to Help the Leyte Landslide Survivors.
I first went to Guinsaugon, Southern Leyte, immediately after
the devastating landslide, the area was like a war zone. Helicopters
were buzzing all over the place, soldiers manning check points,
international flags towering above camp sites, heavy machinery
humming everywhere, the media clicking their cameras at every
angle, and politicians jockeying for position. The circus-like
atmosphere was worthy of an international billing. Two weeks later,
I came back, and saw a completely different picture: a lonely
giant cross stood facing the broken mountain, and a few uniformed
students were staring at the place where their homes once stood.
No media. No politicians. No more rescuers. No hope for more survivors.
The focus is now on rebuilding the lives of the 500 or so family
members who did survive. Ironically, almost everyone left. Even
the school-turned-evacuation center is quiet, almost surreal,
except for the expected noise of school children unmindful of
the weight of the moment. As I said, no more media. No more politicians.
No more rescuers. Just survivors fending for themselves. This
is now reality setting in.
I have been asked many times how and where our help should go.
From what I have heard and observed, there is an abundance of
food and clothing that will last for months. The day I left, a
truckload of bananas was unloaded for the victims. That evening
I saw five boxes of those bananas aboard our ferry to Cebu. Those
bananas were intended for the victims, not visitors or VIP's.
A brother, Chito Cusi, president of MARCH for CHRIST, is working
with the government and local companies to help build low cost
houses for the survivors. As I write this, he is meeting with
the Undersecretary of Social Services regarding this plan (email@example.com).
Therefore, I am narrowing my personal recommendation to three
needs. Where I see the best place to put our help right now is
in the following:
Medical missions. My brother is going back to Leyte again to treat
the survivors. One lady we helped lost three of her kids and her
husband. She was holding her 2-year-old baby when a wall of mud
swept her 100 yards away. When she miraculously surfaced, her
baby was gone, and she was bloodied from head to toe with scratches
and deep wounds. Leyte preacher Samson Octobre met her and helped
her as she recovered. When she saw him the second time, I saw
her eyes light up, happy to see him again. Medical missions such
as this help us establish relationships that will later allow
us to evangelize and plant a church. This will cost about $200
per doctor per day in medicine, food, transportation, and material
expenses. See pictures: http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/psalm_235/album?.dir=/d032
2. Beds. The survivors and refugees were housed in the schools
around St. Bernard. To be blunt, their living conditions are inhumane.
Literally 10-20 families are cramped into one small classroom.
The men let the kids and women sleep in the room, and they stay
outside sleeping on the floor or sitting up against anything they
can find. The Japanese donors put up dozens of tents, but Filipinos
are generally not used to living in tents, especially on the ground
without elevated beds. http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/psalm_235/detail?.dir=/d032&.dnm=ca74scd.jpg&.src=ph
No matter how poor a Filipino house is, it is usually on stilts
above the ground. During my last four-day stay there, it rained
the whole time. The tents and grounds were wet, and no one stayed
in them. So, I offered to buy them wood and nails for them to
build their own beds. http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/psalm_235/detail?.dir=/d032&.dnm=2108scd.jpg&.src=ph
Several Leyte Christians (led by Samson) were there to lend a
hand, and also bought tools like hammers and saws. When the survivors
finally get their own houses, these beds can still be useful to
them in their new place. Each bed is 4X6 and costs about $5-$6.
As soon as they finish the first 20 beds (targeted for today),
we will deliver materials for 20 more. I promised them at least
100 beds, but they probably need 1000, including the other evacuees
the government moved out of their communities.
3. Scholarships to attend Sunrise Christian College http://www.philippinechurchesofchrist.org/sunrise/main.htm
This is where I think we could make the most long-term and permanent
impact. I met 12-18 year olds who lost their parents, siblings,
house, everything. I have offered them scholarships to attend
Sunrise, which accomodates all grade levels from elementary through
college, and is the only accredited Christian college in the Philippine
brotherhood. This provides an avenue for help in more ways than
one: food, shelter, education, and spiritual growth. For $50-$100
a month, a young survivor can get all of that, and hopefully more.
The cost is $50.00 for high school students, and $100.00 for college
students. God willing, some of them will later become church leaders
and even missionaries. The condition for this scholarship is that
they must have lost one or both parents. We have identified about
30 such children. Five scholarships have also been made available
through Altamesa Church of Christ for children 4-8 years of age.
These funds will pay for their tuition, food, books, and uniforms.
Several churches and individuals have already donated or plan
to help. If you wish to help in any way, please let me know. I'm
currently working on the financial report and other matters.
Cariaga (March 10, 2006)
ps. Levelle Pollard of OKC and I are going back there next week