Growing Desperation across Tacloban City for affected Children and their Families

Edwin photo


Edwin Horca, Save the Children

Tacloban, Philippines

November 14, 2013


Desperation is the only word I have to describe the scenes I witness in Tacloban. I was originally born in Tacloban and went back there as part of Save the Children’s emergency response team. It was hard for me to go back to my home town knowing there had been a disaster and what made it worse is that I may have lost relatives and have no information on their whereabouts.


The situation in Tacloban is desperate. Children and their families affected by the world’s largest storm on Friday morning have now gone five days without sufficient food and water as well as adequate shelter and medical supplies.


Desperation triggered looting as people go into survival mode. It is now rampant, and could compromise the movement of relief supplies and the safety of aid workers. Around the city, children have been asked to join the looting movement.


I saw children huddled over their few remaining possessions. Others just stare blankly ahead, their eyes telling a story of horror and hopelessness. Resilient as they are, the situation is becoming increasingly overwhelming for a population with no respite.



Photo Credit: Save the Children / Lester Joseph R. Valencia

Save the Children has been on the ground since Friday; and over the past six days it has been extremely challenging to reach affected children and their families. We are beginning some children’s activities to allow children to play with one another and just be children again. But the mobilization of bulky relief items remains a core problem.


Desperate to look for alternative routes, I travelled more than 60 miles yesterday but roads are only accessible by motorbikes and on foot. The area is still strewn with electrical posts, trees and other debris and need to be cleared urgently if we are to deliver relief goods to the hundreds of thousands that need it desperately. Local officials are scrambling to support this relief effort, but many are also working round the clock in these extremely harsh conditions.


Yet the world has not come to grips with the sheer magnitude of this disaster. Aid efforts are now focused on small but heavily populated areas and we still have a long way to go. The needs are also great in inland areas that we have not been able to reach, and in the coming days Save the Children will be working to ensure that children affected in the storm receive the support that they need. 


Donate to the Typhoon Haiyan’s Children Relief Fund


#Moms4MDGs: Why Primary Education Matters


Martine de Luna


September 17, 2013

Imagine having to swim through a river each day to get to school? No, not wade; not slosh through with
wellingtons and a waterproof jacket: I mean swim
doggie-paddle style through a deep, running river.

This is the reality for young students in the small town of
Casili, a region north of the capital city of Manila, here, in the Philippines
where I live. Here, the children of Casili literally swim towards an education.
Due to lack of infrastructure and bureaucracy issues in the local government,
the kids arrive at their school house drenched (and likely at-risk for flu, if
we are to be honest) every day.

And yet, they do so with smiles. They are among the lucky ones
with access to education.

They should — and they do — consider themselves blessed. I, too,
consider them privileged, because at least they have access to accredited
teachers, government-approved curricula and even a chance at a college
scholarship. They are not among the 57 million children globally,
who are currently out of school.



Photo Credit: Susan Warner/ Save the Children

As a former member of the education force, this number astounds
and appalls me. Approximately half of the out-of-school youth, a majority of
whom are girls, are located in sub-Saharan Africa. UNESCO predicts this number
will skyrocket by 2015, if no action is taken by local governments and NGOs to
provide education access to these children.


I used to teach children how to read. These were children from a privileged
upbringing, from some of the top schools in our country. And when I think of
the 40 some students I used to tutor, I have to reflect: How fortunate is this child to be able to read, write or pick up a
book and engage in a conversation!
This is because I understand that
literacy and basic learning skills (reading, counting, etc.) are foundational
to a child’s overall development.

There is a clear correlation between illiteracy and poverty. That
is why #2 of the Millennium Development Goals of the UN focuses on the right to
primary education for all children. Here are the current targets:

Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able
to complete a full course of primary schooling

            •           Enrolment in primary education in
developing regions reached 90 per cent in 2010, up from 82 per cent in 1999,
which means more kids than ever are attending primary school.

            •           In 2011, 57 million children of
primary school age were out of school.

            •           Even as countries with the toughest
challenges have made large strides, progress on primary school enrolment has
slowed. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of out-of-school children of primary
age fell by only 3 million.

            •           Globally, 123 million youth (aged 15
to 24) lack basic reading and writing skills. 61 per cent of them are young

            •           Gender gaps in youth literacy rates
are also narrowing. Globally, there were 95 literate young women for every 100
young men in 2010, compared with 90 women in 1990.

