Philippines: New Year, new homes, new hope

by ShelterBox | @ShelterBox | ShelterBox
Wednesday, 8 January 2014 13:05 GMT

ShelterBox Response Team member Anne Seuren (NL) helping a family with their ShelterBox tent on Kinatarcan Island, Philippines, January 2014.

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ShelterBox teams have continued working over the holiday season providing shelter to families made homeless by Typhoon Haiyan, and reaching out to those on remote islands.

At the time of year when thoughts turn to renewal and resolution, ShelterBox’s response teams have witnessed first-hand the resolve of Filipino islanders to rebuild their lives after Typhoon Haiyan.

ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member Anne Seuren from the Netherlands said, ‘Being in the Philippines during the holiday season has been an interesting experience. Our 'Christmas team' is great! We work hard although temperatures go up to 40 degrees celsius. We have a lot of local volunteers helping set up the tents, so each of us works in different areas with our own team of volunteers. This makes the numbers go up, and hundreds more families were able to greet Christmas and New Year in a new home.’

ShelterBox has made a commitment to help around 7,800 families who lost their homes, possessions and livelihoods when 195 mph Haiyan, and its subsequent 13 foot storm surge, razed to the ground almost every building in its path on 8 November. By Christmas Eve the international disaster relief charity had distributed enough ShelterBoxes, tents and toolkits to help over 1,800 families. Now over 3,000 families have a tent protecting them against the sporadic heavy rainfall. The rest of ShelterBox’s committed aid will continue to arrive in regular shipments over the coming weeks and months of the new year.

Whilst much international aid effort was necessarily focused on devastated cities such as Tacloban, ShelterBox’s readily portable aid was also able to bring shelter to families on outlying smaller islands. SRTs have been working continually with colleagues from other organisations, such as global children’s charity Plan International and the Australian Navy and Air Force, on distribution to these hard-to-reach isolated communities.

Houses swept away

Anne continued, ‘Yesterday my team and I visited the most northerly province of Bantayan Island, Problacion of Madridjos. Most of the houses had been completely swept away. The fishermen’s families in this area make their living from the sea, and have no money to buy materials to rebuild their homes. They were extremely grateful when we gave them new homes.

‘One of the families had a young mother who gave birth on 8 November, during the typhoon! She and her daughter Mariana Yolanda were living in a shack. Now they live with the rest of her family in a ShelterBox tent.’

Anne and her ShelterBox colleagues have worked continuously across the holiday season, in difficult conditions and searing temperatures. But they are spurred on by the gratitude of recipients, and the hospitality of these damaged communities. She expained, ‘Today we visited another area, Malbaga. Although it was 39 degrees my team and I put up another 47 tents. The community was so grateful they bought sodas for the whole team of volunteers. So nice!’

‘A new beginning’

ShelterBox Chief Executive Alison Wallace said, ‘I am so glad that we are able to help, and immensely proud of our response teams and other professionals who are giving people a new beginning. If you have helped us by donating or fundraising, a sincere thank you for your generosity.'

ShelterBox has also been busy elsewhere in the world over Christmas and into 2014. The work to shelter families fleeing the conflict in Syria continues in earnest, with a major shipment of tents and boxes recently arrived in Lebanon. Many of the tents are specially ‘winterised’ for protection against sub-zero temperatures and winter storms.

The Operations Team at ShelterBox’s Helston headquarters are also monitoring heavy rains and landslides in Brazil, and families displaced by conflicts in South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Thank you for your invaluable support that enables us to help families in need around the world.