It’s hot in the small day care centre where the meeting is being held. Her legs are cramped under the tiny green tables made for toddlers. She is tired from fetching water that morning, although with school finished for the year the children were able to help. It’s more fun when the kids are helping, even though it’s a round trip of four kilometres every time they need water. However, she wanted to come to this meeting because it’s being conducted by a representative of the non-government organisation (NGO) that gave her family a pedicab*, which has made fetching water easier after the typhoon.
There used to be a well in the centre of town but it has been broken since Typhoon Haiyan hit. Wells in three neighbouring communities are also broken. For the past 15 months every family has had to carry water since the worst typhoon the Philippines has ever experienced destroyed their homes, school, churches, coastal fishing grounds, fish ponds, reef and coconut trees. Many NGOs came to help the government after the typhoon. That’s the reason for this meeting: workers from one of the NGOs want to talk to the people helped by their projects. But some things take years to fix and some things will never be the same again.
I will work hard to use the skills I have learned and the equipment I was given because I want my children to have a better future and I want to be able to provide more for them.
Because of this meeting, and another one about family development afterwards, she couldn’t travel to a neighbouring coastal area today to buy fish to sell. Her husband goes fishing each night but they only catch one or two kilograms of fish now, barely enough to eat let alone sell to buy rice and meet school expenses for her children. The fish supply seems a bit better up the coast, so two or three times a week she hires a motorbike and buys several kilograms of fish to re-sell in different communities in the area.
Everything was destroyed and they were relying on government handouts and making charcoal from fallen coconut trees for months after the typhoon. The NGO helped her with basic equipment and some cash to buy her first few kilograms of fish to get restarted as a fish vendor. It also helped her with bookkeeping training so she knows how much money she is making now. It provided information on forming a savings and loan group in her community.
The NGO representative talks about working with them to learn about different small businesses so they don’t have to rely on selling fish. She is really excited about that and looking forward to learning more. Then the representative asks a question: “What are your plans for the future?” Everyone is silent. Most days it’s enough to just focus on finding food or cash to feed the children and pay the bills. It’s hard to think about the future, and hard to hope that it might be better. In the silence she feels her heart start to beat faster and she is surprised she wants to say something. In the quiet that has settled in the room she clears her throat: “I will work hard to use the skills I have learned and the equipment I was given because I want my children to have a better future and I want to be able to provide more for them.” There are tears in her eyes.
The NGO representative stops writing in her notebook. There are tears in her eyes too. Outside the children are laughing as they play, climbing the fence and pedalling around in the pedicabs.
*A pedicab is a small push bike with a simple side car attachment that can carry passengers or small amounts of cargo.
Typhoon Haiyan swept through the central Philippines on November 8, 2013, causing more than 6000 deaths and displacing 4 million people. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) responded with various projects. This story is based on interviews Michelle Abel conducted with women who benefited from an ADRA project that provided help in re-establishing livelihoods after the typhoon.