Let’s go back to that number
again: 57 million children without access to education
or hope to one day be able
to read or write. Fifty-seven million
children with lack of life skills that can equip them against disease, early
pregnancy, abuse and exploitation.

We have to step up to meet the Millennium Development Goal for
Education because schools give children
the building blocks for practical life skills.
We have to actively engage
in efforts to build sound school structures,  invest in quality books and teachers, and
clamor for the strong support of governments, corporations and communities.

We have to teach our own
children — those who have the privilege of a quarterly report card and a
lunchbox — to care.
Unless we teach our own children to be grateful for their
schooling, and ultimately fight for children’s right to education the world
over… then, as moms, our own children’s good grades will be for naught. In
communities such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, a school is more than a place
to learn how to read or write: It is safe haven for support and socialization,
access to clean water and even vaccines. It is a mecca for young people to
start life right.

I’ve seen three children in Casili sharing one tattered textbook,
with a more eager longing in their eyes than any students in the top schools in
the country. And it makes me think: What
if they were my children?

What would I sacrifice so that my child could open up a book and
learn the ABCs?

What would I do to give my son the privilege of raising his hand
in a classroom filled with other students as hungry for knowledge as he?

What can I do, as a mother to help meet the millennium development
goal promoting the right to primary education?

As a former
teacher, I will always be a champion for a child’s right to education. Moreover,
as a mother, I will not just advocate for each child’s right to learn; I will ultimately fight for
each child’s right to a life that
will afford him or her with opportunities. The most basic of these
opportunities being a quality primary education, teachers who will champion
them, and systems that will compel them to succeed–even if poverty dictated

How about you? What would you do to champion each child’s right to

Keep the conversation going
on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals and help save the world — share this
post and join World Moms Blog and Save the Children for two #Moms4MDGs Twitter
Parties!  Wednesday, September 18th,
from 1-2 pm EST and again at 9-10 pm EST, go to and enter the
hashtag: #Moms4MDGs to join in! This month we’ll be focusing our chat on MDG2,
the right to a universal primary education. 

Martine de Luna is a writer,
a former educator, an attachment parenting advocate and work-at-home mother.
She blogs at, and is a Managing Editor for the Asian regional
writers of the World Moms Blog


Why I Love the Reading Camp

Anonymous man

Rhea N.,Sponsored Child

Philippines Barangay 177, Caloocan City

June 07, 2013

Rhea is a 3rd grade student from our partner school in the City of Caloocan. This was the speech she gave during an event held in February 2013 to mark the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement by Save the Children, the City’s Department of Education Division Office, and the Local Government Unit to formalize the implementation of the Sponsorship-funded Literacy Boost; the Reading Camp is one of the many activities designed to improve children’s literacy.

PHCO Rhea and her brother Rhen Rhen love to read. Here they are skimming through the pages of the new books given by Save the Children

Good afternoon! 

My name is Rhea, a grade three student. Every Saturday, at three in the afternoon, my brother Rhen-Rhen who is in grade one, and I rush over to our day care to attend the Reading Camp. In the Reading Camp, there are older kids, an Ate and a Kuya, who read stories to us. There are other children like us too and, like them, my brother and I are very happy listening to the different stories! After the storytelling, Ate and Kuya ask us questions about the story they read to us. We also get to play, and we make artworks and crafts that we get to keep and play with at home.

I love going to the Reading Camp because my friends are there. Being with them makes me happy, especially when we read wonderful and funny stories together. PHCO Rhea delivering her speech at the MOA Signing between SC LVPO and DepEd Caloocan 2.6.2013I learned a lot from the Reading Camp and I hope more children will get the chance to attend camps like this.

On behalf of my fellow students, I would like to say thank you to the officials of our Barangay, led by Captain Donna Jarito, to the Department of Education of Caloocan, to our school and to Save the Children for giving us the chance to join this program.

Thank you!


"Ate" and "Kuya" are Filipino terms used as a sign of respect for an older relative, such as a sibling or a cousin. It may also be used for friends or even strangers. "Ate" is used for females, while "Kuya" refers to males.

The Barangay is the smallest administrative unit in the Philippines and is the native Filipino term for a village or community.


If you are not already a
one today!


Little Hands working towards Big Changes


Rachel, Sponsored Child

Taguig City, Philippines

February 21, 2013

Rachael, age 14, has been sponsored through Save the Children for four years. Rachael has been actively involved in development and life-skills activities organized by Save the Children for adolescents. Through these and other trainings, she has learned how to facilitate learning activities, and advocate for children’s rights and development through involvement in CRC training and monitoring. She also participates in the Urban Gardening Project which aims to help produce food items that could meet the food needs of supplemental school feeding.

