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Philippines: Rebuilding Houses, Rebuilding Lives

An urgent need: Typhoon Bopha, which hit the Philippine island of Mindanao in early December, damaged entire communities and left many people without proper shelter and housing. A WFP-supported Cash-For-Work project helps a community rebuild 50 destroyed houses, while at the same time strengthens the community’s bond.

Heavy rains, gusting winds, and suddenly, a loud rumble -- a huge palm tree had landed onto the house of Jerry Pawaon, a farmer from Davao Oriental, tearing a huge hole on one side. “I was scared to death,” his wife Rima recalls of the night of 4 December, when Typhoon Bopha (locally called Pablo) made landfall in Eastern Mindanao in the Philippines.

The Night Of The Storm
“We took our two little kids, Angela and Lorenz, and ran outside because we were worried the house could collapse,” Jerry says. A few minutes later, he and his family saw their roof carried away by the winds, and the remaining structure falling apart right after. The palm tree that hit their house in a little village near the town of Cateel in Davao Oriental province, one of the most heavily affected areas from the typhoon, had turned out to be a lifesaver. It was the tree that made them leave their house, and it was the same tree that provided them with at least some shelter. Drenched in rain and tears, they spent what could be the hardest night of their lives hiding below the trunk of that fallen tree.

Destroyed grounds after typhoon

Relief Arrived Quickly
The next morning, standing amid the wreckage of what had been their home, they collected some debris and wood from the surrounding areas to build themselves a small makeshift house while waiting for relief from the government. Jerry, his wife, and the two kids soon began receiving food from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). "We lost everything, so I am very grateful for the relief food we receive,” he says. “And now we are even able to rebuild our own house,” he adds. 

Rebuilding Houses
Aside from receiving food relief, Jerry is also engaged in one of WFP’s Cash-For-Work projects, currently being supported by funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Swiss Development Agency, and conducted in partnership with the local government, DSWD and the local non-government organization Green Mindanao.

 Philipino community gathered together
The whole community came together and decided that their most urgent need would be to provide proper shelter and housing to their most heavily affected community members. “We men will work in groups of five to rebuild 50 houses, one of which will be mine,” Jerry explains. The cash for work participants, including Jerry, will receive cash in exchange for the time and work they will put into rebuilding the houses. “Soon, we will live in a proper house again! This project gives us the chance to forget what happened, and to finally start moving forward!” he exclaims.

Jerry says he already has plans for the money he will receive from this project: he wants to invest it into rebuilding his life as a farmer.

Members of the community rebuilding a house
 Under Construction. The community participants building the houses.