Day 2: Preparing for Typhoon Haiyan

Today we share the blog entry of our Director, from November 6th, 2013:

“I am writing you tonight in haste, as I try to digest the day’s chaos and get things in order for the coming days. We are currently preparing for Typhoon Yolanda, which is due to hit our region of the Philippines within the next 48 hours.

The Municipal Office of Palo notified Volunteer for the Visayans this afternoon that the Cangumbang Center will be fully utilized as an evacuation center during the ensuing typhoon and subsequent flooding which awaits us. They had a disaster planning meeting all afternoon and we are hoping to get an update from them in the morning regarding any assistance they need from us.

Although they advised VFV and myself to wait to bring supplies to the center and instruct the community members, I couldn’t bring myself to fully trust their swift response so I took the necessary measures to allow me to sleep soundly at the very least.

As soon as work was over Carter and I squeezed through the aisles of the local grocery store stuffing a cart full of candles, matches, canned goods, and supplies needed at the center. After we waited in a line a mile long, my boss drove us to my apartment to fill up a collection of old water jugs we have been meaning to throw out (guess they were meant for something!). We filled up 8 jugs and then headed to Cangumbang.

The children were texting me all afternoon so they were aware I was coming and anxious to be consoled and reassured that everything would be OK. As soon as I opened the car door they swarmed me with worried squeals and hugs.

We took all the supplies upstairs and I explained to our caretaker Tatay Tefimo that he will have complete control over the supplies and keys to the center, and we need him to initiate any use of the supplies and the center when he sees fit. He is an older man, just over 60, with two teenage children so the evacuation procedures of his own home are routine and easy in comparison to many others. His son helped translate and once we were on the same page I moved on to some of the worried children.

My group of teen-aged translators and liaisons with their parents generation asked lots of questions of what they could bring and what they should do, and again after settling their hearts I was off to the next level…my two little boys. I gave Jon-Jon and John Joseph big hugs and a kiss and told them everything would be fine.

I spoke with Nanay Elay on the way out to make sure she too was aware of all the expectations since she acts as such a wise woman for the whole community.

In the end, I know if things are bad and I want to bring supplies to Cangumbang, I can always go directly to the Municipal Office and request usage of their boat to deliver them. But still I am concerned for their safety and preparedness. And also for the sake of the recent harvest, I hope the floods don’t reach the expected height. All of the families currently have highly valuable sacks of rice in their homes waiting to be sold or consumed which will be destroyed if the flood consumes them.

Estimates range from 2 meters to over 4 meters in depth. Our center sits just a smidgen above 4 meters. Please send your thoughts and prayers to the People of Cangumbang and to the Ark itself. This is a major test for the center.

At this moment I am more thankful for the donors than ever…”