Akron, Pa. – Blanche Nolt of Myerstown, Pa., was looking at Facebook photos of Typhoon Haiyan destruction in her hometown in the Philippines when she was surprised to see the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) logo.
The picture was associated with a rice distribution, her friend said, in the village of Tanghas in Leyte Province. Haiyan’s wind and water had damaged almost every home in the village in early November, including the home of Nolt’s parents, Naomi and Diego Petronio.
“I got excited because I knew MCC from here,” said Nolt, a Filipino-American, who is married to Nevin Nolt. After she moved to the U.S. from the Philippines in March 2006, she learned about MCC and recognized its circular dove and cross logo because she attends Meckville Mennonite Church, Bethel, Pa.
As Nolt inquired further, she discovered that her Filipino family, friends and neighbors had received a week’s supply of rice and other food items that MCC’s partners provided after the storm. People at Meckville had helped to pay for those supplies by donating money to MCC, and they had prayed for everyone involved in the disaster.
Nolt said the MCC tie between her church and her family and friends in the Philippines made her feel like she was “somehow directly involved in helping.”
Even the Susquehanna Bank branches in Lebanon and Myerstown were collecting money for MCC’s response in the Philippines, Nolt said.
“It is very hard to be very far away from your loved ones during those times and I wish so much that I was there to be sure they were okay,” Nolt said. “Knowing I am somehow connected or affiliated to some people who are there helping gave me some kind of relief and a hope that in some ways, someone out there is taking care of them.”
The rice distribution was carried out by MCC’s partner Church World Service and its partner, International Children’s Action Network (ICAN). Each family received 55 pounds of rice, plus sugar, oil and salt.
The rice was critical for people in the community, said Naomi Petronio, Nolt’s mother, “because there was no market. We could not buy things.”
She told Jeanne Jantzi, an MCC area director for Southeast Asia, that the typhoon tore the roof off their house, filled it with thigh-high water that “rolled like it was boiling” and left piles of sand in its wake the next day. The Petronios and two of their daughters, one who is married and has a baby, managed to find shelter with a neighbor.
“You have to be thankful for life,” Petronio said. She and her husband work at a local university and are in the process of repairing their house.
Jantzi visited the Petronios in February when she was in Leyte Province to review MCC’s work. Jantzi and her husband Dan Jantzi, also an area director, are based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and are from Lowville, N.Y.
Currently MCC is supporting a $1 million project that supplies temporary housing, cash-for-work and basic household items in nine villages in the municipality of Dulag (similar to a county), where many of Nolt’s extended family live, as well as four villages in the municipality of Naval in Biliran Province.
“I would like to personally thank MCC for all the help extended to some of my family members and neighbors,” Nolt said. “We are very grateful. May God bless you as you bless others.”
In addition to this response in the Philippines, MCC responds to many disasters throughout the year that do not make the news. MCC welcomes donations to support its ongoing disaster response work, donate.mcc.org/project/where-needed-most.