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From Haiyan to Hagupit, determined Filipinos bend but will not break

World Vision
12 December 2014 by Rhonda Hirst
From Haiyan to Hagupit, determined Filipinos bend but will not break

Posing with his umbrella, Rainey Buena Ventura is the happiest guy in town - even though his roof was destroyed during Typhoon Hagupit. Photo by Glen Thomson

When the alerts started to come through of a typhoon headed for the Philippines, I didn’t think much of it. Since I arrived in Tacloban in September there have been a few typhoons that have had low impact – comparable to the storms I am used to experiencing in Melbourne.

But we soon knew this one was different. Weather monitoring systems reported winds of up to 300km/h, only 15km/h less than those of Haiyan, which devastated areas of the Philippines just over a year ago. The first thing I thought of was the people…. Joey, with polio and about to get his first wheelchair, the elderly who live alone, and children who are raising their siblings. How on earth would they deal with another typhoon like Haiyan? How were they coping hearing these alerts, fearing that it was happening all over again?

As the storm hit, media from all around the world wanted to know what was happening. I was in Manila, responding to these requests and my team mates were bunkered in their hotels with roofs flying off around them, the wind howling for hours. They were terrified. I felt helpless being so far away, and increasingly anxious as the storm was heading for Tacloban. It was all a huge sigh of relief when the storm had passed through and they were all okay.

Just a few weeks before the typhoon hit, a sponsored child made a 'gratitude star' for their sponsor, writing of their gratitude for being saved from Yolanda.  Photo by Johnny Cruz/WVUS

Just a few weeks before the typhoon hit, a sponsored child made a ‘gratitude star’ for their sponsor, writing of their gratitude for being saved from Yolanda. Photo by Johnny Cruz/WVUS

The psychological impact of emergencies is one that niggles away at me. NGOs like World Vision are doing their best to support people who have been affected, in ways that they need it most. The hidden impact on survivors can be overlooked when people choose not to speak of their fears and distress in the wake of a horrific experience. I guess as humans we think we can manage that side without help –When you need a roof over your head and a way to make an income, very rarely would feelings of anxiety be classified as a survivor’s first priority if you were to ask them.

But when I am out with our staff in the field, children tell us of shaking when there are big storms. They still remember that frightful evening when everything changed. So many children lost loved ones in the most horrific ways. Ways that they will never forget. The one consolation? All their friends have been through the same thing so they offer some level of comfort and understanding for each other.

Thankfully, the human toll from Typhoon Hagupit has been low. But the damage is widespread and devastating for families already doing it so tough after Haiyan. Just imagine surviving Haiyan, spending the year since building back, trying to move on and get back to where you were beforehand. Imagine you were pleased with how far you and your family had come, tangibly and intangibly, and now were back to square one.

That’s the reality for many people after this storm. Lessons learned from Typhoon Haiyan meant that people made smart decisions in evacuating and preparation. People have built homes with typhoons in mind, which meant that they were safer this time around. And although this is a massive win for the people of the Philippines, it is also completely devastating.

I don’t doubt that Filipinos will just ‘bangon’ (rise up) like they did last time, with smiles on their faces and positive attitudes to boot. I am proud to work with an organisation that is already on the ground, responding to assist those who need it most. I have seen firsthand tears of joy and gratitude for the assistance World Vision has provided, and it breaks my heart to think that so much recovery has been undone, but I know that we will be there helping people in dire need in the aftermath of Hagupit.

Disaster Ready is a fund that World Vision has to enable the pre-positioning of goods for disasters like this that happen all around the globe. In this response, we have 1000 hygiene kits and water ready to go right after the storm, which isn’t able without disaster preparedness. A monthly donation of as little as $10 can help.

Rhonda Hirst Rhonda Hirst

Rhonda Hirst is Emergency Marketing Manager at World Vision and is currently working in the Philippines for the first anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan.


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