AKRON, Pa. – Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is providing disaster-resistant shelters and basic kitchen utensils for almost 3,000 Filipino families who lost their homes during November’s Typhoon Haiyan.
The more than $1-million response will focus on the hardest-hit sections of the coastal municipalities (similar to a county) of Naval in Biliran Province and Dulag in Leyte Province. They are two of many municipalities in the Philippines where homes, livelihoods and public buildings were devastated by the typhoon that displaced 4.1 million people and destroyed 1.1 million homes.
Working through Church World Service (CWS) and its partners, MCC is providing plywood, nails, cement, lumber and metal roofing material to build simple, sturdy shelters. Until now, many people have been living in tents or with family members.
“You see the suffering of so many,” said Laura Armstrong, a short-term MCC worker who with her husband, Nick Armstrong, was in the Philippines in December to develop MCC’s response. The Armstrongs are from Boise, Idaho.
“You know that around every corner, someone has been impacted by the storm, is experiencing hardship and loss and yet you have to make decisions with the money that you have to work with,” Laura Armstrong said.
MCC donors gave more than $3.9 million (USD) in response to the disaster. Initially $200,000 was used for emergency food baskets and household supplies. Future projects include more building, agricultural support and training pastors in trauma healing and future disaster response.
On this project, CWS’s partners will work closely with community leaders to choose the recipients who are particularly vulnerable, such as families that have single parents, a family member with a disability or many children.
Construction of the homes will be done, in part, by community people who are not receiving shelters but have no stable form of income. MCC will pay them for their work, which will be done under the direction of skilled workers trained in disaster-resistant construction.
“It's important that local people receive a wage to do the construction work rather than workers brought in from outside the affected area,” said Jeanne Jantzi, MCC area director of Southeast Asia with her husband, Dan Jantzi. They are from Lowville, N.Y.
“People whose lives have been affected by the typhoon need work because their ability to farm or fish has not yet been restored. If they can work on construction, not only are community people getting help with shelter, but people are also able to regain a livelihood and care for their families,” Jantzi said.
Each family that gets a new home also will receive a welcome-home kit of basic kitchen supplies, including frying pans, glasses, plates, kettles, dishes and other essentials.
MCC has set aside additional funding for a second phase of the project to provide shelter for an additional 3,000 families in Leyte city.
MCC also is supporting the training of 50 pastors in Leyte Province on trauma healing and disaster response. The training will teach pastors “how to mitigate conflict and empower their local communities to take ownership of the disaster response,” said Bruce Guenther, MCC’s director of disaster response.
Although MCC has not had long-term staff in the Philippines since 2005, one worker will be placed there for the next year to oversee MCC’s response.
Linda Espenshade is news coordinator for MCC U.S.