What do you do when you’ve lost everything? Rosario’s answer might surprise you...
In the rural community of Salvacion in the Philippines, 62-year-old Rosario lives with an eight-year-old boy named Carl. Her nephew by birth, he calls her grandma. He is her joy.
In Dulag, Carl goes to school and Rosario cleans the local barangay hall (community centre) for 400 pesos a month. She grows vegetables in a plot beside her house to make extra money. They do not have much to live on, but they have always managed.
Then came Yolanda (aka Haiyan), the most powerful typhoon anyone in the Philippines had ever seen.
Carl and Rosario braved the strong winds and ran through the fields to take refuge in the barangay hall. When the winds at last subsided, they opened the door to a community that had fallen apart. Trees down everywhere they looked. Almost every house damaged or in ruins.
“We found our home completely destroyed,” said Rosario. “The wind tore our roof off, left our whole house in pieces.”
Carl and Rosario pulled some fallen scraps from the house with help from some neighbours and made a makeshift shelter they could sleep under. For days and then weeks, they lived like that, rain drenching them while they slept. Snakes were common bedfellows. They lived off emergency bags of rice given out as relief goods.
What could they do now? Their community faced catastrophic losses. Despair was ready to rush in. But the Filipino people are not given to despair. They are quick to smile, to be upbeat and focus on what can be done and who can be helped, no matter the deep emotions churning underneath.
“We have signs everywhere that say tindog and mabuhay,” said Arnold Enlio, a Medair driver. “This means rise up and live. We try to encourage each other after Yolanda. Here, even if we’re not happy, we smile. It helps keep us going.”
All over the Philippines, families started to rebuild as best they could. The problem was that their building materials were sub-standard—freshly fallen trees and salvaged pieces from their ruined homes. Instead of “building back better” and making their homes stronger, most families were actually “building back worse,” making themselves more susceptible to future typhoons.
Medair began building strong “progressive core houses” for the 600 most vulnerable families in Dulag municipality – those whose homes were flattened and who had limited means to rebuild on their own. Rosario was thrilled when the good news came that she and Carl were on the list to receive a new home. Carl was so excited that as soon as the house had a roof on it, he wanted to move into it right away. “My grandson is very proud and happy that we will have a strongly built shelter soon,” said Rosario. “He feels special and noticed.”
On 2 March, Rosario officially signed for their new core house. Within a week, they had built a raised floor and put up temporary walls using vinyl sheets provided by Medair. “We are now safe from the snakes and the rain,” she said.
When we asked what the new house meant to her, her smile cracked and tears began to flow, “It is hard to express in words, but I am very thankful to Medair,” she said. “We would have had a very difficult life with no shelter and little income. I can continue on now. Plant vegetables in my garden. Be safe in a strong shelter.”
So far, Medair has completed 470 of the planned core houses. With enough funding, we will keep building or strengthening thousands more in Dulag.
“I want to thank the people who give money to Medair,” said Rosario. “It was a big help for me to start a new life and have hope for the future and an easier life after Yolanda. We now have new hope and the courage to move on.”
Thank you for your generous gifts that help Rosario and Carl and families like them in the Philippines. Your gift goes farther with Medair.
On 8 November 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) struck the Philippines. More than 6,200 people were killed, another 1,785 are still missing, and 1.1 million homes were damaged.
Medair helps people who are suffering in devastated communities around the world survive crises, recover with dignity, and develop the skills they need to build a better future.