PHCO Rachael asking a question_rszIt has been four years since Save the
Children’s Sponsorship Program first made its way to my village. Their presence
brought big changes, not only within our community and among my fellow youth,
but also in me.

Along with the physical transformations
I went through as part of growing up, I also experienced big changes in the
mental, emotional and social aspects of my life which helped me to develop and thrive.
At my young age and in my own simple way of living, I did not notice that Save
the Children has contributed so much, not only to the people in my community,
but to me as well.

Together with the seminars I attended in
far-off places came the expansion and deepening of my understanding of the
various things happening in our society. With the continuous mental development
these activities brought, I learned about the rights of children like me. With
this knowledge, we can now fight for our rights, defend ourselves and prevent
or at least lessen the discrimination that we are experiencing that is
currently widespread in our society. 

PHCO During school vacationIn learning about these rights, I am
able to help others by sharing what I know, how I feel and also, by sharing the
experience of the youth who are not protected from various forms of abuse. I am
able to help others and this is why I am very happy that I have become part of
this program.

I believe that children
can help bring about change and progress in ourselves, in other people and in
our society through our simple way and with our little hands.

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

Bringing Relief in the Wake of Typhoon Bopha

Anonymous manNorman
Water Sanitation and Hygiene Program Officer

Mindanao, Philippines

December 5, 2012

 While the residents of Mindanao were still
fast asleep Tuesday morning, Typhoon Bopha approached the southeastern coastline
of the Philippines, packing 130mph of wind and heavy rain. The powerful winds
and rain were unlike anything I had ever seen before.

ETH_0409_92599Despite being a much stronger typhoon than
Typhoon Washi, which killed more than 1,200 people– most of them children -last
December,the fact that people were vigilant made all the difference in this
storm.The day before it hit, I watched as the people of Mindanao prepared for
the arrival of Typhoon Bopha, or Pablo as it is known locally. Families stocked
up on food, water and other essential supplies in stores while others packed up
their most precious belongings and headed off to evacuation centres all over
the island. This is stark contrast from the scene last year, where many failed
to heed warnings from authorities to evacuate.

“I’m happy that my parents brought my
siblings and me here before the storm,” a child at an evacuation centre in
Cagayan de Oro told me. “We feel safe here from the storm.” Cagayan de Oro was
one of the worst-hit cities in Mindanao after Typhoon Washi. Many children
displayed signs of distress following that disaster and required psychosocial
support from the government and aid agencies like Save the Children.

RS48117_Picture1[1]Indeed, it is a relief to see that both
children and adults were more vigilant ahead of this typhoon, the worst storm
to hit the Philippines this year. Mindanao does not experience typhoons often,
and as a result, the residents here are less prepared than others.

Still, immediate relief like food, water,
medicine and other household items are needed.Water, sanitation and hygiene, or
WASH, is my area of expertise and we know that water supplies may be
contaminated, and with large swathes of
Mindanao flooded and without electricity, assessing the extent of the damage and
bringing water trucks to evacuation centres will be tricky for the authorities
and aid agencies alike.

Click to donate to our Philippines Annual Monsoon and Typhoon Children in Emergency Fund.

the Children has been working in the Philippines since 1981 and has decades of
experience responding to emergencies in the Philippines. We have mounted
large-scale emergency responses to Typhoon Washi in 2011 and Typhoon Ketsana in

Rekindling The Spirit of Bayanihan

Anonymous manAvemar T. Tan, Sponsorship Manager

Cloocan City, Philippines

September 28, 2012

Bayanihan is a Filipino term which originally referred to an old pre-Spanish tradition where entire villages helped families move by literally carrying their house to a new location. They would construct a strong frame out of bamboo, place the house on it, and then lift and carry the entire house.

Today it has come to refer to a spirit of kinship and camaraderie.

The sun was blazing as we headed to Barangay Hall in Cloocan City for a meeting of community volunteers. The meeting aimed to reconnect with our volunteers, gather their insights and prepare strategies and plans for the year. We arrived a few minutes late to find the hall full. Our volunteers were eagerly waiting.  Bayanihan 513KB File

In a country where poverty is the norm and the minimum wage is barely enough to sustain a family, it is inspiring to know people like our volunteers still exist. Despite busy schedules and family obligations, they offer their valuable time to make Save the Children’s sponsorship program a success.

