4,000 bags of relief goods, 500 bags of hygiene kits, 100 tent materials, more than 400 Mormon Helping Hands volunteers, close to 2,000 man-hours of service, 300 toilet bowls, medicine kits, kitchen utensils and wares, clean-up operations in schools and facilities, partnerships with NGOs and opening of meetinghouse doors as evacuation centers equal service in action. Typhoon Pablo may have cast its shadowy gloom over affected areas in Mindanao but hope filled the hearts of many as volunteers toiled and as people slowly rebuilt their lives after the devastation.
LDS Charities, once again extended help to areas affected by typhoon Pablo. An emergency response fund was released immediately by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in order to respond to the needs of the people after the ferocious typhoon hit parts of Mindanao.
On December 12, a total of 70 Mormon Helping Hands volunteers from Davao Philippines Stake (diocese) gathered at the Claveria meetinghouse in Davao to repack rice, canned goods and other necessities for distribution to Monkayo, Compostela Valley, Veruella and Trento in Agusan del Sur.
At noon on Dec 13, another team of volunteers from Davao travelled 6 hours to get to Veruella in Agusan Del Sur to distribute relief goods to the residents of Bgy Sinubong while another team from the local area of Sinubong was mobilized to distribute claim stubs to families from the different puroks. People in the community eagerly waited for the arrival of the much needed help.
A week and a day after the typhoon, many homes were still left desolate due to flash floods. Livelihoods were affected as acres upon acres of Falcata trees were knocked down. It will take ten years for farmers to begin harvesting again from this top earner in the region. Banana, coconut and palm oil trees were uprooted and expected revenue lost.
Compostela Valley was one of the many areas badly hit by typhoon Pablo. Many government and basic services in the area were paralyzed since the municipal building and other structures were literally left roofless. One wouldn’t know how or where to start picking up after the devastation.
In the midst of this overwhelming task at hand, more than 50 able-bodied and willing men, ages 12 and above from Davao Stake (diocese), volunteered to travel 67 kilometers to reach out to the victims. They felt compassion for typhoon Pablo survivors as they passed through uprooted trees, damaged dwellings, ruined agricultural lands and crops and as children reached out to passing vehicles begging for alms. Despite a scorching afternoon and a delay in the trip due to a bus engine failure, their enthusiasm to reach Monkayo didn’t falter. Finally, after 4 hours of travel, they arrived at the site. After they were briefed and given safety tips, they were grouped into four – each having a team leader.
The volunteers camped for the night at the Monkayo meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Dressed in their Mormon Helping Hands vests, they began to cheerfully clean the Monkayo Gym and the Monkayo National High School at 6 am on December 15. They also chopped trees that encumbered the grounds of the school. Metal sheets and debris were gathered and loaded in the town’s dump truck for disposal. By noon, the area was spotless. At the end of the day, the tools used were donated and turned over to the municipal officer in charge.
The following days after were marked with more distribution of food and hygiene kits, medicine and kitchen utensils, toilet bowls for Cateel, portable tents, kitchen utensils and wares, rental of chainsaws to cut down trees and logs as well as more man-hours of service by other Mormon Helping Hands volunteers.
Also, at the height of the typhoon and right after, many families gathered in the Church meetinghouses since these were able to withstand the beating of Pablo. The structural integrity was without question due to the high standard of its quality of construction.
Many of LDS Charities’ partnering NGOs requested help from Mormon Helping Hands volunteers since they were already aware of the ready service extended by the group particularly during the initial emergency response and distribution of relief goods. Recently, volunteers from Bislig went out to help Catholic Relief Services in its distribution of water and hygiene kits, and more volunteers are enlisted to join as they continue with their water, sanitation and hygiene cluster program.
LDS Charities and Catholic Relief Services partnered previously in building more than 700 temporary and permanent shelters in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan after typhoon Sendong hit these areas in December 2011.
A member of the Church, a child aged 7 years old, was one of the casualties of typhoon Pablo, while two children, ages 3 and a 3-month-old baby, remain missing until this time.
Each year, millions of people are impacted by floods, earthquakes, typhoons and other disasters. In these desperate circumstances, quick response is often the difference between life and death.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathers donations of food, clothes, medical supplies, and relief items for distribution on short notice, thus enabling the Church to respond immediately in times of emergency. In addition to providing materials, the Church also helps with funds and volunteers. LDSCharities, the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is an application of the admonition of Jesus Christ to help others in need.