(PHILIPPINES) I have been working with typhoon responses in the Philippines since Typhoon Reming in 2007. This past September, I had the opportunity to go to the Philippines once again and visit with people that I have gotten to know over the past two years as part of World Renew’s Typhoon Haiyan response.

When I arrived, I received hugs all around by country staff and was welcomed by friendly faces and beneficiaries who know me. It was great to visit with them once again and hear about the wedding of one staff member, find out how a staff member with stage four cancer is doing, and hear the latest about everyone’s children.

The purpose of my trip was to check on the progress of various projects and to also develop the plan for the next stage of our ministry.

When I arrive, 1,258 permanent typhoon resistant houses have been completed. Five hundred and seventy three of them are permanent shelters rebuilt for those whose houses were completely destroyed and 685 of them are retrofitted for those whose houses were partially damaged.

It is so nice to see the pride that people are taking in these homes.  The houses are painted, gardens are growing, and curtains are hung to beautify each home.  I also saw children playing on the playgrounds that we constructed as part of the psycho-social support program.  It is so refreshing to hear joy and laughter once again, instead of the fear I saw when I first arrived 22 months ago. There is a real sense of returning to normal.

A new initiative that World Renew has been involved with for the last six months is the reconstruction of latrines. Many toilets were destroyed in the super typhoon and people reverted to open defecation, which is unhealthy.

"The impact should be a good sustainable one so that when we return in 5 years we will see our houses standing, businesses flourishing and children happy. It is a privilege to work towards that goal." 
– Grace Wiebe

As a first step, World Renew paired awareness campaigns about the dangers of open defecation with the hygiene kits that we gave out to children. World Renew has now gone back to locations where we built shelter and is adding 1,174 latrines to these communities. 

The last element of World Renew’s remaining Typhoon Haiyan response is the restoration of livelihoods.  I am pleased to learn that 509 registered fisherfolk now have had their income restored thanks to the fishing gear that World Renew provided.

One hundred and nineteen of them received a boat from World Renew.  The others had already received a boat from another organization but required additional inputs to become fully operational. This included the motor, the oars, nets, ice boxes, and the outrigger.

Roughly 10% or 48 of those served were women. The net income they earn is between 200 and 1000 pesos a day, which makes it possible for them to feed their families and send their kids to school.    

I also visited some of our non-fishing livelihood projects that will continue until the end of December. This includes livestock for farmers and loans for small business owners.

The 99 chickens that we distributed are laying 96 eggs a day. I saw one even as I stood watching.  It takes a lot of work to feed the chickens and clean the chicken coop twice a day to prevent disease.

Some of the pigs we have distributed have already had litters of 10 to 12 piglets. The pay it forward scheme that farmers signed up for means that a second group of beneficiaries is now starting to raise  hogs as well.

Other types of businesses that we have helped include restarting a shell craft business, providing capital to several small sari-sari stores, and providing assistance to mat weaving businesses, cement hollow block makers, and pedicabs.

I am so pleased to see how well communities are doing. I also know that there are many needs that still remain for Typhoon Haiyan survivors.

That is why I am so grateful to God that World Renew has been approved by the Canadian Government for additional funding that will enable us to continue sustainable livelihood projects in Panay for 3.5 more years.

We will provide similar fishing inputs in new locations that have not yet been served, providing technical training on new agriculture and fish techniques. This time, we will also help rehabilitate oyster beds and provide assistance for crab and squid fishing. New groups will be created, and along with existing groups, we will establish savings groups and teach financial literacy.  There will also be an element of Disaster Risk Reduction incorporated such as planting mangroves to break any storm surge.

The impact should be a good sustainable one so that when we return in 5 years we will see our houses standing, businesses flourishing and children happy. It is a privilege to work towards that goal.

It is always warming to my heart when I have the opportunity to visit a project in person and see the results. It is a real reward that makes all the hours of hard work  worth it.

It is also a pleasure to interact with the Christian Reformed Church of the Philippines that started us on this journey. In the early days following Typhoon Haiyan, this church began the initial rapid response themselves. It paved the way for our later work. 

When I visited the Tacloban CRC on this visit, I am pleased to see  reconstruction going on. The church sustained significant damage in the storm, but a donor has been found to help the church rebuild.  God is so good. All the time.  

Please continue to keep World Renew and our work in the Philippines in your prayers. Pray for some of the staff whose terms are now up, and for the new project that we will have wisdom.


Grace Wiebe

Senior Project Manager
International Disaster Response & Rehabilitation