“The un-tombing of Tacloban. The stripping away of all we hold precious, leaves only what is truly, which is life in its most elemental form. The land, the sea, the sky and the child playing among it all”
From the book ‘Yolanda’ by William Shaw.
Just a little over two years ago the lives of the people in the central region of the Philippines was changed forever. Yolanda/Haiyan slashed through the middle of the Islands, the strongest typhoon ever recorded in the history of the world, leashed its fury on the people of Leyte, Samar, Cebu and IloIlo, devastating their land, homes, livelihoods and worst of all, for many their lives (it is estimated that more than 8000 people lost their lives), about 3 million homes were destroyed.
Mums and Dads are still aching for the babies and children; children are aching for their Mums and Dads, their brothers and sisters, their grandparents their friends. Many of them have shelter again and slowly businesses are being established, new livelihoods are formed but fear and sadness is still their constant companion.
We see them laugh, we see them smile as they bravely continue the journey of their live, but when we talk and when something reminds them of those days, the tears still flow.
I met David and Mick 2 years ago when they were searching for a place to build an adventure playground. We were busy rebuilding 100 homes and many class-rooms in Daanbantayan, Cebu and we enjoyed working with Mayor Augusto Corro in Daanbantayan so we suggested building the playground there. It was a tremendous success and seeing the children laugh and play made all the hard work and sweat (it was hot!) so worthwhile.
Tacloban in Leyte was the next natural choice when David and Mick asked me for a place for a second adventure playground. Having worked with Jeff Long at Kids International Ministries in Tacloban I knew the next place would be right at his school where neighborhood children gather to play. Mick who works for Playdale in the UK started to collect playground equipment whenever he had a chance to get something from a playground that was up-graded or changed. Mick collected so much that not just one but two playgrounds could be built. The Daniel Z Romualdez Memorial (DZRM) Elementary School became the next beneficiary.
A 40 foot container was sent in August 2015 to bring all the equipment and tools, 45 sets of computers from Germany were added (plus many additional parts) and more than 3000 shoeboxes containing gifts for young children. Stephan Schmitz’s team from Amtrak facilitated the release from custom and donated the transport from Manila to Tacloban. (This is a lot harder than it sounds; try to import a 40 foot container of donated goods in to the Philippines…) In Tacloban everything was stored at Kids International Ministries “KIM” until the team arrived. The shoeboxes from Rotary Club in the UK with gifts were distributed to schoolchildren before Christmas. The delight was priceless that we saw in the children’s eyes when they opened their boxes and find all these little gifts lovingly prepared by children from the UK. It is such a wonderful way to make a little child feel that someone cares and gives them something they can call their very own.
On February 9th 2016 David and Mick arrived with their team of 4 teachers and 34 students from The Sholing Technology College in Southampton, England. Springboard sent Gavin, our new full time volunteer, to make sure everything would go smoothly, ahead with a small team and he stayed during the 10 days of the time the team was building. David managed the group as the head of the team, Mick was in charge of building the playgrounds and Gavin liaised with everyone. KIM helped with local purchases, cooked most meals, prepared the schools for the team, they took the team on sight seeing trips and tours around Tacloban. They also arranged pick up them from the airport and Jeff Long, the head of KIM personally checked in the team for the flight back to Manila. Managing a team of 14- to 19-year olds, keeping them on track and safe and put to good use must have required a great amount of organizing and patience. A big thank you to the entire team and to the parents who allowed the children to travel so far to do something so good.
Sweat, hard muscles and endurance was required to dig holes for foundations, carry and put together all the parts of the playground but seeing it all finished just in time for the handover to both the DZRM Elementary School and KIM must have been a great feeling for the hardworking crew and organizers. The students painted a mural over a probably 50 meters long wall depicting the horrors of the typhoon and the recovery of nature and people in the months that followed. The rain made it hard to finish the mural but KIM has the finished mural brightening the compound and the school could see a good beginning of it and has the inspiration to finish it using their own students as the artists to express the time of the typhoon and the recovery after.
You can find out here how our volunteer, Gavin got on at Tacloban.