Today marks two months since Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines. After the storm, World Vision communicator Annila Harris visited survivors and met sponsored child Apple, whose family is benefiting from World Vision relief supplies. The way this little girl cared for her baby sister, Roalyn, taught Annila that even when a disaster takes away almost everything, the most important thing in life is still family.
Looking up at the clear blue sky, it was hard to picture the pouring rain and surging winds on the day that Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. Walking toward the safe space created by World Vision for mothers and children, I gave myself a reality check, looking down at the broken houses around me, a testament to Typhoon Haiyan's fury.
An ivory tent peeping above the community center told me I had arrived at my destination. It was a sight of hope for the pregnant women and lactating mothers who brought their bundles of joy there. Inside, infants lying on soft blankets with their mothers fanning them to sleep and babies grasping colorful toys were a refreshing sight, given the turmoil of the recent storm.
This safe space focused on providing mothers with breastfeeding support after the disaster. It was a place where pregnant and lactating mothers could connect with each other and share experiences. Many came to use the space as a safe area to nurture and care for their children after the typhoon.
I listened intently as they shared their perspectives.
"Breastfeeding is important for the health of my child. Having such spaces helps,” said Conchita, mother of an 11-month-old. “My house got damaged. I don’t have privacy there for breastfeeding. I have privacy here. I didn’t know there are so many women who have the same issues. Now I can talk to them and relate with them."
Grinning, expectant mother Jessa said, "If such places were not there I would be lost because this is my first baby. What they tell us here is important for me and will help me care for my baby."
Something about doting mothers cuddling their little ones provided a calm assurance that redemption was not far away.
While photographing magical baby moments, I stumbled upon an adorable little girl. Clutching several toys, she beamed with smiles and joy. Running in to position her wandering sister properly before the camera, the girl said, "Her name is Roalyn. She is my younger sister, and my name is Apple."
"What do you think of this space?" I asked.
"Children like to play here and it is safe." Apple caressed her sister’s forehead, gently pushing back her hair, wanting Roalyn to look perfect for the photo.
Roalyn stared at the camera, striking a pose with her elder sister. The baby shoot had gathered the attention of other mothers. "Apple is a sponsored child," one mother tells me.
In order to understand the repercussions this family was facing after the deadly disaster, I knew I would have to visit their home. Eager to share more of her story, Apple introduced me to her mother, who stood in line to receive breastfeeding kits being distributed at the safe space.
The next day, I ventured into the interior parts of the barangay (village) in search of Apple’s home.
At a community washing area, I spotted Apple rinsing her shoes. "After the typhoon, we wash our clothes here. It is a temporary arrangement," says a local resident. Springing up, Apple heads to the pump to wash her soapy hands. "Come with me, I will take you to my house," she says.
Baby Roalyn and their mother, Susana, were doing the “putting the baby to sleep” dance.
Sitting outside her patched house, Apple narrates her experience of the typhoon. "When the typhoon came, there was rain and thunder. It was very cold. I cried but my mother hugged me. We ran to a safe house. When the storm went back, I came out. My house was damaged. All my clothes were wet and dirty."
Lifting her head, she glanced away, then said, "I saw sadness." Those three words cut like a knife. They were profound, candidly describing what a child saw.
The typhoon had robbed the family blind, but was unsuccessful in stealing Apple’s fighter spirit.
"The relief goods given by World Vision have helped us a lot." In the same breath, she says, "But now we need a new home. Our house is damaged."
Taking charge from her mother, Apple slowly cuddles little Roalyn. Carefully laying her sister into the cradle, Apple watches Roalyn like a hawk, as tiny Roalyn plays with the orange scarf.
"I love my sister," Apple affirms. "I am happy that my family is safe.”
Sensing a heart of gratitude, I was deeply moved by Apple’s bird’s-eye view of the situation forcefully placed before her by the typhoon. Apple had taught me about what matters the most in life: family.
Crawling back to a new sense of normalcy, the only thing Apple truly desires now is a house to call home.
Sponsor a child like Apple in the Philippines today. Your personal investment will help a child and his or her family to get back on their feet after disasters like Typhoon Haiyan, providing basics like clean water, nutritious food, safe shelter, healthcare, access to education, and more!