A sponsor’s letter made all the difference…

Riel AndaluzRiel Andaluz, Philippines sponsorship manager

Manila, Philippines

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rosalie is 10 years old and lives in Pateros, a neighborhood
in Metro Manila. She is the third of five children.   

 On Tuesday night, Rosalie’s home began to fill with water as
rain from a northern typhoon coupled with a southwest monsoon to swamp the
city, unleashing a devastating flood.

“It was raining all night, all day and all night again. The
water was up to here.” She holds her hand up to
P8110272 (2) her waist. “We put chairs
together in the middle of the room and slept on them. When I woke up, the water
was up to here.” She raises her arm up to her shoulder. “We took some of our
things and left our house. It was so hard to walk. My feet felt heavy in the

Since then, Rosalie and her family have been living in a
classroom on the second floor of her elementary school, which has been turned
into an evacuation center. The already small classroom is broken up into seven
smaller sleeping areas.

“It’s hard to sleep,” Rosalie confesses. “It’s hot during
the day and very cold at night. There are only a few toilets downstairs. You
have to stand in line and usually it’s a long line. Sometimes, I get pushed out
of the way by bigger children.”

The toilets are temporary portolets that stand in the
courtyard outside. They are beginning to overflow, the contents spilling out
from underneath into the area where the children play. 

“I miss going to school,” Rosalie says sadly, looking around
at the classroom that has become her home. History and geography lessons still
cover the walls and chalkboards. “I like reading Filipino stories in school.” She
pauses, “I don’t know what has happened to my school materials. I miss my

P8110291 (3)Schools are set to reopen on Monday. However, in order to
open them, local officials must move Rosalie and her family to another
evacuation center nearby. “I hope it’s much cleaner than this place,” she says.

Yesterday, Save the Children distributed emergency kits to
the families living in this evacuation center, providing them with blankets, sleeping
mats and hygiene materials. Rosalie received something else, too – a letter
from her Save the Children sponsor in the U.S.  

Enclosed with the letter was a jigsaw puzzle. Her eyes light
up and she shows me. “I will share it with my brothers and sisters,” she says.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more.

Kraft Foods and Save the Children Team Up in Philippines Emergency

Latha Caleb, Save the Children country director, Philippines

Latha Caleb joined Save the Children in 2005 as director of the tsunami programme in India. She supported the formation of Save the Children India, before moving to the Philippines.

October 9, 2009, Manila

IMG_2646 Today I went to a school where more than a 100 volunteers, all employees of Kraft Foods, were standing in a row and passing the relief items in an assembly line. They all seemed very engaged and full of energy doing this kind of work.

In another school that I visited, the Kraft Foods volunteers were cleaning the school, which is functioning as an evacuation camp.

Kraft Foods and Save the Children have an existing partnership in the Philippines, and our joint response to an emergency situation, such as this one, was a natural coming together.

One scene stays in my mind. As my colleagues and I drove along to the Exodus School in Barangay (village) San Juan, Cainta, we passed mounds and mounds of debris that was piled mountain-high along the road for nearly a kilometer.

We were driving with the car windows rolled up. As we were moving slowly, we suddenly came upon a sight that disturbed us. There were kids on top of the mounds of debris and they were digging into it with bare hands looking for things that they could sell for money. We rolled down the window as we wanted to take some pictures and the smell of hot, rotting garbage hit us.

Typhoons Ketsana and Parma have certainly made poor children’s situation worse, pushing them to work under appalling conditions just to help their parents put food on the table.

Is this the childhood we want to see for our children?

Learn more  about Save the Children's emergency response in the Philippines.


Over 2 Weeks Since Typhoon Ketsana, Still No Electricity

Latha Caleb, Save the Children country director, Philippines

Latha Caleb joined Save the Children in 2005 as director of the tsunami programme in India. She supported the formation of Save the Children India, before moving to the Philippines.

Oct. 8, 2009  Manila

LathaReszdIMG_2656 I visited our driver Ruel’s home today. His home was washed over fully in the flood. I met Ruel, his wife Rose Ann, and his 5 children.

His home – or whatever remained –had clothesline strung all across and there were clothes drying. Every side of the wall in his home was broken.

It is more than two weeks since Ketsana raged in Manila, and still Ruel‘s home did not have electricity, and we had to look around using flashlights. 