One volunteer, Mary Rose, shared how the fulfilment they get from seeing children’s faces light up when they deliver sponsors’ cards, letters and packages, is enough to keep them going.

“It is difficult,” Ate Loida, the volunteers’ team leader remarked. “Sometimes our husbands get jealous of the time we spend volunteering or we forget to clean the house or do a chore. But we explain the value of what we do and in the end, they understand and support us.” 

Reaching the children is also challenging. The local streets can be confusing and children’s homes difficult to locate. “The homes can be situated far apart, and since commuting costs a lot, often we choose to deliver or collect the letters by foot. It is tiring, but fulfilling,” Mary Rose shares.

As we boarded our van back to the office, I reflect how lucky we are to have partners like these who bring to life the spirit of bayanihan, forgotten by many. They are a valuable ingredient in helping us achieve success in improving the lives of the children.

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

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.

Bridging love and hope from one country to another

Pailyn TanPailyn Tan, Sponsorship Assistant

South Central Mindanao, Philippine

May 18, 2012

You know that warm feeling when you give or receive a gift from an important person in your life? That is how wonderful I feel every time I open a package, process it and deliver it to a sponsored child.

I’m quite new to the sponsorship team and my job is to receive letters, gifts and packages from sponsors and deliver them to sponsored children. This means I not only get to read sponsor’s letters and children’s responses, but also get to be part of the exchange of love and smiles.

I never received things like this before. Thank you not just for these things but also for the friendship,  Gerald to sponsorGerald really values his personal relationship with Uncle John, his sponsor. Every time we deliver letters to his school, he always waits in a corner, hoping. If he is lucky enough to receive a package or letter he is so joyous that he almost never believes it’s actually for him and that he is actually being loved and revered by a person from a place far, far away

When Gerald receives something from Uncle John he immediately sits in a corner, pulls out his pen and carefully writes his reply. He answers all of Uncle John’s questions and shares his own perspective. Then Gerald reviews his reply many times and flattensout the paper to make sure Uncle John receives it clean and without creases.

Through his drawings, Gerald hopes to take his sponsor not just in their home but also in their life

Gerald’s dream is to become a marine engineer and he is inspired by his Uncle John’s words.

Witnessing this bond that transcends distance and culture, and being part of the bridge that does so, is elating. I feel the sharing of love and joy. It is empowering to be a part of something so inspiring and to actually witness change in someone’s life – in the lives of the faces of our future.

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

Philippines Flooding Endangers Thousands of Children

Anna Lindenfors

Anna Lindenfors, Philippines Country Director

Manila, Philippines

December 19, 2011

It must have been terrifying. Flash floods create a fast moving body of water, sweeping away everything in its path. Cars, trees, people.

Yesterday morning (night-time in the Philippines) very heavy rainfall caused rivers to burst their banks and flood the area – killing hundreds and leaving thousands more stranded, without food or shelter, in the middle of the night.

Save the Children’s team on the ground launched into action immediately – assessing the damage on the most vulnerable children and their families.

Travelling along the highway you can see bodies lined up – waiting to be identified. Of the hundreds of dead, there are only a few injured. This is not unusual in a flood. Very few people caught up in the path of a flash flood will survive. Most of the dead were children, again not a surprise. Children are smaller, lighter and less likely to know where to go in an emergency. Those that survived will be cold, exhausted and terrified. Some will have been separated from their parents in the chaos.

Several of Save the Children’s team are coping with personal tragedy while responding to the flooding. One tells me their family didn’t survive intact. The debris of a destroyed house fell on top of a relative, killing her. Another tells me that water levels are so high their home is completely uninhabitable. They are worried about electrocution, so can’t return home. Yet another reports that they have run out of coffins in the town, and he doesn’t know what will happen.

The team carries on anyway, urgently struggling through debris and floodwater to reach the victims of the crisis. Several had been on the phone through the night, trying to comfort those stranded on rooftops of houses. 

The next few days are critical. Children are always the most vulnerable during emergencies – and in the aftermath. Stagnant water and tainted supplies can cause disease. Longer term children will face hunger and malnutrition – in a country where 30% of the population already live beneath the poverty line, lost food stocks and lost income can push families over the brink.

50,000 children have been caught up in the flash flooding, and we’re working around the clock to reach vulnerable children and adults before it is too late. Please help us.

Save the Children is launching an emergency response to help victims of the flooding. Our experts are on the ground to distribute drinking water and essential items to families affected by the disaster.