After Typhoon Haiyan: Giving Children a Safe Place to Play

RobbieMcIntyre

 Robbie McIntyre, Humanitarian Information & Communications Officer

Philippines

December 11, 2013

“These children really love to sing, and it makes them smile” says Hanna, a 16-year-old volunteer at a Child Friendly Space in Mayorga, on the island of Leyte, which was badly hit by typhoon Haiyan one month ago.

“A lot of their houses were destroyed, and it has been a very upsetting time for them, but here they get the chance to play games like volleyball, to sing and to just be with other children.”

The children’s singing prowess goes without saying, as they belt out a hearty rendition of Jingle Bells for their visitors whilst one of the staff who run the CFS accompanies them on the harmonica. Some of us try to match them with a somewhat less assured version of Away in a Manger, but despite a generous round of applause from the amused children, we are altogether less tuneful and easy on the ear.

 

Beginning to rebuild

Using basic materials like bamboo and tarpaulins, the community in Mayorga built the Child Friendly Space themselves, and it has proved invaluable as it allows children to play together in a safe place whilst their parents attempt to get on with rebuilding their lives. The Child Friendly Space’s veritable treasure trove of a toy box includes board games, skipping ropes, volleyballs and footballs for the children, which have proved incredibly popular, the football being punted around with such enthusiasm that the stitching has started to come loose. It is clear that for many of the children, the frightening power of the 173mph typhoon winds ripping through their community is still fresh in their minds, but being looked after by our passionate volunteers and getting a chance to be around other children is helping them cope with and assimilate their experiences.

SavetheChildren_Haiyan_blog_Dec_2013Hanna is brilliant with the children, encouraging them to break out into song and leading the way whenever they forget the words. She does an incredible job, but feels privileged to be able to help in her time off before she returns to college in January. “I have experience of teaching children, so Save the Children trained me up to be able to volunteer in this Child Friendly Space. I come here every day and I really enjoy it. It’s just good to be able to do something to help.”

 

Providing more safe spaces for children

Save the Children has already set up more than 25 Child Friendly Spaces on the island of Leyte, reaching more than 2,000 children like those at the one in Mayorga, and training 75 volunteers like Hanna to look after them and run the sessions. Ten more Child Friendly Spaces will soon be set up in Ormoc, to the east of the island. It’s a simple and yet powerful way to give children who have been through a hugely distressing experience the much needed opportunity to express themselves and play with the sort of carefree abandon that every child should.

Aid Workers: The Logistics Guy

 


Anonymous_blogEvan Schuurman, Media Officer

Philippines

November 25, 2013

 


 

When it comes to aid workers responding to mass disasters like Typhoon Haiyan, there isn’t much sexy about being the logistics guy.

But when you need to get stuff done, he makes it happen.

 

STEVE_WELLS_107527

Steve Wells

Seasoned aid worker Steve Wells manages the vital role in Save the Children’s rapid response team, which was deployed to Roxas on the island of Panay, one of the worst affected areas in the Philippines.

Steve sourced vehicles for our assessment of the northeast coastline, organised a makeshift office with wifi in a town with no power, and arranged for plane after plane transporting aid to come to the island.

He booked trucks and recruited staff for the distribution, planning every intricate detail to ensure the delivery could happen.

“It’s all well and good to have funds to provide relief in emergencies, but if you can’t make those donations work given the situation on the ground, there’s no point,” he said.

“For me, when I come to a scene of devastation like the one we found in Panay, it’s about making connections with the people who can help you out. They are incredible assets when you aren’t familiar with a place.

“We also want to source as much of our materials and products locally to support the local economy and get more bang for our buck, while making sure not to undermine the local economy.”

Steve works late into the night at the humanitarian coordination centre he helped to set up, and which is based in the provincial office building. He cooperates with other organisations about sharing resources or to get advice.

More often than not however, they are looking to him for guidance.

Steve’s been in the ‘logs’ business for almost a decade, having been deployed all over the world including to Sri Lanka for the tsunami and civil war, to Pakistan during the floods and to Mali during the famine.

Here in Panay, he’s the one that gets stuff done.

“Sourcing and distributing emergency kits in a disaster like this one is a complicated process and there are a lot of people involved,” he said. 66935scr_addf9f69a61f310

“Here in Panay, once we set up our base, we’ve been able to transport aid onto the island from various parts of the Philippines, find a warehouse to store the kits and recruit volunteers and staff to help with mass distributions.

“It’s all about making sure we provide the aid as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible to meet the needs of thousands of vulnerable families.”

Losing & Gaining Humanity: A first-hand account on my mission to Tacloban, Leyte

Edwin photo

 

Edwin Horca, Save the Children

Tacloban, Philippines

November 10-13, 2013

During the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda Friday the 8th, I experienced a level of uneasy and concern I rarely do. I wasn’t in the most affected areas but still I couldn’t sleep. I told myself that it was just another typhoon. Aside from the fact that I had a team of colleagues in Tacloban, I was equally concerned about my family and relatives in Leyte.  No news on Saturday. This was already raising my adrenalin and I knew that we needed to act fast. I decided to go to Leyte with a colleague and what I saw and found affected my emotions, my spirit and professional mission as a humanitarian worker.

