Coconut palms are strewn across the small village of Bisleg after the storm that hit the Philippines in November 2013. Fishing boats and nets, which once brought an income to many families, are unuseable. Homes wiped away by Typhoon Haiyan have been replaced by makeshift shelters created from tin sheets and tarpaulin.
More than two months have passed since the typhoon. While the destruction from the storm continues to blight lives, gradually hints of normality are returning to Bisleg, which is 40km from Tacloban.
Children given a space to laugh, learn and play
SOS Children was quick to respond to the emergency in the Philippines, and understood the importance of children having a safe space in which they could play and learn. A child-friendly space was established in Bisleg, and has proved to be very popular with more than 400 children attending. Isabell, a mother of children who attends the centre said:
“My children, and sometimes even I, like to come here as this is a lively place. People are so nice, and we feel together. My two children love to be here as there is so much fun. This place [the child-friendly space] works as a school and day-care centre, but we need more space for the children as there are too many, and maybe some food for them.”
Despite difficult conditions, the SOS team in the Philippines have sought to support communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan and keep morale high. Emmanuel, a father of three, said:
“My children all come to the child-friendly space, as they love to be here. I like it because I can hear the children laugh and joke, and the people from SOS understand our difficulty. They are trying to help us, and so I want to be of help in any way that I can’’.
The community in Bisleg was at the forefront of SOS Children's initiatives. For example, the small wooden structure that houses the child-friendly space was set up by the local people. SOS Children's role was simply to facilitate and mobilise, ensuring that the Bisleg community had a sense of ownership over the recovery projects.
Women from the fishing village have formed a small support group, where they discuss family-related issues. One hot topic of discussion is how to rebuild their livelihoods. Before the typhoon struck, most families depended upon fishing and the making and selling of a drink extracted from palm leaves. Now that the boats, nets and coconut palms have been destroyed, opportunities are severely limited.
Although many people in the community know how to build boats, resources are lacking. SOS Children is helping the community to buy new boats and nets, so that fishing can resume along with some semblance of normality.
Hope on the horizon
Bisleg is home to over one hundred families, and headed by a woman councillor who is very keen to rebuild their village and work with SOS Children. The international President of SOS Children, Siddhartha Kaul, visited the area on 14 January during his two-day visit to Tacloban, and said:
“We have to give the people what they need because that is the real essence of humanitarian work. It is our responsibility to provide it immediately, to enable them to continue their lives.”
Mr Kaul asked the local mayor to identify land so that SOS Children can prepare to build permanent houses for the community. Hope is on the horizon that families and children in Bisleg will soon be able to regain their livelihoods.
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