Typhoon recovery aims for lasting results

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MCC efforts focus on rebuilding homes, equipping pastors

By Laurie Oswald Robinson

Since Typhoon Haiyan devastated communities in the Philippines last November, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has been helping residents such as Virginia Pagatan (pictured below) restore what took only hours to destroy.

Pagatan, captain of a local government council in San Isidro in Leyte province, is grateful for how MCC and its partners have been carefully laying the groundwork for typhoon response. She cries tears of joy as she speaks about a distribution of shelter kits, which are collections of basic home-building materials, in her neighborhood.

“Others have come and made promises, but today you have delivered what you promised,” Pagatan told Ann Campbell-Janz, an MCC staff member who traveled to the Philippines in May to monitor MCC-funded projects in the hard-hit provinces of Leyte and Biliran.

Early on May 21, community members and Pagatan’s volunteer shelter committee unloaded roofing sheets, lumber, plywood and nails from a truck. They carefully numbered 155 piles, one for each beneficiary in the community.

Pagatan joined a staff member of International Children’s Action Network (ICAN), which was working with MCC partner Church World Service (CWS) in implementing the MCC-supported distribution, to check names on the distribution list and to help people find their pile of materials. Volunteers assisted those who weren’t able to get materials to their home location on their own.

MCC has slated $4.3 million for typhoon recovery, which includes providing materials to rebuild homes and supporting school reconstructions. MCC also is partnering with Peacebuilders Community, Inc., a ministry of Mennonite Church Canada Witness, to help provide training in emergency response and conflict resolution for pastors.

“MCC is not just providing materials for rebuilding but is honoring the residents’ dignity and their desire to assist others in their community,” Campbell-Janz says. “The process of community involvement takes time but pays off by building community trust and cooperation. These attributes and skills will be beneficial not only for responding to this disaster but for possible future typhoons, earthquakes or other disasters.”

MCC’s shelter recovery response emphasizes establishing local volunteer shelter committees that check the beneficiary lists, encourage the participation of local government units and hold trainings in typhoon-resistant construction.

By late July, 80 percent of the 5,179 shelter kits to be provided had been distributed in consultation with local volunteer shelter committees in areas hit by Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded.

Campbell-Janz met with beneficiaries such as 32-year-old Jenny Laurente, who lost her home in Navel, Biliran, where she lived with her husband and four boys. Laurente shared how her husband and brother rebuilt the family home in seven days with a combination of the shelter kit provided by MCC and materials they purchased with their savings.

In addition to providing materials, the MCC-funded response is employing local skilled and unskilled laborers to build homes through cash-for-work and food-for-work programs and is training them in typhoon-resistant construction methods. It’s an effort to provide short-term earnings and construction skills for people whose livelihoods on coconut plantations or in the fishing industry were disrupted by the storm.

MCC has approved a second project—a partnership with ICAN to rebuild 13 schools, Campbell-Janz says. “When the typhoon hit, agencies started their recovery efforts by providing emergency food and then shelter for families, and now they are ready to rebuild schools,” she says.

Unlike the more grassroots nature of home shelter repair, school reconstruction will require the efforts of skilled contractors, she says. The schools, which as public buildings have different and stricter building codes, also will double as typhoon shelters.

Mennonite Central Committee is an inter-Mennonite agency that provides relief, development and peace in the name of Christ.

Laurie Oswald Robinson is a freelance writer from North Newton, Kan.

Photo 1:  During a distribution of shelter kits that was part of MCC’s Typhoon Haiyan response in the Philippines, the building materials for each kit were separated into a pile for each recipient family. (MCC Photo/Nikko Lacsina)

Photo 2: Virginia Pagatan is captain of a local government council in San Isidro in Leyte province, Philippines. In May she talked with MCC staff member Ann Campbell-Janz and Dianne May Seva of International Children’s Action Network (ICAN). They are all working together to supply shelter for people who lost their homes during Typhoon Haiyan. (MCC Photo/Nikko Lacsina)

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