I am in Omawas, Philippines, on the east coast of the island of Samar. An area that is in the direct path of Pacific typhoons. Especially Haiyan (2013) and Ruby this past year.
I want to update you on the good work we are doing building permanent houses for survivors, and remind you that we stay focused on areas after the world’s attention has moved on. (Rest assured that MicroAid will go to Nepal down the road, when the earthquake survivors will still need our help.)
As with all disasters, here in the Philippines, years later, there are many people who have not received assistance.
I arrived a few weeks ago and met with two beneficiary families to start the ball rolling and work on budgets and find foremen to rebuild their homes.
Betty’s house was almost completely destroyed by the typhoon
1-Betty: Widowed a few years ago. Four daughters, one son, three grandkids. No recourse after the typhoon damaged most of her house and destroyed her daughter’s and her husband’s next door.
Betty’s compound – construction underway
Pedro and the kids lived in what remained of grandma’s house.
2-Pedro: His wife abandoned the family (four girls, one boy). He was doing his best to raise and support them, along with his mom, when the typhoon destroyed their house and damaged hers. He rebuilt as best he could, now they all live in one cramped space. But they don’t own the land, and the owner wants it back. So we’re building on land they own!
pedro’s old house destroyed
Pedro’s compound – construction underway
Actually, each project consists of a repair or completions of one house and a ground-up construction of a new house. So really, two houses for each family.
Ronalyn – interpreter/assistant par excellence
Early on, Ronalyn (my local guide/ interpreter/gal Friday/lifesaver) and I went to the local town to buy materials. I had forgotten that in these kind of places you don’t just walk into Home Depot with a list and walk out with everything. We basically cleared the town out of 2 x 4 lumber–we bought all 10 pieces. Ha, we needed like 50. So off to the big town, 40 minutes away, to arrange for more. At the various tiny hardware stores, we cobbled together the rest of the material to get everyone working: nails, cement, sand, gravel, corrugated sheet metal, wire, etc. etc.
The houses are as strong and comfortable as possible. I’m using the best lumber (nails don’t pull out), marine plywood, the thickest sheet-metal roofing, putting insulation under the roofs, stucco’ing the walls (inside and out), strapping down the roof timbers so they will not blow off in future storms, and a bunch of other quality building strategies. (I want them to last… for the families and MicroAid as well.)
Betty has said that she feels like she’s won the lottery, and, in addition to guyarbano fruit she’s given me, gave me a beautiful squash today. So sweet. (Well, her house is going to be–is–gorgeous. That’s got to be worth a pumpkin or two. :0) )
Over at Pedro’s the kids are calling me Uncle Jon. I don’t know how that started, but in Sri Lanka the kids called me “Jon Uncle.” Ha.
kids helping get material to the site
Getting close to the end of the major purchases for the projects. Some additional plywood, lumber, and cement, but mostly in. And on budget. There are a few more weeks of work to be done, and the “punch list” at the end–odds and ends–will take a while. But this is going as quickly as I could have hoped for.
They say “maopai” here, “hello,” because they speak Warai not Tagalog. This place, Samar, is like its own country. They are fierce and independent. But they have been friendly and helpful to me. They are aware that MicroAid is a small family of supporters who understand people still need help. They are grateful. So am I.
Thank you for supporting this important work. We are really making a huge difference in people’s lives–directly, efficiently, and completely. The MicroAid way!
All the best from the Philippines.