The past week has been a mixture of distribution and assessment, as different parts of the Philippines need different things, and the OM team aims to respond appropriately in each case.
In Tacloban City, the team met with Vice-Mayor Jerry “Sambo” Yaokasin for guidance on the support the city’s communities need. Already the need for direct emergency food distribution has passed, and local markets are beginning to re-establish themselves.
However, the sheer extent of the destruction means that almost every building is significantly damaged in some way and will require reconstruction or redevelopment. The OM team, in collaboration with a Cebu-based church, began the rehabilitation of a church in the city, which Vice-Mayor Yaokasin identified as essential to helping people’s lives return to normal.
The problem, he explained, is that people are busy re-establishing their own houses, and then joining the cash-for-work programmes developed to clean up the city’s streets, that they have no energy to work on other tasks. Yet by returning the church to a functioning state, people regain the essential support that the church provides.
Along with the typhoon came a storm surge, with waters reaching shoulder height in the downtown area where the church is situated. Pulling aside wooden pews that had floated around the church, the OM team spent the first day cleaning thick layers of mud and debris from the church auditorium and trying to salvage instruments and pew Bibles.
After a long day meeting with Vice-Mayor Yaokasin, assisting his staff with their own clean-up efforts and then working on the church, OM Philippines’ Field Leader Sally Ababa spent the evening with another local pastor discussing ways OM could provide his church on-going support.
On Bohol, an island to the east of Cebu, the team initially responded to an earthquake a few weeks before the typhoon. A return visit last Tuesday revealed that the initial need for emergency food had passed here as well, despite the situation being worsened by the typhoon.
Following discussions with local pastors, Sally identified the need for rehabilitating church buildings, given their vital role as community hubs. The challenge is that due to the earthquake, many permanent buildings are now structurally unsound and rehabilitating them will require significant technical input.
At the same time, efforts such as trauma counselling programmes aimed at enabling the healing and recovery of the whole person are able to move ahead without the requirement for permanent church buildings, and OM Philippines see this as an area of future involvement. The aim is to contribute to the physical, the psychosocial and the spiritual restoration of hurting communities.
The team’s third area of involvement is in the far north of the island Cebu, where the typhoon also caused destruction. Unlike in Bohol, where many of the damaged buildings are made of concrete, in Northern Cebu the damage affected lots of wooden homes.
In addition to assessing the rehabilitation needs of these northern communities, Sally and her team also met with a large city church that is also looking to assist with rebuilding projects. Where possible, the team will aim to support the reconstruction of more permanent, storm-resistant housing rather than create fragile temporary housing. They are also exploring partnerships with other organisations that may be able to assist in the task.
During the past week the team was joined by three colleagues from a partner organisation who worked alongside them to identify the emerging needs in each of the project areas. They also worked with Sally’s team to discuss ways the relief projects would not only meet the community’s medium-term needs, but also contribute to the long-term ministry goals of OM Philippines.
A challenge the team faces in developing their plans for a longer-term response are the new needs that continue to arise as the situation progresses. Pray for wisdom in how to respond and how to develop plans that allow them to move forwards with relevant projects, while remaining flexible to respond to new needs as they arise. With a team stretched to capacity by the relief efforts, they also need wisdom in knowing how to balance the relief efforts and the requirements of on-going ministry projects.
Credit: OM International · © 2013 OM International