When the reports of super typhoon Yolanda and its devastating effects on the city of Tacloban and the surrounding areas made the news, we heard from many people, both strangers and regular donors, asking what was the best way they could help. Wary of donating to a large faceless agency or government, they wanted to know how to get the the best bang for their donation buck. We connected with Sylvia Ordonez who manages our foundation's charity clinic in the Philippines. Sylvia is the former head of disaster relief in the Philippines, their version of FEMA in the US and she oversaw the recovery efforts after the volcanic eruption of Mt Pinatubo in 1991, a natural disaster of biblical proportions. As soon as communications could be established, Sylvia worked with Sister Eloise David, MD at the Divine Mercy Hospital in Tacloban. With the money raised from our donors we sponsored a shipping container full of basic medical supplies and had it trucked directly to Sister Eloise at the hospital in Tacloban. During our trip to the Philippines earlier this month we decided to take a trip to to Tacloban to visit Sister Eloise and report back to our foundation donors on how things were in Tacloban 18 months after the typhoon.
Accompanied by Sylvia Ordonez we landed late morning on Feb 6 at the small Tacloban airport on the 9am flight from Manila. The airport and runway were destroyed by the typhoon but are now rebuilt and servicing several flights a day. Except for a private jet still lying in a field near the runway after being blown off its moorings, the airport shows little after effects from the typhoon.
On our drive from the airport to visit Sister Eloise we stopped to talk to some of the locals and listen to their experiences during the storm and with the recovery effort. One of the people we spoke to was Rosario Ruiz. Ms Ruiz lives with her mother, husband and five children in a one room shanty with a tin roof, typical of many family dwellings in the Tacloban area. The front of the home was open to the street where Rosario sold snacks to passers by to eek out a meager living for her family. Located only 100 yards from the beach, The Ruiz family was extremely lucky to survive the storm. "A huge pile of debris made from the remains of my neighbors homes lodged in front of our shanty which sheltered us from the biggest waves" explained Rosario. "We climbed onto the roof and hung on to the the sides. My youngest son was blown off the roof but I was able to save him by grabbing onto his t shirt" she said. Her neighbors were not so fortunate. When the waters receded the area surrounding the remains of her shack was littered with the bodies of her friends and neighbors. Rosario was able to rebuild her shanty with a $300.00 grant from OXFAM. This was enough to purchase some 2" x 2" framing, some galvanized metal sheeting for the roof and a single light bulb socket to light the interior.
We then made our way to meet sister Eloise at Divine Word hospital by driving from the outskirts of the city along the coast to the hospital in the heart of Tacloban. We saw that most of the simple residential dwellings similar to The Ruiz' shanty had been or were in the process of being rebuilt. Some of the more structurally complex homes and buildings had been rebuilt, many more were in the process of rebuilding. However many buildings were destroyed beyond repair and lie as skeletal remains among their more fortunate siblings. One of the more interesting sites was that of a coastal freighter that had been blown half a mile inland landing in a residential neighborhood. The remains of the freighter were being disassembled and hauled away one piece at a time.
We met sister Eloise at the hospital which is now fully functioning and in the process of adding a new wing which will increase its operational capacity by approximately one third. In the immediate aftermath of the typhoon, the hospital, despite being flooded and without power, was at the epicenter of medical relief for hundreds of storm victims who occupied almost every square inch of the hospital's patient rooms, hallways and public spaces. Over lunch Sister Eloise told us that when the storm hit she was actually in nearby Bohol assisting in disaster relief after the area was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake the previous month. Unable to get back to Tacloban by conventional means, sister Eloise was flown in by military helicopter to oversea operations at the hospital.
