Baptist Global Response
By Caroline Anderson
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Typhoon Haiyan rushed in and out of the Philippines at a break-neck speed on Nov. 7. Two weeks later, most of the major news agencies have moved on and the headline news has shifted to other areas of the globe.
Storm survivors, however, have only just started down the long road to recovery. They have lost family and friends, homes, belongings, and livelihoods.
Disaster recovery is a marathon, not a sprint -- and this one is just beginning, say Ben and Pam Wolf, the Asia Rim directors for Baptist Global Response.
“Every one of these marathons is different; the routes keep changing,” Ben Wolf said.
Though the race is long, Southern Baptists are in it for the long haul and are committed to helping rebuild communities in the central Philippines.
“That’s who Southern Baptists are,” Wolf said. “We don’t want to move from disaster to disaster, we want to impact the lives of people.”
RECOVERY, NOT JUST RELIEF
One of the biggest issues with disaster relief for Typhoon Haiyan is logistics. Coordinating travel between islands and the sheer number of communities in need of aid have presented challenges.
More than 13 million people were affected by the storm -- 4.4 million of them displaced, according to UN reports. More than 1 million homes were damaged or destroyed.
“We’re not just looking at short-term needs,” Wolf said. “We’re talking about years before it gets back to a semblance of normalcy.”
There is a need for long-term work and volunteers. They will need reconstruction teams, water teams, agriculture teams and livelihood and skills training teams.
“Southern Baptists have such a phenomenal network of people,” Wolf said. “Southern Baptists are people of compassion, but it’s compassion that’s more than just words, it’s compassion in action.”
The first team of Southern Baptists came from Texas and Missouri to provide rapid assistance to areas hit by the typhoon. A second team arrives this weekend to conduct disaster assessments and formulate response plans in the areas the rapid assistance team identified during their trip.
From a command center in Cebu City, relief supplies are being delivered to four areas: Gibitngil Island, Tabuealan (Mabunao), Poros Island and northern Panay. The distributions include food packages, hygiene kits, and tarpaulins.
Wolf said it’s not about Filipinos coming alongside what BGR is doing.
“We want to come alongside the Filipinos,” Wolf said. “Ultimately, it has to be their vision to be sustainable.”
STARTING FROM SCRATCH
Wolf said that poverty is the biggest issue for disaster relief in the Philippines.
“It compounds the disaster to the nth degree,” Wolf said. “They were living a hand-to-mouth existence. Now there is nothing to put in your mouth.”
Starting from scratch is intimidating, especially for a people who are used to living from day to day.
“They’re not looking down through the days and months … they are looking at how to feed their family that night,” Wolf said. “Transformation isn’t going to take place if they can’t look ahead.”
Wolf says that BGR wants to minister to the whole person. Ministering to the whole person means identifying needs and working toward healing.
“We have a kingdom responsibility to reach out and touch that hurt, that open nerve,” Wolf said. “It’s something that can’t be handled by remote control. We’ve got to be there.”
BGR teams are reaching out in far-flung areas of the Philippines, in villages where no one else is administering relief.
“It’s the presence of salt and light in those communities,” Wolf said.
Caroline Anderson is writing for BGR from the Philippines. To learn more about how you can help storm survivors, visit BGR’s Typhoon Haiyan project page.