|UPDATE - Emergency in the Philippines: The Rainbow after the Storm|
Talcoban, Philippines – Nine months after the tragedy of hurricane Yolanda in the Philippines, Sister Margherita tells the story of a country ready to fight and to rebuild.
“It reminds you of a tree that has lost all of its leaves,” explains Sister Margherita, director of the Dominican School of Calabanga, supported by AVSI, describing Tacloban during the recovery process after the devastation of Hurricane Yolanda in the Philippines. “Its branches are dry and it already appears to be dead or at least dying. It seems there’s no hope for the future. Then, as time begins to pass, bringing rain and sunshine, the day comes when the tree suddenly becomes full of life again. A new life is born."
Tacloban isn’t the city that it once was. The storm arrived there first, killing thousands. In one fell swoop, it swept away the livelihoods and homes of many thousands more. Costal cities that bore the brunt of Yolanda’s initial impact wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the people that still call them home. And no matter where one seems to turn, the storm is there in full pursuit, staring back at you in the eyes of those that remain out of work or of those living in shanty towns, awaiting the construction of their new homes. And yet, as Sister Margherita testifies, one can begin to see that progress is being made and that recovery is possible. (Thanks in large part to the aid received from donors from around the world, like AVSI).
Life has regained its normal course. Trees are blooming again and the mountains are green. Even the fields are thriving, ready to provide a plentiful harvest to the farmers who are working their land again. The air in Tacloban is fresh and pure. Cars and trucks are back on the road. The effort to rebuild houses, schools and churches is well on its way. Many Filipinos have gone back to work and kids have gone back to school.
Sister Margherita continues, “When we went to visit the families that we had gone to help after the typhoon, we saw their new homes. Most of them are shacks made of bamboo and cement, built on the outskirts of the city. Some of the families chose to stay near the sea despite the warnings of the government to go further inland. But they had no choice. Many of them depend on the sea for their livelihood. The fishermen built shelters out of materials that bring good fortune, and have already reopened their fish stores and small shops.”
Many people from all over the world have offered the Filipinos their help and solidarity. Now, at last, it is possible to see a light at the end of the tunnel. However, there is still much to do, beginning in particular with the needs of the children.
“It was touching to see the excitement of the kids coming back to school, even though there is still a general lack of transportation and the schools are not fully functioning,” said Sister Margherita, “While visiting the public schools, we saw classes being held outside, or in tents. It is impossible for the kids to stay inside of them for longer than a few minutes. The conditions for a decent education have yet to be fully met.”
There is one more thing that Sister Margherita made sure to mention, and that was that she will never forget the gratitude of the children sponsored by so many of AVSI’s donors; it was in their the eyes and smiles that welcomed her when she arrived. As she left, many of the children expressed their gratitude saying, “You’ve changed my life and expectations. We are thankful for what we have, especially our education. Thank you for giving us hope.”