When the typhoon first hit, I knew that many of our staff would need money to have their homes rebuilt. So I immediately started our typhoon relief fund, hoping to help with the worst of the destruction. I honestly thought that, if we were lucky, we would maybe raise a few thousand dollars and be able to help the worst hit, but the amount quickly spiraled and everyone has been astounded by the incredible generosity of our donors. I am now sure that we have enough to rebuild every staff member’s home to at least the standard it was before, and we should have plenty left to help with other homes and community projects.
Once I had the money, I was left with another problem. Simply saying that I want to rebuild “everyone’s homes” in the aftermath of the typhoon is one thing, but suddenly having the money to build 50+ houses is a completely different matter! I am a dive shop owner, not a builder or relief worker! And as the days went by, it became apparent that there were many considerations including making sure funds are fairly distributed, ensuring nothing is misappropriated, finding the best prices and making our money go as far as possible. But I have encountered many challenges since moving to the Philippines 10 years ago, and so I knew it was do-able!
Everyone is in a different situation and has different needs. We decided it would be a waste of your donations to take the easy route and simply to give away a fixed amount of materials to each person. So we will assign materials based on need. We spent some time looking into options and have now completed Phase 1 of our Rebuilding Malapascua Plan of Action!
Candice (from the UK) and Xesus (from Spain) arrived on Malapascua only 2 weeks before the typhoon to take up their new positions at TSD as Assistant Manager and PADI Instructor respectively. They certainly weren’t expecting to walk straight into a typhoon relief operation but they have definitely taken it in their stride!
The timing of Xesus’ arrival was perfect, as he is, by trade, an architect. So we put him to work on what we hoped would be an interesting project. Along with other volunteers (including Matt Bjerregaard, from the UK, who used to live here and knows the local community well) they have spent the last few days evaluating staff houses to find out exactly what each person needs to rebuild. It was certainly a daunting task, but once the roads were clear, and the weather had improved, they set off around the island. It was made a lot harder given there are no roads, cars, street names or house numbers and that they didn’t yet know the island or many of the people. Also, the temperature was a minimum 36°C, and most of the island’s shade was destroyed in the typhoon; it is so hot right now that the island almost seems to be absorbing and radiating heat outwards.
Nevertheless, they went around to everyone single staff member’s house and carefully checked what was needed. Now we can make sure people get the correct amount of building materials, not too much and not too little, and your donations will be best spent.
It was a real experience for Candice and Xesus, both so new to the island, but at every home they were met with smiles and the hospitality that is so typical of the people of Malapascua. Everyone was very excited and most grateful. And what better way to get to know all the staff?
We had been told that all our staff were now okay for housing, but “okay” to them apparently means something different than “okay” to us. As our team started making the rounds, it became apparent that some people were still in dire need of a better form of emergency shelter. Those that were most affected have set up very basic, temporary homes using salvaged materials including those taken from all the destruction at TSD. But it is often not nearly enough, even for a short amount of time. Some have only small pieces of tarp or coverings full of holes that leak in the rain. One had a piece of 2m x 2m tarp to shelter 5 people. Others have moved in with relatives – including one living in a room with 21 other people. There simply isn’t anywhere undamaged and there is nowhere on the island that can accommodate the volume of displaced people.
So first thing to do as a “quick fix” was to bring in many rolls of tarpaulin as possible so we could at least provide cover. Store shelves are emptying as quickly as they are stocked in, so this has not been easy. We generally just find one or two rolls here and there, and the price is going up week by week. But we managed to get enough for all the most needy staff and so at least they have something as an interim measure to protect against the rain and sun.
As for proper rebuilding, everyone’s needs vary vastly; some only require a piece of metal roofing and a few nails, but many desperately need their entire home replaced.
But, finally (hooray!), we have been to every single house and have a rather scary shopping list for all their materials to get their homes back to the way they were before the typhoon. Amongst many other things this includes around 1000 pieces of lumber (10 various sizes), 350 pieces of metal roofing (5 different sizes), and 150kg nails (5 different sizes).
Now we need source and cost these materials as quickly as we can which is a no mean feat when you consider how much reconstruction is taking place right now across the whole of the Philippines.
The next concern will be the logistics of transport. Transport costs to the Maya pier could really add up. And once it arrives on Malapascua, all our deliveries unload straight on the beach. There is no pier and there are no cars or trucks, everything needs to be hand carried, so moving these heavy, bulky items to each building site, particularly the ones over the hills, will be our next challenge.
So lots to think about and plan for.
Sadly the process isn’t as quick as we had hoped for – we wish more than anything we could place 50 combined online orders at Amazon.com and specify a next day, door-to-door delivery but sadly that is impossible 🙂
If you can bear with us we will keep you updated with progress as much as our limited time and very patchy Wi-Fi will allow! But we hope very soon to start showing you photos of the building progress!
And if you haven’t already, please consider donating to our fund!