electricity, namely no television and computers. I spend a lot of the evenings talking to the family instead of everyone being distracted with other things. The father of the house is John and one night I bought a few beers and we shared them while he told a few stories about the typhoon.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest mistakes made here is that the weather forecasters used the term “storm surge” when warning people about the potential danger of the approaching typhoon. The people were not familiar with the term so ended up seeking refuge in many places close to the sea. The concern was the wind so they sought out cement structures without considering the distance to the sea. One of the refuge centers was the Astrodome, the local convention center that is literally a dozen meters from the edge of the water. The storm surge was up to 7 meters or 23 feet and it came as a large series of waves. Many of the people who died were actually in the relief centers but trapped on the first floors when the water rushed in. Here is a picture of a building with a faint watermark halfway up the top section of green. The green building is about 100 meters from the edge of the sea.
High water mark
John told me that his home is 1.2 kilometers from the sea and the water was about 12 feet high here. It was the same damage as a tsunami but thankfully didn’t have the loss of life that Indonesia and Thailand experienced on Christmas Day in 2004 where up to 250,000 people died. A lot of that can be attributed to the fact that the there was warning of the typhoon and that the significant wind and storm surged occurred between 7:00 and 11:00 am, during daylight. The tsunami in 2004 caught everyone completely off guard as it occurred on a calm sunny day.
John related stories including many that he participated in. The home here is 3 floors and the building is concrete so a lot of neighbors came here when the wind reached peaks of over 300 kilometers per hour and the water started rushing in. There is a neighbor across the pathway and 5 people were trapped in their single level home. They punched through the roof but the water kept rising. There is 10 feet between the homes and John pulled out a ladder and laid it down from his second floor to their roof and all of them climbed across and were saved. John had about 60 people in his home for almost a week, all of them eating and sleeping on the 2nd floor. People had to sleep sitting up, as there was no room to stretch out. It was 3 days before they were even able to get out on the streets to see what was happening in the rest of the town. They would climb on the roof to try and get a birds-eye view of Tacloban. The biggest risk in those 3 days was the lack of water so the people tapped into the city water line and diverted it to a hose to drink.  They didn’t have much food as all the homes were flooded but they managed to get rice and eat some of the coconuts that were scattered around. They even slaughtered one of the pigs to eat and cooked it on an open fire and shared with the large group.
The family dog Blackie was let go of his leash as the water rose but was swept away. A few days later he was found wandering around and happy to be reunited with his family. I give him a long stomach rub everyday and congratulate him on being a survivor.
The family also has a few pigs they raise and fatten for the local fiestas, celebrated every October in Barangay 64. They only have one left as the other was slaughtered in October. The pig was not chained but in a cement pen that became flooded as the water rose. Pigs can swim and this one also survived and was found after being swept towards the sea. I bought the pig some food and congratulated him too but he just grunted.
The pig
One of the really unfortunate things about the storm is the amount of men killed while trying to protect their homes. In many cases the women and children were sent to the schools or other shelters while the men stayed by their homes to protect the belongings from looting. In some areas, the storm destroyed and swept away every single home and the men with it. There are now even more women raising children on there own, an epidemic here in the Philippines even before the typhoon.
On December 21st, we woke up to a 5-hour downpour. I was in the house and it felt like watching a waterfall outside the window. After it stopped I went to Jenn’s house only to find paths to her home underwater. I went around the back and found them in their flooded homes, once again having to clean up. We are re-building Jenn’s home and will be raising the floor and also adding a second level to try and limit the damage of future flooding.
More flooding
As I noted earlier the most successful program in terms of relief was the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation’s Cash for Work program. They paid local people 500 pesos (approx. $12.50) per day to clean up garbage. The same foundation then provided cash envelopes to people as a Christmas bonus. The idea is to stimulate growth by giving people cash but I don’t think that is a good idea, it never works when you just hand out money. Last week outside Ruchelle’s home there were gunshots and people fighting with knives over money, the same day that the people in her area were handed cash. You have people standing in line to get up to 15,000 pesos (approx. $375) with very few banks open to deposit the money so they have to carry it home. You also start the dependency chain where people are less inclined to work if all they have to do is stand in line and money is given to them. They could have paid the same money to people and have them accomplish something like rebuilding the schools or cleaning up the mountains of debris.
