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Wednesday 05 September 2012

Rebuilding lives after Typhoon Washi
Rebuilding lives after Typhoon Washi ShelterBox tent beneficiary Evangeline de la Peña with her children packing up her tent to take with them to their newly built home, the Philippines, August 2012.

Last week, eight months after Typhoon Washi, a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) returned to Mindanao in the Philippines to find out what had happened to the families who had lost everything.

SRT member Jim Kemp (UK) was on his first ShelterBox deployment:

‘Just the day before, I was near the capital Manila seeing families made homeless by the recent floods move into ShelterBox tents, so I was eager to hear the experiences of families in Mindanao who had lived in the tents and moved out.

‘When we arrived in Cagayan de Oro, it was hard to imagine the destruction that the typhoon had caused. The city was getting ready for a festival, shops were open, and the streets were busy and all around were signs of construction.

‘We heard that there were still some families living in ShelterBox tents, but the first camp location we went to was empty as the families had recently transferred to more permanent shelters.

‘The next site we travelled to at Calaalan was full of activity as the land was being used to build permanent houses. Further in the distance we could see the familiar white domes of ShelterBox tents dotted around what had once been a busy camp of more than 200.

Flooded streets in Manila, the Philippines, following Tropical Storm Haikui, August 2012.

‘Luckily just as we arrived, we saw a family taking down their ShelterBox tent and loading it into a ‘Jeepney’ truck. ’

Evangeline Moves House

Evangeline de la Peña, mother of five, lost her house and almost everything they owned when the typhoon struck in December 2011.

‘I was very pleased to get this tent from ShelterBox and stay in Calaanan after the typhoon. My children could still go to school while we waited for a permanent house.’

Her ShelterBox tent was still in good condition and they were packing it up to take with them to their new home – a house built by All Hands, one of the organisations which had helped ShelterBox set up the Calaanan camp.

Visiting Old Neighbours

Jim found Venus Torres, 48, sitting outside a ShelterBox tent waiting for her friend. She had been in the camp and now lived in a permanent house, but still comes back to visit her old neighbours in the Calaanan camp.

Venus lived with her husband and six children in Isla de Oro, an islet at the mouth of the Cagayan River.

‘We were used to flooding, usually it would come up to here’ Venus said, holding her hand by her knee, ‘and we would just stay in our house until the water went down.

‘This time was different, the electricity was cut off, it was dark and the water came quickly. We went up to the second floor and the water kept coming. The flood was a tragedy for everyone. I lost one of my grandchildren and my younger sister. Early the next morning, rescue workers came with boats and they took us to an evacuation centre. Everyone had to leave.’

Baby John Rainer with her mom Eloisa Coronel and mother-in-law as they transfer to their new temporary shelter, San Pedro Laguna, the Philippines, August 2012.

The evacuation centre was in a school, and had to be cleared so that classes could continue. The ShelterBox camp gave Venus and others from Isla de Oro a temporary home.

‘Before the typhoon we had a shop selling food and groceries. When we moved into our new house we decided to start the business again.’

Working together

It has taken a lot of different organisations working together to help people like Evangeline and Venus get back on their feet.

‘Search and rescue got people out of immediate danger and into evacuation centres’ said Jim. ‘ShelterBox provided vital emergency shelter within weeks of the disaster and International Organization for Migration (IOM) managed the camps. Then Caritas and other organisations began building transitional shelters and All Hands, Habitat for Humanity and others built permanent houses away from the zones at high risk of flooding.

‘In Indahag we saw a handover ceremony for families moving into new houses. It was great to see the progress the community had made less than a year after Typhoon Washi.’
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