After Typhoon Haiyan, Lorelyn’s family had lost not only their home in the storm, but their means of earning an income: only 4 of their coconut trees remained. The future seemed impossible.
But then her daughter, 12-year-old Lovely, remembered the letters from her World Vision sponsor: letters of encouragement and hope. When she pulled the letters from the wreckage of their former home, life started to change.
A rare smile crosses Lorelyn’s face.
She’s thinking about past harvests. Days when one of the neighborhood men would arrive at her place with a machete and hustle up the family’s coconut trees, hacking down the fruit.
She beams, remembering how she collected the fallen fruit with her husband and how they filled a wagon pulled by water buffaloes.
Those harvest days – every three months or so – were the best days, say Lorelyn’s children: 12-year-old Lovely, a World Vision sponsored child, and 10-year-old John Carlo.
But just as quickly as the smile crossed Lorelyn’s face, it disappears. It’s replaced with a look of steely determination – they are starting over now.
“November 8 was one of the worst days of our life,” Lorelyn says.
The evening of the storm, Lorelyn, her husband Aaron, and the two children ran into the night. They darted down the dirt road to a relative’s house.
“It’s cement and we thought we’d be safe there,” Lorelyn says.
As the wind grew louder, Lorelyn remembered their water buffalos.
“They’re our only investment,” Lorelyn says. “We are hoping to use them to fund our children’s post-secondary education.”
Anxious, she begged her husband Aaron to bring the animals in to a safe place.
“After he left, I realized I should not have told him to go,” Lorelyn says.
Soon after he left, the rest of the roof blew away.
“We were trembling with coldness. I just kept embracing them and saying the rosary as loud as I could. The tears were falling,” Lorelyn says.
“I was praying, too, I was so afraid,” Lovely says quietly.
For more than 10 hours, the world seemed like it was ending.
In a short break from the roaring winds, Aaron reappeared, soaked. He’d taken cover in a school during the worst of the storm, and managed to bring the water buffalos to safety.
But he came bearing bad news.
“He saw our house. It was ruined,” Lorelyn says.
After the storm, Lorelyn and her family were confronted with a harsh reality. At the site of their former home, a haphazard hill of debris stood. A series of toppled coconut trees criss-crossed the roof. There was nothing left.
“All our coconut trees, except for four, snapped. I really didn’t know what we were going to do,” Lorelyn says, her chin beginning to quiver.
Like nearly one in every five families in the Philippines, Lorelyn’s family lives below the poverty line. Starting over was a debilitating thought.
“I only had 50 Pesos [US$1.10] in my pocket,” Lorelyn says. “We had nothing else.”
Worried, 12-year-old Lovely decided to do what she knew best to earn income – collect fallen coconuts. She roamed the land of fallen trees and pulled out the coconuts, covered in mud, and found a few customers.
“I wanted to help my family, I wanted to help them buy rice,” Lovely says.
Amidst the calamity, something amazing happened – what little people had, they shared.
“That was the Filipino spirit – people helping each other in the time of need,” Lorelyn says.
As the roads were cleared and access restored to the village, aid began arriving. Lorelyn’s family was one of the thousands who lined up for food relief.
“We really appreciate those who helped us,” she says.
After three weeks, Lorelyn’s husband started to pick through the wreckage of their old home. He scavenged pieces of crumpled steel and lumber, and started rebuilding.
At the same time, Lovely started searching through the wreckage, too, hunting for a small collection of papers – letters from a woman in America that Lovely admires.
“The letters are very important,” Lovely says in a whisper. “She tells me to study hard. I’m happy when I get a letter.”
Those letters – sent by her sponsor – represented hope.
“She really looked hard for those letters, picking through all the debris,” Lorelyn says.
Lovely smiles, holding a stack of envelopes with American stamps on them. Inside, the water has made the ink run, but the lines from her sponsor are still visible.
“Sometimes she tells me – God bless you all. And she tells me she hopes more blessings will come to me and my family,” Lovely reports.
That small triumph, of recovering the letters, seemed to trigger further unexpected encounters with World Vision.
“A month after the typhoon, a friend told me World Vision was hiring staff to distribute relief goods,” Lorelyn says. “I took the two-hour trip to Tacloban. At the interview … somehow they selected me. I still can’t believe it. It was a great help,” Lorelyn says.
Since then, Lorelyn has been part of a team of distribution workers that have provided relief goods to more than 680,000 people.
“Although I am a victim, still I can be used as an instrument to serve other victims like me. It's a great joy to help people, to hear people say thank you, this is really going to help.”
The money Lorelyn earns is already helping her own family.
“My family is blessed. I’m hopeful we’re going to make it.”
As a sponsor, your words of hope and encouragement can be a blessing to a child and their family. Choose a child to sponsor today!