Wednesday marks two months since Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines, causing immense devastation and loss of life. World Vision quickly mobilized more than 200 local staff members to help reach almost 400,000 survivors with relief operations.
Today, Florence, one of our team members on the ground, reflects on the past two months and the amazing love and hope she has felt from around the world as we all became each other’s miracle.
This is the Filipino spirit. I’ve seen this in the families I’ve talked to, and I have heard these lines from the many parents who still manage to smile despite their losses.
Typhoon Haiyan undeniably brought devastation in its most gruesome face. I can tell you hundreds of these stories. Being part of the communications team, I get the chance to talk to people, listen to mothers cry, empathize with fathers’ fears, and feel for children who are adjusting.
Pain has many ugly faces, and listening to these is emotionally exhausting. But in the ugliness of pain also comes the beauty of love that gives birth to hope.
I’m still astounded.
I wish I could adequately describe the smiles of the people during relief distributions. When they see the relief packs, not even the click of a camera can capture the glow in their eyes. More than the material things, the thought that people from all over the world remembered them gives them joy.
Because love, especially from strangers, has the power to rebuild and to strengthen. In this I see hope.
I wish my words could be enough to show how children in World Vision’s Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) run toward the volunteer facilitators, how their eyes grow big when they see the toys, art materials, and other items included in the CFS kits. I enjoy watching as they eagerly share their drawings and heartily laugh with every activity given to them.
No matter how tired I may be, their giggles make me smile. There’s something in these little ones that relaxes the whole of me. When they smile, my heart melts. In them, I see hope.
And this life in the field. It is never easy. The travel time from a covered area to the command center is 1.5 to four hours, and that means waking up earlier than usual. And just when everyone’s ready with the distribution list, the scarcity in supplies comes to play. And we get frustrated at times because we know how badly the community needs the relief goods.
But some things are beyond our control, so we go with Plan B. When you see the needs of the people, you give yourself no other option but to do whatever you can to fast-track the distribution.
I still smile every time I remember how we make each other laugh when all these things happen. We remember how a staff member unknowingly said to an elderly person, “Who will carry you?” instead of “Who will carry your goods?”
The old woman laughed and we all laughed. That blooper took all our tiredness away. It also amazes me how we push each other, not just because we want to achieve our targets, but because we care about the people who are already hungry.
That is love, and in that, I see hope. We’re not leaving the people by themselves. As a team, we’ll be there for them.
I won’t forget the “English is on” mode. World Vision colleagues from different countries have come to the Philippines to help in the response, and it is amazing to see people of different nationalities come together for one cause. It reminds me that the Philippines is part of a bigger picture, that this is not just the plight of Filipinos. The whole world is with us. I see hope.
As a humanitarian worker, I know I did not just give. I also received: from their smiles, from their embraces, from their strength, from their relentless spirit. To the players behind this, to the donors and sponsors who never got tired of giving, to the colleagues in the warehouse, to the programming team, to the spiritual warriors, to the children who never failed to make me smile, and to the mothers and fathers who bravely face this trial, hope may not be something tangible, but I do feel it.
I hope that my words are enough to tell the world, even when they cannot personally see how things operate in the field, how blessed Filipinos felt. We were never left alone. Typhoon Haiyan may have brought us the worst scenario one could ever imagine, but it also revealed the best in humanity: In this battle, we became each other’s miracle.
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