It has been three years since Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines and changed thousands of lives forever.

Suzeth Aricaya, a mother of two, remembers November 8, 2013 as a day of great loss. Before Typhoon Haiyan, Suzeth worked as a laborer in a rice field during harvest time, and raised animals to support her family. As a widow she already had a heavy load to bear, so when her family’s livestock was killed in Haiyan, her entire livelihood was wiped out. Where could she turn?

“My kids are so young and I still need to meet their daily needs,” Suzeth shared. “It is so difficult, as I am only one.”

Many people have devastating Typhoon Haiyan stories like Suzeth’s — yet there are also signs of incredible hope. In the three years since Haiyan struck, thousands of families have been working hard to rebuild their lives. Since World Renew began its Haiyan response in the Philippines thirty-six months ago, the local communities have seen significant transformation, all made possible through the generous efforts of World Renew’s supporters and partners.

In the early days after Haiyan, the focus of programming was on emergency relief — making sure local communities had the basic necessities. Over time, this shifted to early recovery and eventually the construction of permanent shelters and latrines. For the last 15 months, programs have been focused on livelihoods rehabilitation and economic growth in the municipalities of Concepcion and Estancia. The current project, Restoring Empowering and Protecting Livelihoods (REAP), is supporting 1,925 people—over 60% of whom are women. It focuses on sustainably improving household income through opportunities in agriculture, fishing, alternative livelihoods, and savings and loans.

Establishing Community Savings Groups

One of World Renew’s long-term programs for Haiyan survivors is helping to start up self-supporting saving groups through a Community Managed Savings and Credit Association (CoMSCA). In Estancia and Concepcion, 28 savings groups of 467 members (69% of whom are women) have been established. Of these groups, ten are already actively loaning funds to members to use for capital to start a business, tuition for school, medical expenses, feed for livestock, or fertilizer for crops.

Community members who make one to two dollars each day have come together to save nearly $10,000 (CAD)! 

Angela Nobles is a member of a savings group in Concepcion. She was having difficulty making a payment for her daughter’s education, so she reached out to her CoMSCA group and received a loan that was enough to make the school payment. Without this group, Angela would have had to rely on other local credit offices. However, these offices would not have released the loan in time and charge much higher interest. Through CoMSCA, Angela was able to easily access the money at an affordable rate, and ensure that her daughter was able to stay in school.

“The amazing thing about these savings groups,” said Grace Wiebe, Senior Project Manager with World Renew, “is that community members who make one to two dollars each day have come together to save nearly $10,000! (CAD) Members are now able to support those who are in need through loans.”

Restoring Fishing and Farming Livelihoods

World Renew is also training local community members in strategies for sustaining their livelihoods. Through these trainings, 319 fisher folk learned about managing and protecting the marine ecosystem that they depend on so heavily for their livelihoods. In addition to trainings, World Renew provided 202 people with tools such as boats and fishing gear, and resources needed for oyster and seaweed farming, and fish processing.

“Before, we did not mind what we caught,” said Ronito, one of the fishing training participants, who learned about the dangers of overfishing and the importance of protecting fish habitats. “Even if they are big or small, we catch everything. But now, we know that we should not catch the small fish and we should return them to the sea so they can grow and multiply. Through fishery law training, we appreciate how we should take care of corals because they are breeding ground and they are the source of food for fish.”

World Renew has also been working with local community-based farmer associations in the Philippines to establish four model farms to date that showcase integrated organic farming practices. These farms are testing 50 different traditional varieties of rice that will grow without chemical fertilizers. In a region that is at risk of extreme weather and heavy rains, it is important to test which ones are capable of withstanding stresses of climate change. As the success becomes clear, other farmers in the community will adapt the techniques and varieties used so they too can increase their harvests.

In Concepcion and Estancia, 85 farmers have already received rice seeds and been trained in sustainable agriculture. Many of these farmers also received training on producing organic fertilizers that will benefit both the environment and their own income, as the ingredients are locally available and cheaper then chemical fertilizers. Farmers are now able to apply the techniques they learned from model farms and the trainings on sustainable agriculture to improve their harvests in the months and years to come. Over 160 farmers received hogs or native chickens, with some of the sows already birthing up to 12 piglets.

“World Renew taught us natural farming and the importance of being aware of the condition our environment,” shared one farmer. “We need to consider restoring our land for our children’s future. Thank you for waking us up through sustainable agriculture training.”

Equipping Small Businesses

Before Typhoon Haiyan, many community members owned small businesses. The disaster forced many of them to put these businesses on hold. Over the last year, World Renew has supported 244 business owners—mat weaves, micro-traders, store owners, and more—as they got back on their feet. Many of these business owners were women, including wives of men who fish for a living. When severe weather caused by El Niño prevented fisherman from going in their boats, their wives could use a small business such as mat weaving to earn enough to meet their family’s basic needs.

Two women’s groups took part in meat processing training and then used their CoMSCA loans for capital to invest in new businesses. Today, in addition to raising hogs and selling the meat, they are also creating new products they can sell to strengthen their incomes.

Demonstrating God’s Love in the Philippines

Over the last three years, World Renew has provided much needed to support to over 33,000 people in the Philippines and implemented over US $7,077,000 in programs. Over the next two and a half years, World Renew will continue implementing the balance of the 44 month REAP project, with the US $1.4 million remaining, focusing on further long-term sustainable economic growth for the most vulnerable families.

This work in the Philippines is only possible because of the generous support of individuals and churches across North America. A special thanks to the Board of Special Needs from the Reformed Church of the Netherlands, for supporting this project, and to Global Affairs Canada, Presbyterian World Service & Development, and Canadian Lutheran World Relief for each funding the joint World Renew and Adventist Development and Relief Agency response.

Suzeth Aricaya has experienced this generosity firsthand. Despite the tremendous hardship Suzeth and her family faced after Typhoon Haiyan, she received enough support from World Renew to start a local convenience store. She now makes enough to support her family and send her children to school.

“I am so thankful to World Renew who came to help me restore my livelihood,” she shared.

This is your ministry, inspired by your faith in God. Thank you for supporting this important work and demonstrating the love of Christ to thousands who experienced unimaginable destruction when Typhoon Haiyan battered the shores of the Philippines three years ago.