Many hands make light work

9 Jan 2014   |   Blog   |   Emergency Relief   |   Philippines

Tags:  humanitarian aid, typhoon haiyan, emergency response, caritas, Cebu   |   No comments

Workers load plastic tarps onto a truck bound for an emergency shelter distribution.

It was heartening to see the great spirit, enthusiasm and fun that all had in doing the job...”

Late last year, Melville Fernandez from Caritas Australia’s Humanitarian and Emergencies team, travelled to Cebu in the Philippines as part of the Caritas network’s emergency response to Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the lives of millions of people across the Philippines.

He shares his experience with us:

After arriving in Cebu in the Philippines, I joined members of the Caritas Emergency Response Support Team from around the world – Mark Mitchell from Caritas New Zealand, and Catherine Cowley and Janet Crossley from CAFOD (Caritas UK). 28,000 tarpaulins had arrived in Cebu a few days back, and the plan was for us to join the trucks carrying the tarps to affected areas.

We went straight to the warehouse where the supplies were being loaded onto trucks. There I was pleasantly surprised to meet Mr Yudi, a logistician from CRS (Caritas USA) who I had worked with during the emergency response for Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008. Today, he was taking stock of the tarps for the Haiyan response, and he said that the scale of this typhoon was definitely frightening.

With the trucks loaded with emergency tarps, we began our journey to the affected areas – one truck would be travelling to Samar, and the other to North Cebu. Mark was at the wheel of our truck, and we set off following the truck driven by Sister Mapet, a Daughter of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, who was the administrator in-charge for NASSA (Caritas Philippines).

Arriving four hours later than planned due to traffic mishaps, we reached our destination at around 6pm. Though we were late, it was heartening to see the students of the school in Bogo City, in the northeast of Cebu, all ready and pumped to help unload the emergency tarps and toolkits.

Most of the school students came from families who had been badly affected by the typhoon. The school assembly hall was also damaged by the typhoon, but it was still selected as a place to store the emergency items since there were some security personnel employed on the premises.

In the interest of returning back to Cebu earlier following our late arrival, Mark jumped into action along with the students to unload the trucks. After a brief, but interesting discussion with Sisters of the Congregation, we also joined in to help unload the tarps. It took a solid hour to complete the task, but it was heartening to see the great spirit, enthusiasm and fun that all had in doing the job, despite the profuse sweating! All stock was carefully unloaded and stacked in the school hall, without any mishap in the slippery conditions. The tarps will be distributed to families within the next day or two to assist with emergency shelter and household needs.

Many hands make light work. The cooperation and enthusiasm quickened the whole process. After thanking the students, and having a quick chat, we set off and returned back to our base within two hours.

As part of the international Caritas network's response, Caritas Australia is directly helping 93,000 families in the Philippines affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan.

Find out more and support the Typhoon Haiyan Appeal »

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