Day 1: Into Darkness

The trip to Ormoc on Leyte Island via fast craft was the first step. On the trip to Ormoc passengers were already organizing themselves into groups and identifying who to go with to Tacloban for security and safety purposes. Docking into Ormoc, you get an eerie feeling and my heart was pounding. It was a city in darkness. Going with the group suddenly fizzled out. Road was inaccessible to medium and large vehicles. We took the ‘habal-habal’ a motorbike ride to Jaro, Leyte were my family live.  My heart was pounding. I wanted to know if my father was ok. I wept quietly and embraced him when he came out and saw him. It was one flicker of hope against the darkness of evil and destruction. As daylight struck we saw the destruction brought by Yolanda. I immediately started working.

Day 2: Flicker of Hope

On the second day of our journey we stopped by in Palo and the stench of death was in the air. A mass grave within the church grounds was made and 60 unidentified bodies were laid to rest.  We met one of our team members who is from Palo and was glad to see that he and his family were ok. We planned our entry to Tacloban. Since we were short on fuel, only one motorbike was available. I told Allan to look into possibilities of getting fuel in Palo while I head out into Tacloban. Our objective was to provide much needed food and supplies to the team in Tacloban city. I also wanted to know how my brother and family were doing.

IMG_4613As we drew closer to Tacloban the damage was staggering and the stench of death stronger. There were a lot of people roaming in the streets, people looting Robinsons and the commercial store beside it. There were police and military but they were spread thin along the highway and could do nothing. I tried to search for my brother. The landmarks were gone. It made it more difficult to find their place. I walked inside side streets where mud and electric posts and wire blocked the road. Finally I located my brother alive and well. It was a heartwarming embrace with the whole family and I was ever thankful that they were safe and we started to plan their exit from the destroyed city. Since transport is a problem they decided to exit Tacloban the next day and take their chances in riding the C130 in Tacloban airport. They would have to walk all the way to the airport, several kilometers among debris and bodies, and bring the little food and water left that they could gather. But it was better than to stay.

Next up I had to connect and find out how the team was doing. I knew where they were before the typhoon hit and I found them in good spirits. And part of the team had already moved towards the city center to gather information. The mission goes on. Another flicker of hope amidst a city of destruction and death…

I did a few rounds in the city and the sight was gruesome. The city was like a ghost town. There were few people clustered here and there.  Warehouses and stores looted. Children huddled together while their parents tried to look for food and wash their clothes. There were small distributions of relief led by the military. While other warehouses were looted, I saw an owner of a warehouse doing distribution of relief. I also saw a volunteer from the department of health going around the side streets handing out basic medicines to those in need. The city I once knew as vivid and lively was no more. I had to head back to Palo due to a declared curfew. My driver and companion Rommel was getting scared because it was already getting dark. We wanted to maintain mobility and ensure our safety as well.

Day 3: Regaining Humanity

On my way back to Ormoc my mind was rushing and plotting out strategies on how to expedite our relief to these affected areas. I somehow must have lost humanity on my way to Tacloban. But on my return I also regained it. How? It’s dealing with the situation one day at a time. It’s doing what we can with what we have. It is knowing that we are not alone at this time of strife. It is seeing so many people both local and foreign rushing to help and do their part. It is also knowing that we belong to a family – the Save the Children family where members and supporters around the world are one with us in these dark hours. It is also knowing that media plays a critical role at this time. Our appreciation and thanks to all especially to those who chose to do what they can instead of being enmeshed into bickering and entering into the blaming game.

While the community fiber & spirit may be broken by the storm, it is still the goodness and resilience of humanity that shines. 

Donate to the Typhoon Haiyan’s Children Relief Fund

 

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.

 

SavetheChildren_Tacloban_Typhoon_Haiyan

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

 

Bringing Relief in the Wake of Typhoon Bopha

Anonymous manNorman
Gagarin, 
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.

Save
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
2009.

Save the Children Humanitarian Response in Philippines- Sponsorship Update

Riel Andaluz Riel Andaluz, Philippines sponsorship manager

Manila, Philippines

Friday, October 22, 2010

 

Save the Children is actively responding to the current emergency in the Philippines.  Initial estimates from the province of Isabela, where Typhoon Megi made landfall Monday, are of over 82,600 homes damaged or destroyed and over 1 million children and adults affected. 

Save the Children first wants to let you know that the region struck by the typhoon is more than 250 miles north of Save the Children’s sponsorship program area in the capital of Manila. To the best of our knowledge, all girls and boys in our Philippines sponsorship programs are safe.

We will work on keeping our sponsors up-to-date with our emergency response efforts.  You can learn more about our post-typhoon work and find out how you can help by visiting Save the Children’s website.

If you have any immediate concerns please contact Donor Services at 1-800- SAVETHECHILDREN (1-800-728-3843) or email us at twebster@savechildren.org.  Thank you for your concern and we hope you will help the people of the Philippines who have been devastated by Typhoon Megi.

Learn more about our response to Typhoon Megi

Donate now to our Philippines Typhoon Children in Emergency Fund

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: 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