A team of eight SIMers has returned to Western Samar in the Philippines to deliver building materials, school supplies, a generator, medical relief and much needed psychological support to survivors of “Super Typhoon” Haiyan in phase 2 of a 3 phase relief project.

Ten days before Christmas, the team - comprised mostly of Filipinos - arranged for the delivery of tin roofing, wood trusses, marine plywood, umbrella nails and 200 bags of cement: enough supplies to repair or rebuild 31 houses. The supplies were distributed by the Marabut Christian Community Church to both church members and non-members and the work was carried out exclusively by the families and their neighbours. “We want them to rebuild their [own] lives” said Andy Tillman, an American member of the team with a long history in the Philippines. Everyone who received supplies - with the exception of one aged “healer” in Marabut, who tragically died a few hours after the relief arrived - was able to use their repaired or rebuilt house by the end of the week. The church itself, which has been completely destroyed, received a new temporary meeting place to be used by the congregation until the larger building can be rebuilt.

Kids line up to receive school supplies in Marabut, Philippines. - photo by Andy Tillman

Kids line up to receive school supplies in Marabut, Philippines. - photo by Andy Tillman

School bags, notebooks, paper and pencils were also given to about 300 school children the day before classes were officially scheduled to resume and a diesel generator was delivered to the Marabut church along with a small starter supply of fuel. The generator will provide members of the community a “charge point” for mobile phones and rechargeable flashlights at a much lower cost than existing for-profit options in the town.

Basic medical care and medicine, such as antibiotics, was provided to the community by the team’s nurse, Roxanne, and a half day “crash course” in debriefing was given to about a dozen local women. Several men had also been scheduled to attend the training but were held up by the ongoing reconstruction work in town. It is hoped the women will be able to provide some relief for others in the community suffering from the effects of traumatic memories and grief.

Ghie Sibayan, the relief project’s coordinator, says there are still many immediate needs in the Marabut region, particularly relating to restoration of livelihood for the area’s many fishermen and coconut farmers. There is also a need to reassure survivors that support is still available. “People [in the disaster zone] are getting a reality check now,” she says, "because the honeymoon stage is over. They are thinking, ‘now we are on our own and nobody will help us anymore.’” Decisions about whether to return to the same region for phase 3 are still ongoing as are discussions with government personnel about official initiatives in the area. - CML

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