Andy and Yolanda
By Andrew Lear
On November the 8th, 2013, a record-breaking typhoon lashed parts of the Philippines causing tremendous damage, not to mention the suffering of the people in her path who lost loved ones and possessions. As luck would have it one of our whanau happened to be working in the Philippines, right where Yolanda decided to let her fury loose.
When she had dispensed her punishment and moved on, Andy came out to find a landscape torn apart and the people in dire straits. For days he waited and saw no response from the Philippine authorities. When he realised that help was still a long time coming he decided to do something himself and began collecting what meagre aid he could to give to the people he knew from work who had lost their homes. Then, from this small gesture something incredible happened; others got behind him and within days a major aid mission exploded into action. He had unwittingly started what was to become a human miracle as the good things in peoples' souls came to the fore as Filipinnos and foreigners alike joined together and instigated a relief campaign that was nothing short of wonderful. Andy spearheaded this drive, not afraid to ask family, friends, and the companies he worked for to contribute. And the contributions poured in.
One contributor was our own Emi Esteves who took his plea to her school which got wholeheartedly behind it, raising a significant amount of money. Andy wrote a lengthy report to the Rukuhia school about what their contribution did for the people hit by the storm.
We should all be pretty proud of Andy. He did a great thing for his fellow beings. As the proverb states: 'When you are in the service of your fellow beings you are in the service of your God'.
Yolanda gave him an opportunity to show his real stuff and an adventure to tell his grandchildren.
The letter he wrote to the children at Rukuhia school graphically tells that story.
Andrew C. Lear
As you know, the Philippines were hit by Typhoon Yolanda on Friday 8th of November. Yolanda was the strongest storm in the last 30 years. It has hit the Philippines very hard, possibly killing as many as 10,000 people.
A satellite view of Typhoon Yolanda approaching the Philippines
A typical nipa hut
The Philippines government is not like the government in New Zealand. Their response to the storm was very slow. When we sent out our first relief convoy, nearly a week after the storm, it was the first relief those towns had had! Nothing had come from the government at all, and the capital of the island is only 3 hours south. The big charities (Red Cross, Unicef etc) were working hard to set up their distribution lines but were too stretched working in Samar and Leyte to attend to Cebu right away.
These kids work in the market, they hurl 15kg boxes of sardines around like basketballs!
For 1 day, each family gets:
On that first run our site team brought 170 families worth of supplies which we had packed up in our house. Carmen Copper had taken over the badminton courts so we helped them pack all their supplies also. Its hard work doing a 12 hour shift in a mine, packing goods half the night, then getting up and doing it all again! We were all exhausted after a couple of weeks of this! But it was good that something was finally happening to get help to the folks who needed it.
Packing the first run of goods in our guesthouse
about 35 kg and we each must have carried at least 100 each a night!
The line up for food in Daanbantayan.
Carmen Copper was going to continue running convoys as long as they had donations, so that’s when I put out the call on Facebook for donations from home, and you guys have answered!
At the same time, my other friends here had been busy:
Normally in this section of road there are Nipa huts on both sides of the road until just before her village. Not one was left standing. The road was strewn with men, women and children.
Her village is called Green Valley and it has a population of around 400, all of whom survived without injury. Unfortunately all of these people have lost their crops, incomes, power, water, food supplies and 50-60% of their homes have been damaged or destroyed.
Storm damage on Leyte
Nelly and her family packing boxes
A happy kid
So Serge put out the call for donations to help this family and their village. We gave him 50 family bags from your donations to take with him. He also took cooking materials, a generator and second hand clothes. His driver volunteered his time and they used Serge's jeepny to transport the goods.
FYI...These are jeepneys, a sort of small bus, lots of these here.
The drivers are hugely proud of their rides and decorate them
Filippinos are masters of stacking stuff on scooters and jeepneys.
Shimo is an electrical engineer from Leyte, his young wife and 2 children were caught in the typhoon, he went home on Tuesday to search for them. It took him 2 days before he found them, alive and well! He returned to work on Friday and went back to Leyte on Saturday so we gave him 50 family bags to take with him, which will keep his family going for a while.
badminton courts. The Philippines is very hot! It’s not always pretty either... Mitch, Darren and Mark packing in the
It’s not always pretty either... Mitch, Darren and Mark packing in the
bove: a big nipa hut torn apart on Bantayan Island and below,
concrete houses fare better but still a lot of damage.
This was the first aid these folks had seen since the
8 days ago. they were really suffering.
Hungry Island kids
My boss asked me to write a report on the relief work we had been doing, so that he could talk to the company director about helping and because of the generosity of my workmates, friends, family, and the Rukuhia School community, my company Outotec has matched all the donations that you have made, plus the donations folks in our company have made. All up they gave $30,000, or about 5800 families worth of food. This is really great and has allowed us to help even more folks!
So now I have almost finished my job here, I will soon be leaving for good. Its two months after Yolanda, and things are starting to look better. The big charities are well established in the area, aid from other countries and the Philippine government is now getting through. The roads are mostly cleared and life is getting better. Carmen Copper ran several more convoys sending family packs of rope, nails, cooking equipment, clothes and footwear so that people can start rebuilding their homes and their lives. Hundreds of thousands of people are still living in town halls and school gyms. Large parts of the country still have no power and no running water. There is still a long way to go! But the worst is over and things are looking up.
All up, my friends, family, the site crew and the Rukuhia School community have raised enough cash to feed nearly 2000 families! With your donations combined with Carmen Copper we have sent out 5 convoys of emergency food to various parts of the local area, with 12,000 family packs of food! Carmen Copper also sent out more convoys of building supplies in the following weeks. Outotec has given 5800 families a good meal. We’ve rebuilt and restocked the school in Nelly’s village, helped buy them a generator, and put some smiles on the kids faces. We’ve fed the families of Shimo and Rhoda. What you guys have done has been an immense help to the people here, it’s hard to describe how much you’ve done. You’ve kept thousands of folks from starvation and disease in one of the worst disasters the world has ever seen. When the storm hit, and there was no food or water or support from the government, when these folks were at their most desperate, you guys stepped up and kept them going. You came through when they really needed it. Thank you all from myself and all my friends here, and also from all the folks you’ll never meet but who you have helped so much.