Ruel had lost weight and looked tired. He said that he was most worried for his children. The only way he could save them from getting drowned in the water was to break open the walls on the sides so that the water would drain through and not stagnate and rise up to the roof level.

All around his home there were visible signs of debris and houses that had collapsed. Many homes still had water logging and people living in those homes had elevated all their belongings whatever they had salvaged on to a higher level.

Ruel said that his son wanted to go to school, but all his books and his school bag were lost to the swirling waters. I had carried with me the message from Carolyn Miles and from Charlie MacCormack and gave it to Ruel.

We used a flash light to read it together and as he read the note I could see tears glistening in the corner of Ruel’s eyes. He was so touched by the note. Maraming Salamat Po – that is thank you very much in Filipino, was all he could say.

Learn more about Save the Children's response in the Philippines 

Philippines: Children Go to School in Shifts

Latha Caleb, Save the Children country director, Philippines

Oct. 6, 2009  Manila, Philippines

Latha _233 The teams went out to do further assessments in some of the flood affected areas. I was waiting in anticipation to hear from them. Finally they got back and this is what Nida our Emergencies Adviser had to say.

“The children and the communities are still trying to clean up all the mess and the debris that is lying around. Many of the schools have started functioning but the schools also have to double up as evacuation centers. This means there is scarcity of space. We want our Child Friendly Spaces to function, we need to have space for additional toilets to be available, but there is a big constraint of space. There are three shifts per day in the schools – this means some of the children go to school at night! Many of the community members and the children were complaining that due to water logging their legs and feet have been affected by scabies and many of them have cracks on their skins.”

This was very useful information for us and we have now additionally added washing soap with higher sulphur content into the kit for the communities. There is still the challenge of dealing with the toilet facilities in the evacuation centers – what does one do? We made a few calls to other agencies to check how they are handling this situation and found that each one of us is trying o crack this one! Earlier today I went to the Johnson and Johnson office in the Philippines to sign the Memorandum of Agreement and also collect the check that they were giving us in support of the work in the typhoon response. I have been there before but this time I also heard from the many staff there that each one of them has been affected by the typhoon in some way or the other. As we were driving back my driver showed me pictures of the area where he comes from – Laguna – and these were pictures that showed rafts being used by community members to move from one place to the other. He said that he used the raft to get both his children out of the area to a much safer place.

I am excited as tomorrow I would be visiting one of the evacuation centers where the Child Friendly Spaces are functioning. Reuters wants to do a feature on the Child Friendly Space and we want to do a good feature on this. As I step out of my room I see a frenzy of activity going on in the front office – bags of rice – blankets – slippers other items for the kits all being packed and kept ready for distribution. I hear the volunteers listening to the music as they pack.

Tomorrow is another day and we ill be reaching out to many more families and children but for this we need to prepare today!

Learn more about Save the Children's response in the Philippines


Philippines: A Makeshift Float for a Baby

Latha Caleb, Save the Children country director, Philippines

Oct. 5, 2009  Manila, Philippines

Latha _233 Another day of frenzied activity. More meetings to attend, packages to be delivered to the communities, plan our strategy, get more staff into the response, get the assessment teams cracking, answer emails and phone calls from donors, for partners, from other program staff, from friends….

I had a meeting with the European Commission today. Prior to the meeting, we went to pick up a colleague whose house was totally washed out by the floods.  I was so shocked by the ravaged walls and the height the water had reached. It was over 6 feet. It has been more than a week now, and still electricity is not restored. The refrigerator is not working, so food is literally managed on an every-meal basis. My colleague has spent a lot of time cleaning and salvaging belongings from the water. There is no bed, no mattress, no pillows. Everything that could be salvaged was drying—shoes, clothes, papers, photographs, documents.

At the EC meeting, one of the local staff came to offer us coffee. I asked her, “How are you and how was the floods in your area?” She paused for a moment and said, “The water level came up to the second floor of our house and we were very scared. My neighbors’ houses were at a lower level than ours and they had a baby who was only a few months old. They were very worried about the baby, so they came to our home for safety. We were all crowded into the second floor space and were praying for the water to recede. The water was swirling. We were more scared that we will not be able to save the baby. We looked around and found some of the cooking oil cans that we had moved to the second floor. We opened the cans and threw out all the oil… put together a few cans and tied them up with strings and made a small float bed to put the baby in. We tied strings to the float bed and tested to make sure we were able to hold on while swimming to safety.” She then quickly apologized and asked us if we would like some coffee and left.

