On November 8, 2013, the typhoon Yolanda disfigured most of the paradise island of Bantayan. Thousands of families flew the rains of stones and the collapses of their houses by finding shelter in schools. It took 3 hours of Yolanda to leave eternal scars in the hearts and minds of Bantayan people.
It took only minutes for a classroom exactly like this one to turn into rubbles. Dozens of children, their parents and their grand parents had just enough time to flee to the next room before Yolanda blew their refuge.
A year after, what are the most urgent needs of the victims of Yolanda? A resilient roof, the uttermost protection.
Abigail (11 y.o.) is studying in Talangnan Elementary School. Like her friends Julie Anne (12) and Rensi (16), she bears the 8 Nov 2013 as the most traumatic event of her life.
“With my 7 brothers and sisters, and my parents, we stayed in the school. We were so scared, the noise was terrible and everything was falling, everywhere. It lasted forever. Even the boys were crying and shouting. Our building collapsed so we had to run to the next one, I was so scared I could not walk”. For days, Abigail and the hundred of children who were stuffed in the temporary shelter had nothing to eat but bananas, coconuts, sardines and leftover of rice.
“My house had vanished, all that was left was the flooring. I was so sad. So sad.” Rensi is trying hard to hold in his tears. He stared at his feet and would not look at me. I could feel the lump growing in his throat at the end of each sentence. “I have 7 brothers and sisters and my Mum is the only adult. I don’t have a Dad, so I am responsible for them. I held them, protected them the best I could. No, I did not cry. I prayed. All the time I prayed”.
Julie Anne’s story conveys the same fears, the same anxiety, the same losses. A year after the typhoon, you would think that those 3 devastating hours belong to the past. But when you ask those kids what they would love Santa to bring them, they all shout the same present “a house with a solid roof”.
Ian Barco is one of the carpenters employed by the Swiss organization. See the lola on the left of the picture below? That‘s his mother. She was very sick when Yolanda hit her place.
“My son carried me all the time. I kept on telling him to leave me to take care of his young family, but he never let me down.” She can not hide her tears, the trauma is still so vivid. If her son has managed to somehow fix her house, she is still very scared of the thunder and the heavy rains. “A resilient roof is all I need”, she cries.
Now, all the schools must be typhoon and earthquake proof.
The teachers from Malbago Elementary School want just the same: protection for their families and their schools to be all typhoon and earthquake proof. “Who can say that Yolanda will not happen again? We need to be prepared”.
“Caritas had stand by us since the beginning. Their assistance was crucial in answering the essential needs of all those families: food, water, hygiene kits”, recalls Mrs. Elsa Ribo, one of the teachers from Malbago Elementary School. “They are still helping by us, building better and more protective schools. Building in which we all feel really safe”.
Caritas Head of Mission, Marcel Reymond, adds: “Our mission goes beyond the mere construction of schools destroyed by Yolanda. We are building back safer, as all our schools are typhoon and earthquake proof. We are training all the carpenters and masons working with us so to all those new techniques”.
Protecting the schools means more than protecting the right to education. In Bantayan notably, they must also be protected from the violence of natural disasters:
It is vital for children. And for their loved ones.