Since Super Typhoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan) swept through the Philippines last November 8, we still can’t stop talking and thinking about it.
Whether we lived or not in the Yolanda-ravaged areas, we can not simply forget it because of the magnitude of destruction and loss it has brought to the country. But stories also need to be told that there is hope and a way for recovery in the aftermath of Yolanda’s wrath. And that is why I’m sharing the first-hand experience of my friend, Alice, who volunteered her time and energy to meet and help the super typhoon Yolanda survivors as they arrive at the Villamor Air Base (home of the Philippine Air Force). Below is her story:
I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Villamor Airbase in Manila where refugees from Tacloban and Samar are brought in by C-130 planes. The planes take relief goods to Tacloban and Guian, Samar and on the return trip they also bring people who want to get out from these two areas. There are also similar flights from Tacloban to Cebu.
There are about 150 people on each flight. On the first day I volunteered there were about 8 flights. The following day there were more flights as they had more planes (e.g. from USA, Australia, New Zealand, etc). The people who arrived at the base were surprised at the welcome they received. Some of them thought that they will get off the plane and look out for themselves.
What we did for them was to welcome them when they arrived, give them food and water, listen to their stories (part of trauma counselling), help them contact their relatives in Manila, facilitate transport to where they are going. Some mothers who have breast milk even offered to breastfeed the babies. Quite amazing.
Some of the survivors waited in Tacloban airport for 2-3 days before they can board the plane. When they arrived in Manila and we gave them food (rice and chicken), most of them said that they haven’t eaten rice for days. Although they had eaten some biscuits while at the Tacloban airport, it didn’t feel like a proper meal for them because there was no rice.
The stories they shared are heartbreaking. They talked about what happened; most of them mentioned about the stench of dead bodies that littered the streets.
Alice also showed me the photo below which she took at the base. This is a photo of a volunteer nun holding a 2-month old baby so that the baby’s mother could have something to eat. This baby hasn’t had a bath for about a week and her body was covered with rashes. The text on the photo is also from Alice.
Let us continue to pray for the Yolanda survivors and help what we can. I have also written on my other blog about donating online to relief agencies currently helping the Yolanda survivors and the affected areas. You can click here if you would like to know these agencies and if you would like to give online (via Paypal, credit or debit card) to support their work.