What does it take to survive a disaster? What does it take to thrive and build back better?
Matthew Paul Turner is with the World Vision bloggers in the Philippines this week. He describes how the people of Tacloban are no longer defined by the monster of Typhoon Haiyan.
The Filipino people are survivors.
That’s what they want you to remember: that they are surviving the hell that Typhoon Haiyan brought to their shores one year ago.
Haiyan’s fury—most specifically, its unprecedented storm surge—killed more than 6,400 people, displaced 4.1 million, and damaged or destroyed more than 11 million homes. One humanitarian worker described Haiyan’s aftermath “to look like a bomb had gone off.”
People here say they were prepared for the damage that the wind might bring, but when the warnings about the storm surge started to come in, a majority of Tacloban residents had no idea what “storm surge” even meant, and didn’t evacuate. The waters rose. The waves raged. The current morphed into a force that many could not (and did not) make it through. More than one thousand souls are still noted as “missing,” believed to have become victims of an angry San Pedro Bay.
Yesterday, on the anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan’s arrival, I walked among Tacloban’s three mass graves: two parks and the front lawn of a church that, out of necessity, became makeshift tombs for many of those who were lost amid the storm.
The stories told by the survivors are horrendous tales, with details that most of us only experience in nightmares—stories of loved ones drowning, children being swept away by the surging waters, and stories about friends being hit by flying palm trees and coconuts. And then there are the stories about how those still with us survived the monster.
One woman, a mother of three small kids—two of whom are World Vision sponsored children—told me that she and her family braved the storm in her church’s sanctuary.
“But then the winds ripped the roof off the church and smashed in the windows.”
Amid flying glass, debris, and torrential rain, she huddled her little ones together and darted for the floor beneath the altar’s communion table where they weathered the remainder of the storm. While holding tightly to her kids, she said that they just “cried and prayed—that’s all we could do—and hope we’d be okay.”
And she and her little ones were indeed okay.
But then, when the winds died down and the waters began to recede and those who survived the terror began emerging from their hideouts, they realized quickly that their nightmare was just beginning. Their homes, their crops, their livelihoods, their roads, their ways of life—gone.
“But we are rebuilding!” That’s one of the first things that an employee of World Vision said to me. A wide smile across her face, she said, “We are a strong people and we are rebuilding more quickly than anybody expected.”
And that’s true. A year later, though the signs of the monster’s presence still linger, they no longer define the Tacloban communities.
From day one, because of a long-lasting and thriving child sponsorship program with the Philippines, World Vision was at Haiyan’s ground zero, putting into action their vast strategy for relief, a plan that started with food, clean water, temporary shelter, and organization.
Child sponsorship isn’t only about community development, it’s also the lifeblood of relief efforts when tragedy strikes. And because of people like you and me, people who sacrifice a portion of their wealth to sponsor a child, the surviving victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines did not engage the nightmare alone.
Filipinos are a beautiful, kind, and grateful people. They are, by all accounts, not simply surviving the tragic events of November 8, 2013, they are rebuilding their lives to become better than what was true before Haiyan.
But they cannot do it alone. They need our help to thrive.
Would you please consider sponsoring a World Vision child from the Philippines? Your gift will help World Vision continue to bring hope and aid to not only the victims of Typhoon Haiyan but to those who will need help long after the emergency relief efforts are finished.
We survive when we help others survive.
Help communities in the Philippines recover by investing in the communities where children live and play and go to school. Sponsor a child in the Philippines today!
Help a child in need. Consider sponsoring a child in Guatemala today.
See what our other bloggers wrote about our first day:
Shelby Zacharias: "Guide Mother"
Jamie Wright: "Fighting Poverty is like so 2012"
Zack Hunt: "Losing Your Future Before You Ever Had One"
Jessica Shyba: "Guatemala, Day One: Exposed"
Matthew Paul Turner: "Proof that God Exists..."
Roo Ciambriello: "Hope in an Unexpected Place"
Caleb Wilde: "Poverty Pornography"
Follow the Guatemala bloggers this week as they gather firsthand stories of the children, families, and communities whose circumstances have been changed for the better by World Vision’s sponsorship programs.
Meet our other bloggers and see what they're writing from the field:
Jennifer James: "How Two Ships Show the Magnitude of Typhoon Haiyan"
Chris Hale: Coming soon!
Jeana Shandraw: Coming soon!
Follow the Philippines bloggers trip as they visit the Typhoon Haiyan recovery and World Vision's community development work first-hand!