HELPING COMMUNITIES RECOVER FROM TYPHOON HAIYAN
In this month's Peace Mail we share with you an update about the recovery effort with a very personal story.
As the Philippines is again in the midst of typhoon season, let me share with you a heart-warming update from the recovery effort after the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. Zenaida is 27 and lives on the small island of Bantayan where she is a social worker and a volunteer community spokesperson for local residents.
Zenaida recalls that in the days before Haiyan reached the Philippines, she was busy at the town hall organising food and preparing relief supplies for use once the typhoon had moved through. When the typhoon hit, although she kept on with her work, her mind was racing as she worried about her family’s safety.
“I was so afraid.”
“As the typhoon raged I was at the town hall, together with the mayor and some other employees,” she recalled. “I was so afraid. The whole time I thought about what might be happening to my family.”
When the storm passed, people came out looking for help at the town hall. Zenaida focused on attending to residents lining up at the door. As the queue progressed she looked up and saw her own father was standing next in line! They were relieved to see each other and embraced, her father assured her that the entire family had made it through and were safe.
“I was so relieved to hear that they had managed to survive. I broke down completely,” she said. “I had been buried in work so as not to think about it.” The tears rolled down Zenaida’s cheeks while she told her story.
Zenaida suffers from a muscular disability which means her body isn’t capable of carrying heavy items but she has managed to continue helping her community to recover. In an ACT Alliance relief aid program, she is part of a group of social workers operating a psychosocial project for physically handicapped people. They offer psychological help to residents to recover from the trauma they experienced during the super typhoon where many lost family and friends.
Act for Peace with our partner the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) is helping to rebuild communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan through emergency response and recovery initiatives. Act for Peace also supports the NCCP to promote human rights and justice for those affected by conflict, displacement and discrimination in the Philippines. Through the ‘Not without Our Sisters and Brothers’ human rights program, the NCCP encourages formal peace talks between parties at conflict, and interfaith programs which promote mutual understanding between Christians, Muslims and Indigenous groups.
- Alistair, Act for Peace Executive Director
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Children, the elderly and persons living with a disability are often the most vulnerable in major disasters, like Typhoon Haiyan. The ACT Alliance and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) supports those suffering from psychological trauma as a result of Typhoon Haiyan with a particular focus on vulnerable groups including those living with a disability. So far more than 9,000 people have received psychosocial help through the NCCP’s crucial work.
Psychology students such as Zenaida work voluntarily and have free lodging with host families during the project. There are around 700 disabled people in the town where Zenaida lives and many have already joined the project.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines’ ongoing work includes utilising the ecumenical movement and network to promote a culture of justice and peace through understanding, cooperation and the affirmation of a common humanity.
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