Typhoon Haiyan Survivor Starts Rebuilding Life

Layo Mateo stands next to his rebuilt shack where his home used to sit. He has three families living in this shelter - his parents, brother's family and his wife and children.

At 5:30 a.m. on November 8, Typhoon Haiyan took out entire towns, like Basey in the Philippines. Filipinos living this community describe the waves as an “anaconda eating the city.”

The waves came in three times—the final being the deadliest. Now, Basey homes lay in piles of rubble along the streets.

Layo Mateo, a typhoon survivor in Basey, has tears welling up in his eyes.  “I feel like crying when I remember the storm—I thought it was the end—the water was so very strong. I have never seen a typhoon as strong as this.”

Layo and his family evacuated to the second floor rooftop of a neighboring building, but the 26-foot typhoon wave came onto the roof and rose up to their necks. Layo and his family members all feared for their lives.

Rebuilding Lives

Thankful for having survived the storm, now, Layo is figuring out a way to survive the storm’s aftermath. After rebuilding his house out of scrap materials, Layo’s first concern was to provide income for his family.

He started buying and selling fish from the coast of Eastern Samar. When asked why he didn’t purchase fish in Basey, he said the people won’t fish off the shores or even buy from the nearby city of Tacloban.

“They say the bellies of the fish smell bad, and the fish have the smell of a dead person,” he said.

But, Layo has a family to feed, and a community to support, so he travels to the neighboring province to purchase fresh fish.

Destroyed homes in Basey.

Finding Hope

The fact that Layo and others are selling fresh fish in Basey is a good sign. It’s the beginning stages of early recovery, as markets begin to open up.

The food distributions have been, and continue to be, desperately needed to stabilize Basey. As Food for the Hungry (FH) distributes a one-week ration of food (rice, meats, canned goods, and other food items) to one thousand families in Basey, the people are using the food to live, rebuild and stay healthy.

Beyond food, there is also stabilizing the psycho-social aspects of life. Schools have been destroyed leaving children with little to do and mothers without the ability to create normalcy for them.

FH’s child friendly spaces (CFS) create a safe environment for children to play and express emotions with onsite care-providers.  Through CFS, Filipino psychologists are made available for children suffering acute trauma. Also, community volunteers from local churches in Northern Samar are being trained by FH staff to help children.

While the road to recovery will be a long one, FH plans to work alongside Filipinos, like Layo, as they rebuild their communities. You can be a part of this restorative work by praying for Filipinos and partnering with FH today.

About Heidi Heinrich

Heidi Heinrich, church relationship manager for Food for the Hungry's community-to-community (C2C) program, got her start with Food for the Hungry as a volunteer. She began promoting child sponsorship after being incredibly moved to "just do something" about the poverty she had seen while serving internationally on a team. A mother of two adult children who are pursuing their life's work in serving the poor, Heidi attributes their passion to the impression made through child sponsorship. "It has been a journey." she says, "It all began by sponsoring a child in Bangladesh that led to serving on a team. I am very grateful for the experiences God has given me through sponsorship." She also enjoys art and music, and she is finishing her degree in Human Development through Hope International University.

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