The UN followed up with the cash for work program and on Saturday December 21st started handing out rubber boots, shovels, rakes, hats and shirts to workers. They delivered 20 sets of worker outfits to my families home and organized a group to clean some of the waterways here that are clogged. They are paying hundreds of people 260 pesos (approx. $6.50) per day for 15 days. The idea of paying people to clean up was a lesson learned after the earthquake in Haiti 3 years ago. The disaster relief there was and continues to be another disaster with most of the people still living in tents despite hundreds of millions being donated from around the world. They realized too that simply handing people food and money is a very short-term solution that cannot last for long. It is my fear that the same thing will happen here as time goes on.
When I was in Bangkok from November 8th to the 15th, CNN was covering the typhoon 24 hours per day with reporters flown into Tacloban to report in person. Now there is barely a mention of it. With the absence of coverage and people being occupied with Christmas, it is easy to forget that approximately 4 million people are now into Day 46 without electricity and most still without permanent shelter. The risk that the people here are still living in tents 2 years from now is almost a certainty.
In Tacloban, large groups of people do not own the land their squatter homes were built on and are now in UN supplied tents. They were initially told that they would be relocated to another area in 6 months where they will be provided a permanent home. I expressed doubts about that based on all the other disasters that have occurred in poor countries. It’s always the same, money floods in and promises are made in the immediate aftermath of disasters and after the world’s attention is gone, the people here without homes continue to suffer for years.
Yesterday, we heard that instead of being moved to a permanent area in 6 months, that after 6 months they will be moved to another temporary shelter for 1 year and then moved to a permanent area. That means they will be living in temporary shelter for at least 1.5 years as of now. The same story is already repeating itself and you can expect those delays to continue as landowners fight over government for the rights to build homes and everyone seeking to maximize profit.
On November 17th, I had planned to bicycle around the world to raise money for the Angel House Orphanage. I delayed my plans after the typhoon hit Tacloban and came here on November 28th. I am very worried that the financial support will stop for the people here that I will now continue to try and raise funds for the relief.
On January 3rd I will fly back to Tacloban after spending a week in Cebu to visit the home that we are building in Bogo for Tita’s family. I plan to stay about a week in Tacloban and will then go back to Bangkok about January 10th. Around January 17th (2 months after my initial plan of leaving on November 17th) I will start out on my bicycle trip around the world. I will by starting in Bangkok and ending in the Philippines and will cycle 50,000 km through 40 countries and arrive back here by Christmas 2015. I will be aiming to raise money for both the Angel House Orphanage and the victims of the typhoon.
We can’t repeat the same mistakes over and over again by ignoring people in disasters just because the cameras stop rolling. If we are ever going to change the repeating pattern it has to start somewhere. The money and support provided by so many around the world can’t go to waste; it has to mean something so I plan to keep the relief efforts in mind for the next 2 years. Hopefully people can find ways to help continue showing support. It can be a change jar at work or some fundraiser event but we can make a permanent difference instead of just a Band-Aid solution to a repeating problem. I will be carrying a Philippines flag on the back of my bike and use the opportunity of meeting people around the world to try and remind people that the survivors are still in need of help.
Merry Christmas from Tacloban.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Getting relief supplies

December 16th, 2013
Getting relief supplies
On Tuesday December 10th I managed to find a van to drive the 100 km’s to Ormoc to find supplies for various families. The list of people in need was growing so I had to leave before we couldn’t find a vehicle large enough. Jenn and Ruchelle joined me and we left Tacloban about 7:00 am.
Ormoc is the town on the other side of Leyte and is the port for service to Cebu. It was heavily damaged by the typhoon but spared a lot of the storm surge. They are also close to Cebu so are able to get supplies faster than Tacloban. We heard that one of the large department stores was open so we headed there with a long list of requests.
It isn’t easy to buy things when the families are so large but here is a list of the people we helped, a total of 6 families and 44 people.
-          Jenn’s family, grandmother and niece (8 people)
-          Ruchelle’s family (3 people)
-          Cristina’s family (3 people)
-          Michael’s family (9 people)
-          The twin’s family (6 people)
-          Volunteer for the Visayans staff (9 people)
-          Bella and Gemma from MC and their kids (6 people)
The Volunteer for the Visayans staff spend all their time helping others so I went to the office and asked if there was anything they need. They serve meals to the children in the Barangay so I offered to buy a 50-kg sack of rice and also personal supplies for the 9 staff. The personal supplies included things like shampoo, soap, toothpaste, lotion and mosquito repellent.
