The two most powerful storms in recent memory are the current hurricanes Harvey in Florida and Texas and the 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Visayas Region of the Philippines. In both emergency situations, the true heroes have been ordinary people of humble backgrounds and local service providers who have made sacrifices needed to rescue their neighbours. Even though these areas are a half-planet distance from each other, the Ilongos, the Texans and Cajuns are distinguished by their unselfish attitudes and tireless acts of mutual support. These every day heroes have compensated for any lack of government resources. In the Philippines, government has an earned reputation for callous under-preformance. But during four years of consistent hard work by local leaders and community teamwork, an unbelievable recovery has occurred. Resilient ordinary people are the key to survival and long-term rebuilding of devastated communities requires teamwork. "Our recovery has been a true blessing," says Principal Rowena Silvestre-Ortizo at Catig-lLacadon Elementary School in Duenas, Iloilo. "Many thanks for the assistance of Asia America Initiative who inspired us with a minimal amount of generosity to motivate the cooperation and labor of our pupils' parents and guardians."
In Duenas and Cuartero, Capiz in the Philippines, Asia America Initiative has had the good fortune to work for the past four years with hard-working landless farmers in rural upland areas damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Rebuilding houses, schools and churches takes time, as we have learned after four years of solid effort by residents of all ages. "We have overcome a lack of financial resources through maintaining faith, our hands in the soil and a consistent enterprising attitude," Reflects principal Luz Roxas Mayo at Cuartero Central Elementary School. "The feeding program, gardens and clean water has been more than enough to revitalize our entire community."
Houses, churches and schools have been rebuilt by neighbors helping each other. Rainwater tanks funded by AAI and local communities have provided potable water and sustenance for gardens. Malnourished children have been fed through school-based gardens with grandmothers and moms cooking daily lunches on-site. Everyone eats together, without exclusions. This has built unbreakable community bonds. Texas, although better off financially, will be faced with an arduous and at times frustrating recovery period. The unwavering community spirit demonstatrated by humble communities in the Philippines can be a great inspiration for American communities devastated by the power of nature.