A Place to Call Home
July 10, 2014
Christian Aid Mission donors helped provide funds to rebuild the home of a fisherman and his elderly mother. The dwelling was severely damaged by winds and rain from Typhoon Haiyan.
In May Christian Aid Mission staff member Ivy Sanchez Bray and her husband, Bill, reported on rebuilding efforts spearheaded by several local ministries in the Philippines. In part two they share the story of Persita, a Typhoon Haiyan survivor who recently moved back into her restored home.
As the worst super-typhoon in recorded history swept over the 1,700 islands of Palawan, everyone reeled back for a while—but some rebuilt much slower than others. Lonely, abandoned widows who survived needed both short-term and long-term aid to get their lives back on track.
Among the ones being helped by Christian Aid-assisted ministries are women like Persita Evangelista, a 69-year-old widow who lives with her only son in a fishing village on the shores of Bugtong Bay.
Persita said she has suffered through many storms, but none like Haiyan. “It was the strongest typhoon I’ve ever experienced. It just lifted the roof right off my house!”
“I thank all the Christians who gave help to me, especially those in the United States,” she said. “Without this help, I would still be living in the open!”
Much of the aid was collected by churches, but Filipino immigrants to America and groups like the Filipino Student Association at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville also gave to the relief efforts.
Typhoon Haiyan tore through the central Philippines last November, leaving 6,268 dead and 1.9 million homeless. Sustaining the most damage were Tacloban and the islands of Leyte, where General McArthur landed during World War II.
Persita stands in front of her new home that was reconstructed by members of several local churches.
Pastor Pinagpala, the chair of the local pastor’s association, was chief administrator of the emergency relief sent by Christian Aid. The pastor was especially distressed by the storm’s impact on widows – mostly elderly grandmothers like Persita.
Many of these women still live exposed to the sun and storms nine months after the typhoon blew their houses away. Already living hand-to-mouth, there was no one to care for them.
But this scenario changed for Persita. Thanks to the love of local Christians and Christian Aid Mission donors, she now has a new roof just in time for the monsoon rains. Every August massive hurricanes begin to form in the Pacific and several usually make it through Luzon and Leyte to the more sheltered islands of Palawan. Persita will be safe and dry as the storms pound ashore in August.
Persita’s house was rebuilt with the help of community volunteers from several local churches that joined together to replace the roof and walls of her home. The American aid, used to buy sheet metal roofing, prompted the churches of Busuanga to add their “sweat equity” to the project.
The outpouring of support in response to the storm continues, and Pastor Pinagpala is trying to organize long-term assistance to help the widows. Pinagpala wants to enable them to stay in their homes and communities, but for some an assisted care facility is needed.
There is no group home, nursing home, or elder care facility on the island. Without it, some of the widows face neglect and early death. A typical “bahay kubo” or “balay” nipa hut could be constructed to provide assisted care for less than $20,000.
During their tour of the relief efforts, Ivy and Bill interviewed 19 of the 29 pastors who are rebuilding there using matching “micro-gifts” from Christian Aid Mission. The pastors and missionaries were deeply moved when the Brays told them many of the widows being helped in this aid distribution are receiving help from other poor widows in America.
There is wide consensus among the pastors regarding who are the most needy churches and widows, so the aid has been distributed carefully to several rural areas—spreading the impact of the help and encouragement.
For Ivy, the storm hit very close to home. Her family comes from Cavite on the northern island of Luzon. She was born and raised in Manila, but she has family in the region and knows the situation in Palawan intimately. The Brays have made several previous visits to Palawan and participated in outreach meetings there among the many tribal groups that make up the population.
Like many fishermen in their storm-tossed coastal village, Persita’s son was eager to return to work.
Palawan is in many ways a tropical paradise. The cluster islands are sheltered west of Leyte and the city of Tacloban. They were practically wiped off the map by the intense winds and flooding from Haiyan. The city and surrounding province grabbed most of the news media attention and the lion’s share of the aid which poured into the Philippines.
Aid came from overseas Filipinos, charities, and government agencies around the world. Americans were especially generous, but little of the aid trickled out to the hundreds of tiny islands affected by the storm in Palawan.
Despite the beauty of the islands, poverty is endemic and severe. Although the mandated minimum wage is a little less than $10 a day, most people in the rural islands subsist on under $1 a day.
Much of the trade is still based on a barter economy, so when a storm like Haiyan hits, there is very little capital available for construction materials, especially cement, sheet metal, and cinderblock.
Christian Aid will continue to assist local ministries that are providing construction materials to rebuild homes and churches and sharing the love of Jesus Christ with the hurting. Some of the gospel workers lost their homes in the storm too, yet they can proclaim these words of hope to their neighbors: “I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:2, KJV).