We also bought a 50-kg sack of rice for Jenn’s, Ruchelle’s and Michael’s family. The sacks are large and not easy to move around so they were meant for large groups. I also bought 10-kg sacks for the Twins and Cristina’s family. The families and children at MC have rice provided.
We bought various supplies like vitamins, milk, juice, noodles, canned meats and large bottles of water. Included in the purchases were 17 sets of clothing for the kids along with 17 pairs of flip-flops, the shoe of choice for kids here in the Philippines. Here are a few photos of the purchases.
Food and supplies
I also bought back to schoolbags for Cristina’s children and of course a set of toy trucks for Michael.
Michael’s trucks
On Wednesday I hired Jenn’s father to deliver the goods to the families with a motorcycle taxi. It is a common means of transportation here for the shorter distances and side streets where Jeepneys do not drive. We used my room as a central storage place and then loaded up 3 times to make deliveries. Here is our transportation.
Delivery by motorcycle
The first stop was Michael’s and when Jenn saw him she yelled out his name and Michael almost started crying. He is very sensitive and shy and he had the same reaction the other day when I arrived to see him. We gave the food, clothing, flip-flops and vitamins to his mother and he wasn’t at all interested until I gave him his new trucks. He ran off to a corner with his roll of mentos and was perfectly content.
The next stop was the twins and we drove to the large elementary school to search out Angel and April and their family. When I was at MC their older brother Jerry Boy joined the twin girls. He was such a nice young boy and he used to come into the nursery and just stand by his younger sisters as they lay in bed. They wouldn’t talk but just kind of look at each other, probably wondering what they were doing in a strange place without their parents. When I visited here the last 2 days Jerry Boy wasn’t around but this time he showed up. He was standing right beside me and I looked at him without recognition. He has changed a lot in 2 years. When I finally called out his name he gave me a big smile and said “hi kuya Fred”, just like he used to do everyday. We gave them their supplies and I ensure the mother knew how to give the multi-vitamin syrup. When I left all 3 of the kids waved with a big smile so my day was complete.
The last stop was to Cristina’s family in Tabontabon and we made the hour drive to meet them. The mother suffers from asthma and I was able to find an inhaler in Ormoc so I was anxious to get that to her right away. I won’t be making a trip out there again so I bought the girls each a new dress and a bag with some school supplies. I gave the Shantel, the eldest girl a roll of mentos and she was so shy she hid in the bedroom. Samantha is the younger and had no problem accepting her candy and she gave us a smile and wave as we left.
On Thursday December 12th I moved in with the family who I lived with for 6 months when I was here in 2011. I received a call from Ruchelle who was staying out with her brother and sister-in-law in San Jose, the worst hit area of Tacloban. Her brother and his wife had to leave to visit her family so they asked if I could stay with Ruchelle and a neighbour’s girl, as they were scared to stay on their own. I left my valuables with my family and moved to the small temporary home and Ruchelle cooked a meal on an open fire and I stayed right at ground zero of the typhoon. Here is the house where I stayed.

Ruchelle’s home
The next day I moved back to stay with my family and will be here until December 26th and then go to Cebu. I want to see the house that is being built up in Bogo. I will return to Tacloban in early January after I get my new visa. I will fly to Cebu to avoid the 2.5-hour van ride and 2-hour ferry. The Tacloban airport is open despite almost being wiped out. Since there are no ticket offices open and no online services, you have to go to the airport and buy a ticket for either Cebu or Manila. Here is a photo of a Philippines airliner getting ready for takeoff.
Tacloban airport
On December 15th I was able to make contact with the last of the children I wanted to find. Angelina was at the Missionaries of Charity when I was there and her home was also in the hardest hit area. Angelina is a very bright girl and she returned to school in 2012 after being released from the orphanage to live with her sister and brother-in-law. She was the top student in her school last year and really loves to learn. A few days after the typhoon, Angelina and her family here were evacuated to Manila on a C-130 plane. They did not want to go but they thought they had no choice. She is now living in the northern island of the Philippines and wants to return to go to school that is scheduled to open on January 15th.
The people in her area have been set up in tents for now and will be relocated to another area north of the city in about 6 months. I told Angelina I would go and ensure their names are on the list to be relocated and then if she is provided a tent, can move back here with her family and attend school. I will have to help move her here back to Tacloban as they were evacuated with only the clothes on their back and no one in the family has a job. Here is a picture of Angelina with the twins.
This week I will be checking up on the twins and Michael’s family and also trying to get Angelina and her family back here to Tacloban. We are also looking into starting to rebuild Jennifer’s home.
