Category Archives: The Philippines
The team are now hard at work in Iloilo city turning planning and assessments into action. After several days of assessing the needs of affected communities, we spent today buzzing around headquarters (the office of or partners ADPI) putting our plans into action.
The team are starting to feel tired from several long days in the field, but spirits remain high. As funds from donations to CBM start to come through, the team have begun focusing its efforts on arranging logistics to ramp up the relief efforts to those most in need.
I observed the team, both ADPI and CBM, working hard to turn the needs assessments into a relief program that will reach the most vulnerable in the communities, especially those people with disability.
The work isn’t easy, there is so much to organise. It seems that supplies in Iloilo city are already running low. There are volunteers to coordinate, food and other goods to procure and packages to assemble. And it all needs to be done urgently. ADPI’s dedication to the relief effort is inspiring!
It was with a tinge of sadness that I said farewell to the team today after an action-packed few days.
The CBM team is splitting in two. Willy and I headed back to Manila, while Gilbert and Ira remained in Iloilo city to support ADPI in their emergency relief efforts. One group photo and many farewell hugs later, I realise that the rapid assessment team had only been working together for four days, yet it felt like a lot longer.
Good luck to the team back there in Iloilo!
Today was the third day of the Rapid Needs Assessment and we visited the community of Estancia in the North East of Iloilo province in the Philippines. We started out at the crack of dawn with fish soup – while this was very different from my usual breakfast, I realised how blessed I was to even have food to eat.
The extent of the devastation in Estancia today was truly overwhelming.
It is hard to find the words to describe the scene of complete destruction. As far as the eye could see was total wreckage.
Every school we passed was roofless and classrooms were a shattered mess. The University was completely obliterated. Cars were pinned under collapsed roofs. No tree was left standing. In some places it seemed that only one in every ten houses remained. The destruction was almost unfathomable. Yet among the rubble, people greeted us warmly. They walked with us and shared their stories of the typhoon.
Over the past week our CBM team (Ira, Willy, Gilbert and myself) has joined forces with local partner the Association of Disabled Persons Incorporated (ADPI). ADPI strikes me as a force to reckon with. For the past 22 years they have been working with local government and people with disability to promote the rights of people with disability. With over 1000 members, their local networks are astonishing and in each community we are able to locate people with disability and find out what their needs are, thanks to their strong connections.
Annalyn from ADPI has taken up the task of being my interpreter, cultural guide, information officer, friend and technical advisor. Her wealth of knowledge, patience and dedication to the work continually astounds me. Chatting on the way home today, Annalyn shared a pearl of wisdom with the team:
“People feel that they are lucky to be alive. They have lost everything, but they will rebuild.”
This morning I was the rookie of the team and as we headed out for the second day of our rapid needs assessment, I was not sure what to expect. The further we drove towards our destination, the community of Concepcion, the worse the destruction got. The car was quiet as we witnessed the scenery turn from urban sprawl, to green rice fields, to a tangled mess of shattered houses, fallen power lines and uprooted trees. The devastation was clear – barely any house, land or tree had been spared, but it was hearing people’s stories that really hit home. We met with families, social workers, mayors and people with disability. No matter who they were, everyone had a story. For many, they talked about how afraid they were and how much they had lost. I felt humbled by their willingness to share their stories, and also by their high spirits. But the pain was raw and very real and for many it was too difficult to talk about the future.
The team told me that today was the first day it has not rained in Iloilo since the Typhoon hit five days ago. As the team headed home from a long day, I couldn’t help but notice that drying laundry hung everywhere. Littered among the rubble, draped along fallen tree trunks and hanging over fallen power lines were rows of clothes – from men’s shirts to tiny children’s clothes. It was a small piece of normality among a landscape of destruction. And in an odd way, I found it comforting. It was a reminder that in the aftermath of a crisis, we slowly go back to our simple tasks. One small task at a time.
For years, CBM has needed hard evidence on the economic impact of restoring vision, and now we have it.
A recently completed study in Kenya, Bangladesh and the Philippines showed that following a sight-restoring cataract operation, the average economic gain per family per year is £250. Not much by UK standards, but an awful lot of money for a Bangladeshi family.
It costs CBM about £20 to do one cataract surgery, so the return on investment is 1,500%!
In 2010, CBM and its local partners restored eyesight to 644,000 cataract blind people who would otherwise have remained blind, due to poverty. So a bit of maths shows that the global economic impact of CBM’s cataract surgical work comes in at about £160 million. Not bad at all!
Now, we have to get the message across to governments that restoring vision benefits their economies!