On Thursday, St. Pius School in Loudonville was the backdrop for a thank-you ceremony at a student assembly for all the work and support that came from the Capital Region for recovery efforts after Typhoon Haiyan.
The deadly November 2013 storm, also known as Typhoon Yolanda, devastated some coastal areas of the Philippines. Catholic Relief Services CEO Dr. Carolyn Woo discussed her recent trip to the Island Nation where she surveyed the damage and where Catholic Relief Services has been helping typhoon victims for over a year.
Woo presented a slide show of photographs tracked the early days of devastation and newer pictures showed temporary shelters bought with donated funds. "A shelter like that probably costs several hundred dollars. So several hundred thousand dollars would probably allow us to build about 800 homes or so, so that's 800 families times 5, that's 4,000 people, that's probably a whole neighborhood, a whole village. Even 5 dollars go a long way because it's a sustenance for a family for one week."
Woo explained how people who had lost everything have been able to receive provisions as they inched toward restoring some degree of normalcy in their lives. CRS deployed close to a hundred people to assist typhoon victims. She noted that about 93 cents of every donated dollar is spent directly on relief.
Bishop Howard Hubbard discussed the Albany Diocese’s role in helping in international disasters. "We are part of a universal church and we have to be responsive to the needs of our brothers and sisters throughout the globe. To have a concrete project like helping those who were affected by the typhoon in the Philippines is something that we can really get our young people interested in."
Hubbard says he believes that per capita, Albany is the top diocese in the country in responding to global needs. He told the gathering that hunger is the number one cause of conflict and violence in the world. In the early days after the typhoon, many people were asking and commenting on social media and other websites "why does God let things like this happen?" Bishop Hubbard says the mystery of suffering is one that has never been resolved by theologians or philosophers. "We see in both the New Testament and the Old Testament that there are people who suffer tragedies that don't seem to have any rhyme or reason to it. As a result of this tragedy we have people like these people in our diocese who are generously responding to people in need and that shows the goodness of people in the face of the suffering of others."
Sandra Bulling is the Media and Communications Coordinator for CARE International, another entity assisting in the relief effort. Bulling experienced devastation in Tacloban City firsthand. "The largest disaster I've ever seen with my own eyes. I've been working with CARE for about 8 years now, and I have been deployed to several places in this world, but I've never seen a disaster of such a scope and such a tragedy like people losing their family and friends and livelihoods completely.”
The rebuilding process in the Philippines is well underway. Workers have been recycling building materials for home reconstruction, even harvesting wood from coconut trees toppled by flood waters. Coconut farmers are replanting trees that will take five to eight years to become commercially viable. "A lot of the filipinos are super super grateful for this help. They're sending us pictures, thank-you notes, and I think that's something that's important also to give back o the Americans who have donated, because in the end it was them who did it, it was them who financed it."
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany worked with parishes across the Albany Diocese to raise funds for Typhoon relief. Individual donations for the recovery were sent to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany or made online at www.ccrcda.org . All funds raised will go to Catholic Relief Services, the international aid arm of the Catholic Church working in the affected areas, and the USCCB, also working in the devastated areas of the storm.
CARE's Sandra Bulling, interviewed for this story, was part of a team that flew to the Philippines a month after it was hit by the typhoon. The Guardian published this account of the experience.
AFP’s bureau chief in Manila, Karl Malakunas, recently returned to the central islands of the Philippines that were devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan to find out what had become of some of the survivors, including the women in his award-winning photo...