I keep being told to make sure I thank all those who helped with donations and I will continue to show photos of where the money is being spent.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Searching for a few kids

December 11th, 2013
Searching for a few kids
I am staying at a hotel in Tacloban for one week and compared with most people here it would be considered luxury but it really is more like camping. I have a bed in a room with a roof and doors so in that sense things are easy. However, with no electric fan, no lights, no running water and a toilet that does not flush it is similar to many campgrounds where I slept. The hardest thing for me is not the lack of running water or light, it is the heat at night. I can leave the window open and get eaten by mosquitos or shut the window and sleep in 90-degree heat in the room. I tried to get a mosquito net in Cebu before coming here but they were sold out. Last night I slept on the floor with a light blanket beneath me as it is cooler than the bed so things are looking up.
The front of the hotel has a generator so I can access the computer each night, a blessing considering it is dark by about 6:00 pm and there is not much else to do.  The connection can be sporadic though as can the cell phone coverage. Tacloban is under military law with a curfew from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am. I saw a sign coming into town that read, “After 7:00 pm, shoot to kill.” For those people who only heard about the curfew starting at 8:00 pm, they might want to reconsider moving indoors an hour earlier.
My typical routine here is to get up at first light, about 5:30 am and take my bath. A bath consists of using a pail of water to soak yourself, then apply soap and rinse. When I lived with a family here I did that everyday and it is very refreshing, I never missed having a hot shower. I then have breakfast, usually just rice, scrambled eggs and a piece of fruit. I had gone without dairy products for 6 months but there is nothing else to eat here. The first day they served canned corned beef but I really couldn’t even force myself to try a bite and with the other option being hot dogs, I will stick with rice and eggs. They also have 3 in 1 which is just milk powder and sugar with a few grains of coffee. I bought my own small packages of black coffee but it is Nescafe instant and for anyone used to brewed coffee, it is difficult to drink. I really miss Bo’s coffee shop for my daily brew. I walk by my old hangout everyday hoping beyond hope that they are open and Starbucks is becoming a distant memory. I then go out into the town or surrounding areas and have to be back here by dark so there is limited time in a day. I don’t want to be out at 7:01 pm.
On Sunday morning I made it my mission to find some of the children from the MC orphanage. I had heard that Michael and his family survived and I knew the area they lived so that should be easy. I had also heard conflicting reports about April and Angel, the twin girls. I didn’t want to speculate about their situation so without any idea of where they were located I set out.
I made my way to the airport area to find my friend Ruchelle. It is handy to have a local person who speaks the Waray dialect as most of the poor people here struggle with basic English. English is taught in schools from a very early age but many people in the poor areas left school early and do not use the language in day to day life. Ruchelle was in her home cooking for her family when I arrived.
Ruchelle is only 23 years old and I think of most girls back home that age just finishing University or working and it is a world apart from life here. She left Tacloban the day before the typhoon hit to get to Cebu to arrange paperwork for a job in Taiwan. She is here to visit her brother and his family and will go back to Cebu for Christmas to be with her mom.
The government has ordered that the people in this village can stay for another 6 months and then they will be forced to evacuate to a location 1 hour from Tacloban. They will be provided a home but in an area with no town or jobs. Last week they were saying the homes in the new location would be built in 6 months and I had to laugh and wonder if anyone actually believed that. Yesterday, I was reading in the Philippines newspapers that the rebuilding could take 5 years. Considering the people most affected are poor and homeless, I think even 5 years is far too optimistic, but the only hope is that there is a national election in a few years and someone may use the disaster to move things along for the votes.
There is a small town called Palo near Tacloban and I drove through there the other day and noticed they were frantically working to store electric power. It turns out, a government official from the area is related to the head of the organization that provides electricity so they are taking priority. Palo is a very small town and Tacloban has over 250,000 people but it’s who you know that counts for a lot more than need.
In another report, relief goods from the UK have been intercepted in Manila and are now being sold on the streets there and never made it to Tacloban. If you want to ensure your donations get to the appropriate persons, just avoid any government intervention. Since all goods coming by plane or ship have to go through Customs (one of the most corrupt departments) and then to the local mayor or Barangay captains for distribution (another big source of corruption) the chance of goods getting to the poor are almost zero. I was in the worst hit area in Tacloban, in a school hosting about 2,000 refugees and not one of them has received a single piece of clothing 30 days after the typhoon, despite countless shipping containers sent from around the world. They are long gone by the time they get to the poor. The various government officlals take the best goods for their families and supporters and if there is anything left it gets to the friends of their friends.
