Days turn into weeks and weeks into months and families are still living under tarps trying to make life work. Living out in the elements, cooking outside, no electricity, no running water no bathroom facilities huddled together with extended family members they are finding ways to make life work in the midst of their new reality. It’s amazing how enduring the human spirit is to survive! Humanitarian Aid Groups have come through and given out food as best they can but as time goes on more and more of them are disappearing and moving on to new disaster zones. Our hotel, the Dao Diamond bustling with people all last month is now a ghost town.
We sent our first construction crew over to Ormoc, Leyte after arranging to have construction materials purchased and delivered to the dock. However, the dock has been inundated with relief aid and no one can find anything, including our supplies! The crew took what they could find and made their way out to our dorm and classroom. With welder in hand they started working with what they had. Then the welder burned up and they were left with no welder, no metal and no way to get any parts or supplies in a Typhoon ravaged area. Trying to help and rebuild is not as simple as just showing up and making it happen. It takes a lot of problem solving skills and thinking outside the box. Luckily our newest volunteer, Circus is the perfect man for the job. Last report was they were able to find a part to repair the welder and they finally found at least our truss material down at the pier so can start rebuilding the superstructure for the roofs. The corrugated metal sheeting is still missing so our team is busy scavenging for the least damaged pieces of tin roofing that are laying all over the ground in the city to scab together a roof and keep the rain out.
We were able to get a tent set up in Loon to use as classrooms so the kids can get back to school. The Department of Education in Loon provided tents for the hearing kids but not for the Special Education Classes.
We received some new structural engineering fixes from Duane Hillabush to help us safely stabilize our damaged classrooms in Sagbayan so the kids there can get back to class as well. Still, this fix to take weeks to complete and lack of man power is an issue. The students are currently trying to learn under tents that are extremely hot come mid-afternoon. We are in the process of purchasing some thatch roofing to change out the tarp roofs to make a cooler environment for the kids. We also found out the deep well at the Sagbayan dormitory quit working because the earthquake filled the 100 foot deep well with 15 feet of mud, burying the pump. Luckily our shop workers were able to pull it up out of the mud and get it working again.
Brian Hillabush has taken the list of employees who lost their homes and is going out to do site visits and assess the needs of each family. Some need a complete house and help with demolition of damaged homes and others just need a wall or two replaced. Each site brings its own set of struggles in debris removal, getting trucks up motorcycle trails to deliver materials, and trying to get enough GPS coordinates to even find the homes since there are no street signs. All of this while trying to navigate communication issues between English, Visiyan and Sign Language. It’s like most of the Philippines, it’s a big problem that needs a solution with no infrastructure to handle it. Never a dull moment!
And in the midst of all of this it’s Christmas! With 443 students still anxiously hoping for Christmas to come as usual the Deaf Wellness Division Staff are checking the wish lists and planning to get shopping done for gifts and planning parties for each dorm. We are hoping the lure of gifts and a party will convince the kids and parents that it’s safe to come back to school. This year more than ever these kids need some celebration. The celebration that we’re all still alive!