New homes recreate shattered lives in the Philippines

This post was originally published on the World Vision USA blog.

At everyone’s most basic level, we all want somewhere to lay our head every night. Filipinos living in the path of last year’s Typhoon Haiyan’s early morning storm surge and over 300km/hour winds lost everything within a 30-minute span, including their homes, and many, sadly, lost loved ones.

Those tracking the storm before it hit on November 8, 2013 projected that Typhoon Haiyan would reach the islands by 9 AM, but it sped up and reached landfall around 5 AM, just as everyone was sleeping. No one knew Haiyan would be as powerful as it was.

New homes recreate shattered lives | World Vision Blog
Photo: Jeana Shandraw/

After the storm, entire families were relegated to living in tents until temporary shelter kits could be delivered. Some live in makeshift and patchwork homes built from scraps even today, and some still do not have homes to call their own a year after Haiyan. And yet, there are some families who have been given the keys to a new home, one that was creatively designed to withstand high winds, rain, and – yes – even typhoons.

In villages across Leyte, World Vision has worked with community members to identify some of the most vulnerable families who should be gifted with new homes. Families are deemed “vulnerable” if they lost one or more family members during the storm. We saw some of these families yesterday during a visit to Dulag where there are more people living in rural villages than in Tacloban City.

Dulag is roughly a 90-minute drive south of Tacloban City. For these rural families, the storm surge wasn’t their major concern. In an area where many made a living as coconut tree farmers, the wind posed a different burden. Many of those lost here died as a result of falling coconut trees or being hit on the head with projectile objects thrust through the air by strong winds. But the casualty levels are relatively low when compared to communities that lived right by the ocean.

“We are very lucky the storm surge didn’t really touch my town,” said Manuel Boy’ Sia Que, the mayor of Dulag municipality. “We only had one-half to one meter storm surge.”

Even before Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines one year ago, World Vision had been working in Dulag for 30 years and continues to do so. Already a part of the community made helping after the superstorm relatively easy, as World Vision already knew the community intimately.

Juanita and Rodolfo Lazada, an elderly couple in the Victoria village in Dulag, recently moved into their new World Vision home. Juanita prides herself in choosing the color for their new home and wants to make sure to keep it as pristine as it is now. Situated right beside their old home that was damaged during the storm, Juanita still plans to use her old kitchen, but she and her husband will live full-time in their new house.

New homes recreate shattered lives | World Vision Blog
Photo: Jeana Shandraw/

Ma Yung Ha Chae, 21 years old, will live with her grandparents in their brand new World Vision home. Community members and World Vision work in tandem to build new homes for those who cannot build for themselves. And for those families who aren’t considered vulnerable, World Vision is helping them rebuild, too. Hosting “Build Back Better” workshops through its Shelter Program, World Vision teaches men how to construct the homes out of toolkits.

What is interesting is that World Vision quickly discovered that women are consistently more interested in learning during the “Build Back Better” workshops and take charge so they can monitor their husbands’ work and make sure that they don’t take any shortcuts while building their new storm-resistant homes.

Thus far, World Vision has conducted 35 workshops and has attracted 4,324 attendees. 4,150 families have received construction toolkits to rebuild their homes. Through World Vision’s rebuilding efforts during the recovery phase, 20,750 Filipinos will sleep in new homes.

When talking to Filipinos about why recovery efforts have gone relatively quickly considering the amount of damage after Typhoon Haiyan, they always go back to their cultural mainstays: “bayanihan” or the spirit of oneness and “magbinuligon” or helping one another.

“Since we fall, we have to get up,” said Dulag Municipality Mayor Que.

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