Field Report from the Philippines: Dec 10, 2013
As I am getting back from my week-long trip to the Philippines my heart is heavy. In my 12 years of seeing just about every major disaster in the USA and in Haiti, I have to say that this the worst I have ever seen. With winds of over 190 mph and a tidal surge of 30 ft, its’ force devastated the homes of rich and poor alike. Official reports say over 10,000 people lost their lives. But I expect there were probably more. We heard stories of family members being there one second, and then in a blink of an eye they were gone. Never to be seen again.
We talked with one young family that lost two children, a mother and father and one of their aunts. We met them at a make shift memorial of crosses and candles. They were there remembering their loved ones. Words were lost in trying to comfort them. We know, however, that showing them genuine love and godly compassion could provide far more comfort than words could express. We tried to communicate that there is a God who loves them and is here to give them hope.
While the Somebody Cares network has been distributing relief supplies from the beginning, this assessment trip was critical as we move from the initial relief stages into long-term recovery. After traveling from town to town surveying the damage, we ended up in the city of Tacloban; which experienced the 190 mph winds and surge of 30 ft waves. There the sea wall was destroyed along with everything the surge hit. It was that force that killed so many, literally wiping out every business in this city of 275,000 people. Disasters like this have such disabling force that the impact doesn’t last a day or two, it will go on for months and even years. A month after the storm there is still no power – except what is provided by generators. Every night as darkness came the city once full of light would plunge into darkness. From the balcony of a pastor’s house where we were staying you could see fires and flashlights as people tried to carry on with life. People making shelter out of the rubble could be seen everywhere. The few hotels, homes and buildings that are somewhat functional are being rented out at high prices to aid organizations from all over the world. Most restaurants and retail stores were destroyed so are no longer open. A month after, the storm street vendors are just beginning to sell fresh produce and some meat. But the main food available is brought into the city by aid organizations like the Somebody Cares relief network.
Somebody Cares International has obtained 1.4 million fortified rice meals to be sent to Tacloban. We expect them to arrive there the second week in January. This is just a start — we know more will be needed. There are also urgent needs for tarps, tents, buckets, hand tools, and mosquito nets to protect people from the elements.
I have never seen such a hard working people in my life. Their willingness to rebuild is amazing. The joy evidenced in their smiles showed their determination to create a new life. A new reality has been defined and now their lives have to be rebuilt in this new context of hardship. Somebody Cares International is committed to do what we can to help.
On our trip we have developed trustworthy relationships with local churches and other organizations that have a heart and history of getting aid to people. There is a network of over 20 organizations and churches that are working together — each bringing its’ strengths and resources together for the greater good. Accountability and administration systems are in place to make sure that all that is given will be used in a manner full of integrity. It will be a network that is a net that works!
As I close, I boldly ask you to join us in helping the people of Tacloban area through financial support. This is an opportunity for the many expressions of the body of Christ to come together to impact a nation. Due to the urgent need we need to move fast. After being there and seeing the situation, we feel the best thing to do is to buy items needed in Manila and truck them to Tacloban to aid people. We need financial contributions to make that happen. Below is a list of some of the most urgent items needed for recovery efforts.
Tarps – $12,000
Hand tools : $6000
Truck for local transportation of people and village distribution: $24,000
Mosquito nets: $6000
Warehouse for storing and distribution of aid (6 months of rental: $29,000
Total budget needed to start is $137,000
In the scope of the huge need, this seems small. But it is a start. So many times when tragedies like Typhoon Haiyan move off front page news coverage, we think everything is back to normal, but it is not. We have seen it first hand. God has given us great favor with local and national churches, as well as political and business leaders to make a huge impact on this nation. The people of the Philippines are hard working people looking for a hand up, not just a hand out! We hope you will join with us to express the love and compassion of God for these dear people. We can be a voice for those who have no voice.
Let’s use our abilities and our influence for the greater good.
Thank you for caring,
Somebody Cares International