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ShelterBox Kiwi helps remote communities in Philippines

Media Release

19th February 2014

ShelterBox Kiwi helps remote communities in Philippines


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Photo shows: ShelterBox NZ SRT Owen Smith with the teams translator, Luncia Tragura and her grandson. Leyte, Philippines, February 2014.

Over 100 days on since Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, ShelterBox continues to help bring shelter and other vital aid to assist communities in some of the most remote areas, like the inland municipality of Dagami on the island of Leyte.

Dagami has received a great deal less international attention than Leyte’s coastal areas, like Tacloban. It directly lies in the path that the typhoon took as it tore its way through the Visayas islands. Subsequently there are parts of the municipality that are difficult to reach and have had little or no assistance with many communities still being unable to meet their own basic needs. 

ShelterBox Response Teams (SRTs) have been exploring these isolated areas looking for vulnerable families or communities still needing help. SRT volunteer and Rotarian Owen Smith from Kerikeri in New Zealand, and Phil Wheeler from the UK found Luncia Tragura and her grandson Joseph in the small village of Bolirao.

‘The local people of Bolirao told us about a lady who was caring for her teenage grandson on their land about 1 km from the village and they showed us the way,’ said Phil. ‘We found ourselves walking down a single track path into the paddy fields, stepping over hundreds of felled coconut trees.’

Extremely precarious shelter
When Phil and Owen reached the home of Luncia Tragura and her grandson Joseph it was immediately obvious that they were living in extremely precarious shelter.
‘The strong winds and heavy rains that the storm brought had left them with nothing,’ said Owen. ‘Their neighbours had helped them put together a ramshackle coco-leaf structure, complete with twisted corrugated iron roof salvaged from the storm wreckage.’
The family had been unable to help themselves, as Joseph had suffered from meningitis at the age of two, and was left with impaired speech, movement, and an inability to use his right arm. Now at the age of 18, Joseph is in grade six, coming to the end of his primary education. Luncia has raised him since his mother died in childbirth 14 years ago, and earns her income by labouring in the village. At 78 years old, she earns 100 Philippine pesos (US$2.50) a day, and could not afford to rebuild the home that had been the product of a lifetime’s earning.

‘We knew, of course, that we had to help them with a ShelterBox,’ continued Phil. ‘In fact, it was one of those moments when it is great to be part of a Response Team, proud of ShelterBox and proud to know that together we could make the Tragura’s difficult existence considerably better. We promised that we would return with a ShelterBox and set it up for them.’

The next afternoon, Owen and Phil returned with a ShelterBox and set up the disaster relief tent. Luncia cried.
Found a good home for the box’
‘She could not believe what was in front of her,’ added Owen. ‘As we showed her the kitchen set, the groundmats and the blankets, a huge and irrepressible smile broke out. She thanked us profusely while our translator tried to explain the box came from donors all over the world. Luncia had no idea what the solar lights in the box were but Joseph picked one up and found the adjustable brightness within seconds. We knew we had found a good home for the box.'
The family told the team the story of the night of the typhoon, and how they had run to the village school to hide, and returned five days later to an empty plot of land. 

‘No more snakes’
‘They asked us to tell their story to the world, so that other people would be able to receive the same help,’ said Phil. ‘They told us they would feel safer in the tent than they had since the night of the storm, as thanks to the sealed zips there would be no more snakes sharing their sleeping space, a wholly unexpected benefit from our point of view! We headed back to the road, knowing that our hour had been well spent, and drove on through the devastation to our next meeting.’

ShelterBox has provided shelter to over 5,000 families across various islands in the Philippines since Typhoon Haiyan hit in November 2013 and continues to help communities in need, all thanks to Rotary International and your support. Thank you.  www.shelterbox.org.nz/

ENDS

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