Friday is the International Day for Disaster Reduction, which is fitting day for us at Food for the Hungry (FH) to honor, as disaster reduction is a huge part of the work that we do all around the globe. We know that, unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do to prevent natural disaster from occurring. However, we can work with community members and leaders to minimize risk. The United Nations says, “Held every 13 October, the day celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of reining in the risks that they face.” (Click here to read more from the UN about the International Day for Disaster Reduction.)
A Story of Disaster
Samuel is working with others in his community to reduce the impact of natural disasters.
I’d love to share a story with you from the Philippines. Samuel is a 35-year-old father to seven and a husband to his wife, Emmy. They live in a coastal town in Marabut known for its rock formations and the Tinaban Cave, a 1500 square meter cave in a cliff near the seaside.
Samuel is a motorcycle for driver for hire and works part time in construction projects. Emmy runs a small store out of their home. They struggled to make ends meet. Still, they were able to send their children to elementary and high school.
Then a life-changing event happened in 2013 that pushed them and their community to the brink of desperation—Typhoon Haiyan (or Yolanda, as it was called in the Philippines.)
Typhoon Haiyan his Marabut with the strongest winds ever recorded for a typhoon. It devastated and destroyed the community. Samuel, along with his family and around 1,000 other people had to evacuate. They found shelter in the Tinaban Cave, where they stayed for three days.
After the storm, Samuel and the others returned to their town. Samuel’s house was gone. They had lost everything. The destruction left them with no other choice but to rebuild and start from scratch. The only resources they had were the ones they salvaged from the destruction. Without adequate shelter or hygiene facilities, Samuel and Emmy’s children fell ill.
FH helped the community rebuild, but knew the same thing could happen all over again. So in 2016, FH and partner organizations launched the Climate Change Facilities in the Philippines (CCFP).
The goal was to increase resilience in the face of disasters. CCFP worked with the Department on Natural Resources and the local government to improve the Cave as a traditional safe haven during typhoons.
FH began recruiting construction workers from Samuel’s neighborhood to build comfort rooms, sanitation facilities and kitchen facilities for evacuees to utilize in the wake of disaster.
Samuel knew this job would help his family!
“It was when I saw your job posting at the Barangay Hall that I immediately submitted my application, hoping and praying that I would get hired,” Samuel said. And he did!
Samuel hauls construction materials outside of the Tinabanan Cave. He is working with 14 others to build sanitation and cooking facilities for disaster evacuees.
Making a Difference
Samuel says the job helps his family. He is able to provide more and ensure his children stay in school.
“I am very happy that I was able to work with FH,” Samuel said. “Even if this is not permanent, it is a blessing and really helps us financially. At the same time, I am helping our village and learning a lot about safety and the importance of being prepared in our community.”
He’s especially happy to be working along side others in his community.
“Our group survived a terrible experience together, and is now given an opportunity to help others not go through the same ordeal,” Samuel said. “We may not be able to prevent another Yolanda from happening, but at least it would be easier for evacuees to cope when they come here.”
Samuel knows that through this construction project he’ll be able to leave behind a lasting contribution to his community. His work will help reduce the risk during disaster.