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Recapping First CGR Volunteer Teams to Philippines

Recapping First CGR Volunteer Teams to Philippines

COCHRANE—Typhoon Haiyan, known as Yolanda by Filipino locals, devastated Southeast Asia in November 2013. With winds reaching 315 km/h, the category five super typhoon killed over 6,300 people in the Philippines alone, striking Tacloban city the hardest.

Canadian Global Response partners were activated, with disaster response teams responding quickly on the ground. Donors gave generously towards CGR disaster relief and our annual gift catalogue, and a two-to-one matching donation program through the Canadian Government helped increase efforts.

In December 2014, Typhoon Hagupit wrecked havoc in the already disaster-ridden area, prompting a group of Alberta volunteers from Pathway Church in Calgary and Bow Valley Baptist in Cochrane to help rebuild houses and host a basketball camp for Filipinos impacted by the storms. Two teams formed, and fourteen volunteers were sent out during February 23-March 14, 2015.

Working alongside locals, the teams completed three houses and started a forth and fifth. Post boltholes were drilled and fastened on these last two, which will be finished by the Filipino workers. As volunteers put up walls of the first house for a young family with three boys, a local worker translated the mother’s gratitude: “She feels really blessed that we are here and that we are helping to provide secure shelter for her and her family, as right now they live in a small shack made out of tin with her father. She said she’s happy to finally have a roof over their heads so that when it rains her things don’t get wet.”

One of the team members shared, “This has been a wonderful experience. It was one thing to hear what happened with the typhoon on the news and another to see it with my own eyes. The Filipino people are strong and resilient. Despite the tragedy they have experienced they continue to smile and rebuild their lives.”

“It’s been too short!” said Joel McGraw from Bow Valley, thankful of the time and progress on the houses he and other teammates experienced. Both teams dealt with rains and storms caused by a dry spell, which at times temporarily halted work. Joel shared that especially in the last couple days, “Everything was running really smoothly. It was hard to leave that rhythm.”Good camaraderie was felt as, “Almost everyone has known each other for a long time, so the team was tight knit.

Sara Ruiz of Pathway mentioned, “Spending time talking and getting to know the local families we were working with,” were some of her most enjoyable moments, and “Despite how little they had, they always wanted to make us food and get us anything we needed.”

Apart from the Filipinos’ resiliency, Sara shared the team interacted with and saw, “People emotionally hurt by their circumstances but [were] optimistic for a better future. They were thankful beyond words and their gratitude for our teams and the help of Canadians was evident by their smiles, hugs, and tears… It was hard to leave knowing there is still so much need. Knowing this we have come home with a desire to let Canadians know that our help is still needed.”

“Damo nga salamat!” (Filipino:“Many thanks!”) to the volunteers who initiated and made these disaster relief efforts a reality. For creative ways in how you and your organization can partner with CGR initiatives, please visit our online volunteer pages for ideas and contact us for additional information.

Anyone wishing to respond to future relief efforts in the Philippines can help by donating to CGR’s Hagupit Typhoon fund through the donation button below, or selecting other giving options on our donation page.

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Photos: Tim Wuthrich, Sara Ruiz, & Joel McGraw in Tacloban, February 23-March 14, 2015