Ruchelle’s village will not get electricity or plumbing since they will be evacuated so the temporary shelters being built quickly now is home until June. That is a long time to live with hundreds of people without electricity or toilet facilities. They can access water for cleaning but the water is contaminated and not for drinking. Here is the shower area with Ruchelle taking her bath.
Ruchelle’s bath time
As mentioned Ruchelle is 23 years old and the lack of privacy and being in the open for your bath and going to the bathroom would be difficult for the young women here. Most young girls spend hours in the bathroom so imagine how she feels every day.
I had mentioned the large scale clean up effort on the main streets with dump trucks, excavators, backhoes and the other heavy machinery. However, at the local village level things are a little more primitive. Many people do not have any tools to clean up. At one point I saw lines of people moving in and out of a few homes and watched as they all dragged various scrounged containers to the piles of debris on the roads and then returning to collect more. They were happy and singing, a different way to spend your Sunday.
Who needs a wheelbarrow?
Good use of luggage
In Ruchelle’s village they had shovels and would go through the massive piles one shovel at a time. There were 87 people killed in this small barangay alone, with most likely being swept into the sea. They go through the piles sorting out the wood and other materials that can be used to help build the temporary shelters.
Cleaning up
They are starting to set up large amounts of tents that will house people for the 6 months until they can be relocated. The government has said all schools will open on January 8th and most of the schools are in bad shape and filled with the refugees escaping villages like this one. They have to move those people into tents and then clean up the schools. It has now been a month since the typhoon and that means exactly 1 month until the schools open. It is really going to be a race against time. Here are some of the tents set up near Ruchelle’s home.
Relief tents
There are still fires burning everywhere and the smell of smoke combined with the heat and humidity makes breathing difficult. They can’t put the fires out since they don’t have running water. Most people walk around with masks and I use a small towel over my face. The smells for the most part are okay so it appears the bodies of animals and humans have all been recovered.
Ruchelle and I took a jeepney and then a motorcycle and were able to locate Michael’s family. Michael is still very sensitive and almost started crying because there was such a fuss when I walked through the gates. He must have heard a number of people call out his name and didn’t know what was happening. He is also very shy and would look at me, wondering who I was and why I was there. His mother took out a picture she has saved with me and Michael and he kept looking from the picture to me and back to the picture.
Michael is from a family of 7 children with the eldest being 15 but all very small. Here are 6 of the kids.
Michael and his family
The father drives a bicycle and earns about $4 per day and the mother cleans clothes and earns about $10 per week. Not a lot of money to care for a total of 9 people. They are safe and escaped most of the damage from the typhoon, as their small 1 room house is concrete and well protected. The area they live is far enough from the water to have escaped the storm surge. I asked the father to drive us to a nearby market where I bought the family some rice, fresh fruit, eggs, milk and candy for the kids. I also gave the mother some money and asked what she needed for her kids. They need vitamins, milk, fresh water and food. They did not have the damage of the other homes but after the typhoon the roads were blocked so the father did not have work for almost 2 weeks. They have very little money to provide for Michael so their biggest need is money. I will only give money to the mother, as the father will likely spend it on alcohol. The best option is to buy them food and supplies. I told her I would be renting a van to go to Ormoc this week and will buy the kids new flip-flops and something for Christmas. They also need candles, a flashlight, cleaning supplies for the home and fresh bottled water. I told her I would return in a few days.
The next stop was trying to find the twins. Angel and April were 2 of the young children admitted to MC in 2011. They were joined by their brother Jerry Boy and were the sweetest children I ever met. The twins were admitted because of severe malnutrition and stayed much longer than most because they were not recovering. At one point when I was there we thought April would die as she was infested with tapeworm. One day she was eating and a worm crawled out of her mouth. After taking medicine she seemed to recover but it was a slow process. I spent a lot of time with them, often walking around the compound with one in each arm. Near Christmas in 2011, MC started playing Christmas music and I would pick up Angel and dance with her until she fell asleep and then pick up April and do the same. They loved that and they would just smile as we danced. I think that is my best memory of my time at MC.
When I was visiting MC on Friday I heard reports from the workers and even the sisters there that Angel and her mother were killed in the typhoon but April, Jerry Boy and the father were alive. I was crushed and couldn’t believe it. Ruchelle however heard that they were all alive so I have been really anxious to find out the truth.
