In August 2015, Typhoon Soudelor hit Saipan and caused immense damage to the tiny islet. The American Red Cross, with a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, requested assistance from World Renew DRS. Our building estimators were asked to meet with homeowners to assess the cost to repair their homes.
In November 2015, six World Renew DRS volunteers flew to Saipan to complete a two-week assignment. Volunteers Rich and Phyl Grevenstuk shared with us the vignettes below.
“Fred lost everything in the typhoon,” Phyl said. “All that was left of his small home were the four walls and a tent that one of the recovery groups gave him to sleep in. When we first met him, Fred didn’t see a way out of his situation. But when we visited him later, Fred told us that some of his friends had agreed to help him put a roof on his house. Just before we left, the new roof was complete, and Fred had a brighter outlook on life because he saw that people cared about him.
We found that people were ingenious about fixing up their homes by using whatever they could find from the jungle or recycling old materials.
“Another family of seven was living in four rooms of their damaged home, and their situation was dire. When we visited, we found a mother and daughter, both elderly, sitting on a bed in one of the rooms. One woman was an amputee and both of women were blind. The family was caring for them the best they could. Their lives were further complicated by the lack of a functioning bathroom, which had no roof and was continually flooded by broken pipes. We requested immediate help, and the family received assistance to address their emergency needs.
“We met a man named Morgan at church on Sunday. We followed him on his bike to his home in the jungle. Morgan had arranged mattresses for walls, curtains around his bed, created an outside kitchen, and lived with a dirt floor. He asked us for a few pieces of tin (without holes) for a roof to keep his bed dry. He also owned a few ducks and roosters, and he offered us a duck. He was so generous with the few possessions he had. It was a humbling experience.
“In Saipan, there was a wonderful recovery group working on getting people’s needs met. We found that people were ingenious about fixing up their homes by using whatever they could find from the jungle or recycling old materials. We took picture after picture of the devastation, and each photo was connected to a person who was, in turn, connected to our hearts. I feel like we only scratched the surface of needs caused by Typhoon Soudelor.”
In the two weeks that World Renew DRS volunteers were in Saipan, they completed 112 construction estimates. The local recovery group used the estimates as a basis for the cost of recovery. But, in addition to providing excellent hard data, the Grevenstuks, along with Lee and Sue Mys, and Gary and Bev Van Noort, made connections of the heart. Listening, understanding, and valuing people as image bearers of God is part of the overall recovery process.
One news report in the Saipan Tribune quotes local recovery director, Jenny Hegland, who said, “We really need to be able to understand what the needs are and who we are trying to serve…We are taking the 112 estimates by World Renew and looking at them as a subset that is representative of the entire need” (www.saipantribune.com, 12/11/15).