On 8 November 2013, one of the most violent typhoons in history reached the Philippines, and in particular the Visayas region. Winds of over 300 km/h and waves of three hundred metres swept away thousands of fragile homes in a few hours. Today, over 14 million inhabitants are affected by this natural disaster, 4 million of which are children (40% of the population of the centre of the Visayas region). 4.1 million people have been displaced, 1 million homes and 630 schools have been destroyed.
Children of the Mekong were involved long before the disaster in the Philippines. Thanks to our local links and our knowledge of the terrain, we are working on reconstruction as well as project supervision, relying on 55 local programme managers (voluntary), 10 social workers (paid), 17 French volunteers in the Philippines (Volunteers of Solidarité Internationale V.S.I.), 1 general coordinator in Cebu and two volunteers specially allocated to the reconstruction projects.
Each of these projects is managed by a local (Filipino) coordinator who ensures the smooth progress of the project and manages the logistical side. S/he monitors the families individually and sends regular reports to EdM. The Filipino programme manager is guarantor of the local rebuilding project. S/he works directly with the families. S/he receives the funds, ensures they are used correctly and guides the EdM volunteers in the selection of families and in the best course to follow for the projects. The overseas project coordinator carries out transversal monitoring via visits and regular follow-up. S/he accompanies and supports the local teams and canvasses and maintains links between the head office and the donors.
In order for the reconstruction to go as well as possible and in a spirit of mutual aid and solidarity, we bring together the families that are aid recipients and we present the project, the origin of the funds and the association to these families. We then ask them to train groups of 5 families, to facilitate construction and monitoring and we get them to sign a simple contract in which they are committed to respect the “Bayanihan Spirit” – the spirit of solidarity – and to use the materials given rapidly and solely for the construction of their homes.
At the present time, we have already succeeded in helping 1189 families in 8 different zones by providing them with materials to rebuild their homes. We are also launching an initial agricultural project to give back to the families of farmers rapid means of subsistence. We are also in the process of canvassing in new zones so as to be able to reach more aid recipients, even in the most isolated and inaccessible places. 44% of our programmes have been affected. No deaths have been reported as regards our supported children and our local teams.
Recovery of economic activity
In addition to our home rebuilding projects, we have chosen to support families who have lost their work tools. We are presently launching an initial pilot project in Ormoc for a number of families who made a living off coconut palm plantations. As the trees have been destroyed, it will take years before they can harvest coconuts and live off them once more. In order to enable these families to be able to feed themselves properly and also to rapidly obtain an income, in partnership with the municipality we have put in place an agricultural project: we supply the seeds and the equipment to families after having trained them so that they can start subsistence farming, i.e. mainly intended for on-farm consumption and subsistence economy.
The project is organised into six simple steps:
1. Identifying 100 families who are needy and who are motivated by the project.
2. Negotiating plots of land not used by the 6 large landowners who own nearly all of the land in this area of intervention.
3. Training families in this type of crop then getting them to sign a contract in which they agree to pay 10% of their harvest to the most needy – elderly people, sick people, single mothers… who cannot grow crops, in order to continue the momentum of solidarity.
4. Creating groups of 8 to 10 people and assigning a plot of land to them.
5. Supplying small tools and seeds.
6. Carrying out regular follow-up.
This project is launched in partnership with the municipality and our local coordinators. It will enable families to rapidly have access to healthy food and a balanced diet that they have produced themselves and which could also bring them a modest income if they wish to sell a portion of their vegetables.
Thanks to our support, we have already managed to help 1189 families to find a decent home in 8 different zones
We are continuing our canvassing phase by pooling our contacts and the different local networks to be able to extend our help and to continue to help families that are victims of the typhoon, either by rebuilding their homes, or by supporting recovery of local domestic activity. We are also needed for the rebuilding of schools in our different areas of intervention.. We have already succeeded in launching our first economic activity recovery project for 100 families in Ormoc.
In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:”As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it”. In the Philippines, although the future remains unpredictable, hope is now possible once more for all of these families.
Text: Matthieu Delaunay. Photo: Antoine Besson. This article was previously published on Enfants du Mekong’s blog on 13/02/2014.