For children and their families living in poverty, natural disasters can be a crushing blow that takes even the little they have away.
19 May, 2021
Even after earthquakes, floods and COVID-19, 2020 wasn’t done with the Philippines yet.
Yet among disaster, God is at work restoring hope.
I will restore them because of my compassion. —Zechariah 10:6 (NLT)
Typhoon Goni – November 1
On the November 1st 2020, Typhoon Goni lashed the Philippines with torrential rain, flash flooding and howling winds. "I believe the winds of Typhoon Goni were the strongest yet," says Susan, a local Compassion project director. "It was so loud and scary I had to literally cover my ears."
The effects of Goni were devastating.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 25 people were killed, over 281,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and 71,000 people were displaced. Water, electricity and internet were cut-off in many areas, further isolating those trapped in rising floodwaters.
In total, 2.7 million people were affected, including over 50 Compassion assisted children who lost their homes and another 1,100 who were affected in other ways. For many families living in poverty, their houses cannot withstand the power of natural disasters. "Their homes are made from burlap, coconut lumber, bamboo and other light materials,” says Susan. “They’re no match against the strong winds."
Though no Compassion assisted children were hurt, one child, named Cyril, grieved for her friend. One of her close friends was swept away in the floods and did not survive. Cyril was devastated. "I have learned the value of life and that I should be grateful for every breath the Lord is giving me," she says. “We will never know what will happen tomorrow. It is important that we are always prepared in life and always trusting God. It is also important to help others who are in need, like what our sponsors are doing to us. I am so grateful."
Typhoon Vamco – November 12
Recovery from Goni had only just begun when, on November 12th, Typhoon Vamco arrived. The Philippines is no stranger to natural disasters. In fact, Vamco was the 21st typhoon to strike the country in 2020 alone. But to arrive so soon after Goni only worsened the already challenging situation.
Vamco had an even more widespread impact on the island nation. Over 140,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, 73 people were killed, a further 270,000 were displaced and a total of 4.8 million were affected in some way. Power was lost in major cities and severe flooding forced some families onto the roofs of their houses.
With the impact of COVID-19, evacuation centres could not be filled to capacity. For those who could seek shelter, the centres were crowded, wet and uncomfortable. Some children were able to seek refuge at local churches, while local Compassion staff worked to secure groceries, clean water, medicine and other supplies once the flooding had subsided.
Equipped with face masks and shields, local staff delivered essential provisions like water, rice, medicine and cleaning materials to those in their community. They even spent time helping families clean up the mud that had spread everywhere through the floodwaters.
"I don’t know how I could thank them enough," said Abigail, a member of the local community. "I am so touched, and so are my parents."
The Philippines is the third most disaster-prone country in the world, which means preparation skills are essential. Recognising this, one local Compassion child development centre organised disaster preparedness training for children and their parents.
"I wanted to learn about disaster preparedness since my two children are still little," explains Nancy, mother of 9-year-old Czarina. "When the ground trembled a few weeks ago, my daughter was in school, and I was really worried."
The training covered important topics such as what to do during a flood or earthquake, what types of disasters are most likely to hit their province, where to get help, the first thing to do during a disaster, how to detect signs of a stroke or heart attack and how to administer first aid. The lectures were given by officers from the Risk Reduction Unit of the local municipal government.
The centre director Marvelous, a former Compassion sponsored child himself, wants to empower both the children and their parents with new knowledge and skills. "We believe we achieved that today, but we pray that our families will not go through any actual calamities in the future."
Nancy is grateful for the support of the local church and Czarina's sponsorship "because it is preparing her to become the person that she wants to be in the future, and teaching her many helpful things, including disaster awareness."
When Czarina was asked about disaster preparedness, she says the best way to prepare is "to always pray to God and trust God."
2020 was a year of disasters, but like Czarina, we can have confidence in the restoring work of God.
To help restore hope to children like Cyril and Czarina in the Philippines, give today to our tax-deductible Restore Hope Appeal.
Words by Andrew Barker.
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