One of sister Eloises' top priorities in the aftermath of the typhoon is a training program for the local residents to enable them to have a permanent means of providing for themselves and their families. Her ARADO foundation teaches them sustainable farming and trade occupations. The foundations original school, a modern 50 room structure was completely destroyed during the typhoon. Despite this huge setback, classes continue in a nearby warehouse. We visited a farming class where students are taught how to operate a self sufficient farm on a very small parcel of land less of than half an acre where corn and vegetables are grown and pigs and chickens can be raised. The sustainable farming model was developed by horticulturist Jonathan to ensure the farmers do not have the financial burdens such as livestock feed and fertilizers that have bankrupt previous such endeavors. For example, the students are taught to grow corn first, the corn can be sold or eaten and the husks mulched into a supply of pig feed to be used when the piglets arrive at a later time. Jonathan's plan is to eventually have donors sponsor individual mini farms where they can watch the farm they sponsored develop via webcam from anywhere in the world. One of the ARADO foundations other ongoing projects is the growing of soybean which is made into soy milk to be used a a badly needed nutritional supplement for local school children.
We also visited a nearby birthing clinic where 25 pregnant women were being taught the basics of childbirth and child rearing by a trained midwife. The birthing classes are a function of the Bles foundation founded by Sister Eloise to combat the high incidence of paternal mortality in Leyte.
On our way back to the airport we visited the Tacloban cathedral where Pope Francis had held Mass only a few weeks prior. The Cathedral grounds were used as a mass grave after the typhoon and hold the remains of hundreds of victims. Before leaving for Manila we donated the remaining money ($1000.00) from our Typhoon relief fund to the ARADO foundation in Tacloban.
Much has yet to be done one year later.Poverty, sanitation, and geographic isolation play significant roles. Many world events, equally deserving of attention, have occurred since Haiyan and as a result our owrk has been overshadowed and almost forgotten. Below is a recent Wall Street Journal article updating on the current status of recovery efforts. Attached is a progress report from Sister and Doctor Eloisa David of the Divine Word Hospital in Tacloban City. In February 2015 the Love for Life Foundation Team plan to visit the area and will report first hand the state of the region. Thank you for your continued support. There is much to be done and we can't do it without you.
Thanks to your donation, (100% of which goes directly to helping the victims) we have reached our goal of raising the $10,000 necessary for sending a shipping container of hospital supplies from our charity clinic, the Dr. Jesus A. Datu Medical Center (JADMC) in Bacolor, Pampanga to the Divine Word Hospital in Tacloban City, Leyte. The shipment contains much needed potable water, medicine, and building supplies that Dr. /Sister Eloisa David at the hospital has requested from us to meet their immediate needs. The Divine Word Hospital has been instrumental in providing urgent care to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, caring for thousands of patients.
We realize that there will be long term health care needs caused by the Typhoon which we are ready to face. There will be issues with wound infections, obstetrical care, perinatal and postnatal care, infectious diseases, among others. The Love for Life Foundation started as a disaster relief organization after the Mount Pinatubo volcano eruption in the early 1990's and over time realized we needed to have a more reliable, daily presence, thus the JADMC. We are here to help not just on an immediate but also a long term basis.
If you are ever in the area we would love to give you a tour of the JADMC so you can meet some of the JADMC staff and the many patients you are helping. Some of our ongoing programs include cleft palate and cleft lip surgeries, prosthetic manufacturing for amputees, cataract surgeries, and mother and child care. Because of the clinic's overwhelming success we are planning to expand the waiting area to accommodate the overflow of patients we are caring for. We recently hosted Operation Smile and performed over 100 successful cleft lip surgeries.
Thank you again for your generosity. It is truly appreciated.
In early February Mrs. Joan Datu, a member of the Board of Directors of the Love for Life Foundation, went to the Philippines and presented a check representing your donations to Mrs. Sylvia Ordonez of the Kapampangan Development Foundation, who is our liaison in Manila. She is in contact with Sister Eloisa David of the the Divine Word Hospital in Tacloban City, the main city in Leyte hit hardest by Yolanda. Your contributions will target rebuilding efforts for residents who have lost their homes, purchasing lumbar and roofing materials.
This is a long term effort and recovery will take a years. Thank you for your ongoing support.
Our local contact in the areas hit by the typhoon is Sister Eloisa David of the Divine Word Hospital. With her as our guide, your donations will go towards helping to repair the damage done to individual homes, especially providing galvanized iron roofs (typical material for these homes) so residents have a roof over their heads. We are also coordinating providing medicine and helping replace critical medical equipment needed for the victims that need medical care. Victims have suffered from wound infections, loss of limb, infectious disease, among a host of other conditions. Please se the links below for more information about the hospital.
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