I had no idea where they were but as we drove past a large elementary school I noticed it was packed with people so asked the driver to stop. We went in to the grounds and I was shocked by what I saw. It is a massive school for grades 1 through 6 and probably 7 classrooms for each grade or a total of 42 rooms. Each room held 6 or 7 families so if there is an average of 5 in a family, that would make about 1,500.With people in the courtyard and on the roofs and many out during the day, I would easily estimate 2,500 people were cramped in various rooms. In the school there is no electricity or toilets, a disaster waiting to happen. These are the people in the hardest hit area and they have no homes left. They will all be relocated to tents for the next 6 months.
Here is a picture of one of the rooms that held 7 families, likely up to 35 or 40 people.
School for refugees
The scene reminded me of the refugee camps set up in Haiti or Pakistan after their earthquakes. Those camps are still in operation years later and that is what I fear will happen here. As soon as you get people moving to other areas, you start getting corruption with inflated prices and government officials taking a piece of the action. People will be charged a “fee” for the best portions of land and the family members of the mayors or Barangay captains will bet first choices. If you happen to have voted for the respective government official, you can also expect preferential treatment.
Ruchelle and I asked around and were told that people in the village the twins lived were located in the far end of the compound so we walked across the massive field. Then Ruchelle asked a lady and she pointed to a far room. I entered the dark room and heard someone say “it’s Kuya Fred” and my heart skipped a beat. I asked Ruchelle who that was and she pointed and said it is the twin’s mother and I asked about Angel and April and she pointed to them standing in the corner. I climbed over some small partitions and gave them both a hug but of course they had no idea who I was or why I was there but that’s okay. The mother hugged me and thanked me for searching for them. She said she was hoping I would show up. Here is a picture of the twins with their older sister and parents. Jerry Boy was not there but he is also safe.
April and Angel
The mother looked exhausted. I asked her what they need for assistance and she said everything from fresh water to mosquito nets. The girls look severely malnourished again and they have very little fresh water or food. I told her I would return shortly with vitamins and milk for the kids and as many supplies as I can fit into a van. It is very difficult now as they are living in a small room with 6 other families and you can’t just give to one family. The need is overwhelming. I gave the mother some money and told her to buy whatever her family needs and I will keep checking up on them. She started crying and wanted to say thank you to everyone who donated to help.
I may have reduced computer time soon as I will be moving to live with a family on Thursday and they do not have a generator. My plan is to rent a vehicle to Ormoc about 2 hours away and load up on vitamins, milk, eggs, fresh food, cleaning supplies, flashlights, batteries and a Christmas present for all the kids. There are now 8 families we are helping, a total of 45 people, mostly children. It is a small number but for those families it means a lot.
For those of you who donated money I wanted to outline where the money has been spent and will be spent in the coming week. It is running out fast so if there were any ideas on how to raise more it would be greatly appreciated. Coin drop boxes at work, telling your friends and co-workers, organizing an event can help more people as all the money is going directly to those in the most need.
In Cebu, Tita’s parents are building a new home which relieves the financial pressure on Tita and her 8 siblings. Yesterday, 2 trucks full of building materials made the drive up to Bogo and construction is now starting on a new home.
In a small town outside of Tacloban, Cristina’s mother and 2 daughters were given some food and money and I will return later this week with supplies from Ormoc.
In Tacloban, Ruchelle’s family (brother, sister-in-law and their 2 children) were given some money and we will get supplies for them. I paid to bring Ruchelle back here and for her return to Cebu.
Jennifer’s family (mother, father, 3 brothers) are working on estimating what they need to rebuild their home. We will be adding a second floor and construction will begin as soon as we can get the materials. They will also get supplies from Ormoc.
Michael’s family (6 siblings and 2 parents) were given some food and cash and we will return with supplies.
April and Angels family (2 siblings and 2 parents) were given food and cash and we will return with supplies.
The 2 women at MC who saved the 16 children (Bella and Gemma) and their 4 children will be given money and supported as they have lost everything. I can’t give them supplies as there are too many families there but I will provide personal items of clothing for them and their daughters.
That makes 8 families and about 45 people impacted by your generosity.
I have to get a visa renewal before December 28th and the immigration office here is closed so I will go back to Cebu on the 26th and then go up to see the progress of Tita’s home in Bogo before coming back to Tacloban in early January to follow up on the families we are helping. I don’t know how long I will be here but will stay as long as I can be of some use.
The people here are grateful for the worldwide response to the typhoon.
Thank you from Tacloban