December 11, 2013

Update on Mercy in the Philippines

A month has passed since the terrible disaster in the Philippines. The generosity of the Mercy Global family has been outstanding and financial support continues to arrive into the Support Fund daily. With the money come many messages of appreciation, good wishes and prayers.

It is heartening to hear stories of Sisters’ kindness to many of the donors who now wish to return a kind deed in appreciation of the kindness they have experienced from Mercy. Others express their faith and trust in what Mercy does and feel that whatever they contribute will be put to very good use in the service of those in need.

Some say things are getting back to normal, but normal in the Philippines is still a long way off. The road to recovery is long and hard and it will take years before this Typhoon is history .Communication is still a challenge but these few snippets and photographs will convey something of the disaster.

On the day of the typhoon, when the waters reached 15 feet level inside the Convent , the Sisters in Tacloban escaped by using the piano and chairs to climb on to the roof. One sister was unable to climb but survived by swimming inside the convent for 4 hours, till the water subsided.

The Sisters lost most of their personal effects like shoes and clothes as a roof blew off and the strong winds took many items away.

The Holy Child School, College and Dormitories have been almost 100% destroyed and the Sisters do not foresee being able to resume any kind of education until January when they hope to have temporary classrooms in place.

In the meantime, they have places for some children in schools which are still standing, in the surrounding areas.

Part of the hospital has opened and a generator is in use from 6 pm to 8pm everyday and the staff are doing their best to assist the most urgent of cases.

General conditions
Food, water and diesel for the generator are in short supply. The food available consists of tinned goods and there is no access to vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, eggs or bread for now.

As yet Tacloban has little or no communication We can only imagine what the situation is like not to have roads , telephone or cyber access and to depend on a tin of sardines for ones daily sustenance.

With over 4000 deaths, grief and loss are common to many. Some have not yet found their lost family members. Many children are orphaned. The emotional and traumatic impact of this is even more devastating than the loss of buildings and supplies.

Another part of the Philippines that was hugely affected by the typhoon was Cebu. Here Sr. Sheila and Sr, Jen Jen of the Sisters of the Americas report on their experiences when she went out among the people:

We loaded up a truck with ten huge sacks of rice divided into about 24 plastic bags each with a can of sardines in each to be distributed to typhoon victims. We also had about 150 bags of cookies and bread pieces for the children, so they would have something to eat immediately. We set out on a three hour trip to northern Cebu, the van with some of us and a pickup with the rest and the food in the back. We finally landed in a very poor barrio where we just stopped on the side of the road and folks came running from all over. We did this in about three areas until the food was all gone. The people are so poor and the typhoon has not flattened their houses but blew off roofs or walls and trees fell all around. Because they did not lose everything they don't qualify for aid but they surely need help to eat and rebuild.
Jenjen talked to the people in two barrios (about 110 families) and asked what they needed, they said roofing aluminum and nails. Their own men can do the work themselves. So she now has a point person in each area and with the help of her cousins and our other sisters she will use some of the money donated to obtain the materials these families need . You should have seen the looks of gratitude on their faces, worth a million dollars and more. They are the forgotten ones and Mercy is there for them. What a privilege to have met the people and to have been part of this experience.

Jen Jen later reported:
I realized that many of them really lost the whole house, nothing is left. There is greater need than I could imagine. So many homeless in these areas. The more we go to the areas, the more needs are needing response.

The gratitude of the people is humbling. A Sister in Tacloban says
“When I gave a small street child a banana he said:GOD WILL BLESS YOU BECAUSE YOU LOVE US".

Some Mercy Sisters also form part of a group operating in Leyte. They are attending to relief distribution, medical services and psycho social intervention and are targeting 1500 families on this activity

Some Sisters are also helping in assessing other needs and hopefully will be able to identify the means of livelihood that some of these people will need to sustain them. Fishermen, for example whose boats were destroyed in the typhoon are now without a livelihood and need seed capital to buy or build new boats. This is true of many others as well – seeds and plants are needed to start new crops, tools and equipment to sow and harvest, basic household furniture and equipment to look after families.

Your support is helping to make all this possible. We are privileged to be the channel of your generosity to people in great need.

In thanking you, I use the words of one of our Philippine Sisters:
“May God enlarge your capacity for love. “

Messages to: Mary Reynolds rsm - Executive Director MIA


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