Out of the Office!–Gone to Tacloban

Macaneta Beach along the Indian Ocean. Mozambique, 2009.

Some of you may recall that a devastating typhoon hit the Philippines in November, and that the hardest hit area was Tacloban. Here we are so many months later and the progress has been slow, and the people there are still having a difficult time getting back to life as it was before the storm (see a video showing how things looked just a few weeks back here). In many ways perhaps life will never get back to exactly how it was, as so many individuals suffered the loss of loved ones, friends, and co-workers in the storm and flooding that came with it as well as homes and belongings that cannot be replaced (family heirlooms, photographs, etc.). Also, please do not take my mentioning of slow progress as criticism, I am very aware of the fact that this is an extreme uphill battle and it takes a very long time to recover from something of this magnitude. To put it in perspective, it is as if the city of Houston was reduced to rubble. That takes a long time to rebuild.

About a month ago I was contacted by LDS Charities to go over and help with the relief efforts. I have worked with them in years past, on things ranging from wheelchair donations in Brazil, to assembling neonatal resuscitation units for sub-saharan African nations while in Mozambique, and lending a hand in Mozambique as women started a hen-house co-op to sell eggs at a local farmers market. I really enjoy working with LDS Charities because they emphasize cultural sensitivity, including locals in planning and implementation, and above all else, self-sufficiency for long term positive changes in the lives of those they work with.  This time around, our project is to build 3,000 homes and train local members of the community in carpentry, to carry on building and also give a new skill set that will help them earn an income. We are also bringing over seeds (common garden veggies, nothing that will disturb the native flora) so people can get back to making money selling produce in markets each week. In addition, I will be the photographer for these projects so I might share a few photos when I get back!  (Learn more about it here)

I am prepared for long days, lots of mosquito repellant, and hot weather…but I also wanted to share why I will be unable to answer emails, texts, phone calls, Facebook messages, etc. from today of this month until the first week of March. I promise I am not ignoring any of you, and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Until then, cross your fingers for me that we will be able to get lots done so people can move out of refugee camps and into homes!