Friday, November 15, 2013

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry

November 15, 2013
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” 
As the world is now aware the Philippines was hit by a massive typhoon on November 8th leaving a trail of destruction that is almost beyond comprehension. Typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis have of course occurred many times in the past but they take on a new meaning when you know personally know people that are suffering. I was planning to leave on Sunday November 17th on a round the world bike trip to raise support for the Angel House orphanage, but I could not leave knowing that friends were left in precarious situations back in a city I know well. I have been warned to avoid Tacloban for now as there is little in the way of shelter, food and water. It is also unsafe, as people without food and means to support their families will go to extreme levels to survive.
Tacloban is getting all the news coverage but it is not the only place impacted by the typhoon. There are numerous small towns and villages scattered around that have lost everything and the aid workers simply cannot get to the locations. In all, 41 of the 80 provinces were impacted.
It was impossible for me to leave on a bike trip knowing that so many of my friends and acquaintances were in dire need, so I have decided to go back to the Philippines and try to help as best I can and will defer my bike trip until I have some peace of mind.
I have a number of families that I will help in rebuilding their homes and ensuring they have adequate food and water to start their lives from scratch. I am also going to ensure that the children from the Missionaries of Charity that were returned home in Christmas 2011 are safe. I know a few of the families from my time there and will search for them and provide for their needs. I have no way of knowing at this time how long I will be there but my plan is to fly to Cebu on November 28th to start. Here is my initial plan.
It is too early to return to Tacloban as the military and aid agencies have to work to provide safety and the basic infrastructure to the survivors. My first stop will be Cebu to meet Tita Pino. Her mother and father lost their home in a province near the city. Here are pictures of the aftermath of Yolanda.

Her family and some members of the local community will work to rebuild the home and I will provide the materials and supplies. 
I will then go back to Tacloban and hope the infrastructure is in place that will allow people to start rebuilding In Tacloban; I am a friend with Jennifer Jabolen. Jenn was a volunteer worker with the Missionaries of Charity (MC) in Tacloban when I volunteered there in 2011. She had some health problems growing up and MC provided her with the medicine and healthcare and in return, Jenn spent her time working with the kids on a volunteer basis. Her doctor told her that she couldn’t go to school and had to take it easy but a year later her health improved. Her family did not have the finances to support her in school so I decided to help in return that all she sacrificed to help the children at the orphanage for so many years. When I returned to Tacloban after her first year in College, she presented me with a shoebox full of receipts. I asked what these were and she said she wanted to provide me with proof that she used the money I gave for its intended purpose. She had saved every receipt including some for a few pesos she spent to buy a pencil. I told her that wasn’t necessary but it just shows her honesty.
Jenn was in the middle of her school year when the typhoon hit and completely destroyed the family home. Her parents and 3 brothers survived but they were left with no more than the clothes on their back. Jenn’s college was also destroyed in the typhoon. The family left Tacloban to stay with relatives in a nearby province and all 21 family members are now living in a small home waiting for things to improve. Here are some pictures of Jenn during her time helping the children at the orphanage. In the first one she is “tallest” girl on my left.
 Here she is holding Michael:
 Jenn is kneeling down in front in the pink shirt

When I left Tacloban in Christmas 2011, the children at MC were sent home. I returned the following Christmas to check up on them and found 3 of the families. I have not heard anything from the children so will go and find them and assist where I can.
This is a picture of my special boy Michael. When I look through my photos of my time at the orphanage one consistent theme is that I am usually holding Michael, he is very special to me and one of the first things I want to do is find him and ensure he is healthy. Here is a picture of Michael and one of him when I gave him a Christmas present in 2012.
 Two of the special girls at the orphanage were April and Angel. They were there for an extra year because of severe malnutrition and there was a long period where their survival was in doubt. I used to walk around the orphanage with one in each arm. I visited their home on Christmas 2012 and am desperate to hear news from them. Here is a picture of the twins with another member of the orphanage, their older brother Jerry Boy and their mother.

Here are the twins at the orphanage:

 There is also my friend Angelina who I spent a lot of time with. She had a heart problem and was released from the orphanage in October 2011. I also visited her at Christmas 2012 and she told me she was the top student in her entire school. Here is Angelina on the far right.
 As of today I have not heard from any of the children or their families. They all lived in an area near the airport, the place where most of the scenes of destruction have been shown on CNN and the media. The homes will be gone, they were not sturdy buildings but hopefully the families made it to one of the emergency shelters and survived the storm surge.
The families here represent a small fraction of the issues facing Tacloban but you have to start somewhere and large problems can be solved one family at a time.
I have already received donations and will update this blog as often as possible to ensure everyone knows where their money is spent. All donated money will come directly to me and I will only pay for building supplies and food to help those in need. The families will be required to provide “sweat equity” and build their own homes. I have no idea how long I will stay but I will be donating money and of course cover my own expenses for as long as it takes.
I can’t offer a lot to these people other than to raise awareness of their plight and to try and reach out to people to lend their support. You can rest assured that these families will be eternally grateful as they have little left in terms of material goods. I know there are many needs around the world and with the Philippines being a foreign country on the other side of the world it is easy to put what happened in the background but they are suffering and have no where else to turn.
On November 28, 2013 I will be flying to the Philippines to start helping the people above and a few others that are reaching out for help.
If you are interested in donating please contact me at,
I can also be reached on Facebook at,
God bless.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A journey of 50,000 kilometers begins with a single pedal - Bangkok, Thailand

Distance biked so far: (0 km) 
On November 17, 2013 I am starting at the front door of my condominium in Bangkok, Thailand to circumnavigate the world on a bicycle. The route that will change a few hundred times en-route will take me 2 years, pass through approximately 40 countries and stretch about 50,000 kilometers. There will be mountains, desserts, head and tail winds, rain, snow, unfamiliar languages and customs, bad people, speeding cars and did I mention head wind? Most of all though, there will be kind people willing to show hospitality to a complete stranger.

I am doing this trip to help support Angel House Orphanage in the Philippines. I spent a short time there this month to meet the owner and the children. Angel House opened its doors in 2009 and currently has 11 children. Most of the kids were abandoned by their parents and are in the process of being adopted. The orphanage does not get any funding from government agencies and is not supported by a church, relying solely on private donations for survival. There are 4 house parents living with the children and a social worker that works closely with the Department of Social Welfare to ensure the children’s interest is maintained throughout the long adoption process.
Here are a few pictures of the orphanage.
Here are some of the kids waiting to be adopted:

I invite everyone to visit the website and to see the wonderful work David is doing for the kids. I will be writing more about Angel House as I continue to make my way around the world.
They are also on Facebook so I invite everyone to share their website with your friends.
I will be posting my journal entries and photos here as I go. My route at this point is to start in Bangkok and continue in a southerly direction to go through Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand before heading to Argentina. I will bicycle north through South and Central America, the U.S and home to Canada and hope to have that half of the trip completed by Christmas 2014.
I will write again once I am on the road but for now, thank you for following along.
Fred Bouwman
November 9, 2013
Bangkok, Thailand