Tacloban Photojournalism Project–San Juanico Agriculture

When we arrived in Tacloban the airport had no walls, they were once made of concrete and glass windows, but all that covered where walls once stood were many, many tarps strewn together and twisted rebar. Trees near the airport had been snapped in two like matchsticks, and so many buildings were wiped out completely. I have been to nations that were ravaged by civil war, nations where poverty is unfortunately the reality for the majority, but part of me still wasn’t prepared to be face-to-face with the level of destruction that had occurred. My heart was so very heavy for the people we passed on the way to the church where we would stay and I already knew that I would struggle with the feeling of wanting to stay and just help indefinitely which happens almost every time I do aid work. There is always more that can be done, you know?  When we arrived at the home-base of the project and got settled in that afternoon I met with the two people spearheading the various projects and we talked about what needed the most help, and where we could be of most service while we were there.

I believe strongly that things happen for a reason, and most of the time, it is for our benefit. When I was at Lowes (who graciously donated materials and supplies for the project for me to bring!) I picked up seeds to bring with me, thinking that they might need them to replant crops that had been lost in the typhoon. When I spoke with the directors of the projects they mentioned that there wasn’t anyone who had experience with gardening/farming in a developing nation, and there were entire communities that were in need of help, because their livelihood was destroyed in the typhoon and they haven’t been able to get back on their feet, because they had no seeds to plant. I explained that I had helped with and observed communal and subsitence gardening in Mozambique and would be happy to help, and that we brought lots of seeds.

The next few days, I was out in the hot sun, helping move felled trees, clear brush and debris, and set up a community example garden and planting those seeds we brought. I was especially grateful we had renewable local resources to use as our garden trellises and supports for plants, and that we came with a hard working group who had wonderful ideas for building them. The pictures below are of the family we helped. Concepcion, a 60 year old widow, her daughters and grandchildren all live together in a 10×12 home on the outskirts of Tacloban. They were gracious, kind, helpful and so very hard working. I am so happy I was able to meet them, and I hope that everything we planted is now a wonderful garden for others in the community to come see, get ideas on sustainable gardening in small areas, and pick up some seeds to plant their own crops.