Learn more about Save the Children's response in the Philippines

Philippines – The Wait Is Over

Latha Caleb, Save the Children country director, Philippines

Oct. 4, 2009  Manila, Philippines

Latha _233  The wait is over…. Typhoon Parma has smashed into the northern Philippines, missing Metropolitan Manila. So much is happening here. I have been desperately trying to get through to our contacts in northern Luzon to see what destruction the typhoon has caused. We hear that the roads are completely gone and the only way to get there is by flight. But there are no scheduled flights to that area so we have to get space on a missionary flight. So far, our attempts to get seats on the flight have failed. So we turn our attention to all that needs to be done in Manila. And there is plenty that needs to be done. The Save the Children team is out now distributing more relief supplies to the children and families who urgently need them.  And I am here in the office, pounding on my computer, answering all the e-mails that keep popping into my inbox from colleagues, supporters and others who are eager to know the latest about what we are doing to help.

On her return from the field Gia Chu, our communications manager, shared her experience with me:

I joined our team today to distribute another batch of relief items for affected families of Typhoon Ketsana in Muntinlupa. Every time I see children with their parents gather around to receive relief kits from Save the Children, I cannot help but ask myself how these children are feeling and are coping amidst this very difficult time.

Children come up to me as I walk around the evacuation centers, eager to tell me their stories.  I learned that one child rescued his younger siblings during the storm and looked after them because his parents were away. Another boy told me that he didn’t feel scared at all because his father was beside him. Two girls from an evacuation center in Cainta told me how they missed their homes and the things they lost in the flood. But all of them were very concerned about their parents who are fighting to make ends meet more than ever.

Children are resilient, sometimes even more than adults. In spite of everything that has happened to them, they are still able to laugh, sing, dance and play. Most of them can’t wait to go back to school to learn. Some take care of their younger siblings as a way to help their parents. Others help clean up their damaged houses, and collect scrap metal to sell and earn money to buy food for their family.

We need to be more like these children. There’s so much to be done, and we cannot waste time. Let’s continue working together to give children what they deserve—a world that fights for children’s survival, a world that protects them, a world that prioritizes their well-being and development, and a world that listens to them.

I can sense and feel what Gia is saying… I get back to pounding the keyboard on my computer and then I hear someone saying with excitement that one of the donors we approached has asked us for a full proposal. This means we are reasonably assured of getting some resources … this makes me feel good … only briefly…. Yes, we will be able to reach out to a few hundred  children with this money. But there are thousands more waiting for our help … we need to keep working until we have reached every last child who needs our support.


Learn more about Save the Children's response in the Philippines

Philippines – Lunch Can Wait, but a Child Cannot!


Latha Caleb, Save the Children Country Director,

Philippines Oct. 2, 2009 – Manila, Philippines

Another day… there is tension in the city…a lot of fear as Manila is preparing itself for another typhoon that could possibly hit the islands in the early hours of Saturday. People are scrambling to stock up on food and water and other essentials. The government has notified people to go home early to be able to prepare their families for the super-typhoon! I have not stocked up on food for the last 6 weeks and my stock of food is down to two cartons of milk and a packet of cereal. There is tons of work to be done…. The emergency team meeting…welcoming Annie Foster – the team leader who is flying in from Guatemala – ensuring that all the requests for resources to do our work is followed up… cluster meetings and coordination meetings to be attended…check if the team that went for non food items distribution has come back from the field… follow up on procurement…..get the latest situation update done…track the latest typhoon…follow up on requests for communication materials.. photos and comments for use at head quarters… be on the conference call at 9 pm to touch base with the home office in Westport…the list of things to be done keeps growing… I seem to be prioritizing and reprioritizing my list, thinking which one of these things can wait and what needs to be done immediately. Suddenly I remember what Riel, our sponsorship manager, told me. “A couple of days ago I was among the staff who spent time packing the relief goods. Today it is my first time joining the relief distribution. At 1PM, we hurried to Western Bicutan, one of our sponsorship communities. Parents with their children, and some children without their parents, made up the queue of people waiting to receive the relief goods. We finished around 4pm. There was no time to eat lunch but it doesn’t matter. Lunch can wait, but a child cannot!

Yes! We need to do all this all at the same time! We need to make sure we are doing this so that we don’t keep children waiting! We need to do it Now! And in the Filipino way of saying it – Now Na!

Learn more about Save the Children's response in the Philippines.