Finding Answers After Disasters

Isabella_RemyWhat do you say to a child who asks you why her mom died or why disasters happen? A woman named Remedios living in the Philippines didn’t know what to say to 4-year-old Isabella.

Remedios, 51, had been Isabella’s nanny for only eight months when Typhoon Haiyan hit their home in Magallanes. At 8 a.m., the disaster began with water seeping into their house. The family went to the second floor. As the waters rose, they went up onto the roof.

On the slanted roof, Isabella’s sister slipped off into the flooding waters. Her father jumped in to save her. Trying to help, Isabella’s mom also fell into the fast-moving water. As she tried to clutch onto the roof, the water swept her away.

“All this time, Isabella was holding on to me,” said Remedios.  “When she saw her mother taken away, she whispered, ‘My mama was taken by the waters. Where will she go? She doesn’t know how to swim.’ I pitied the child and did not know how to respond to her.”

Hard rains and strong winds hit Remedios and Isabella as the roof started moving with the water.

“When we passed by a building, I got hold of it,” said Remedios. “We were able to get off the roof and onto the building. I’m not sure what floor we were on because there were dark waters below us.”

oneRemedios and Isabella were reunited with Isabella’s father and sister, but her mother had drowned. The family walked through the devastation of the disaster around them– destroyed trees, rubbish, materials from the houses and bodies of dead people.

“We had to bring Isabella’s sister to the hospital for the wounds that she sustained while in the water and had to stay there for two days,” said Remedios. “Their father took us to his parents’ home in Basey so that he could look for work.”

In Basey, a neighbor referred them to a child friendly space run by Food for the Hungry (FH). CFS are safe and guarded areas where children can go to play, learn and get trauma support. CFS also serves to help find homes for orphaned children.

Remedios brought Isabella and her sister to the CFS and noticed that Isabella started playing again, laughing and talking to other children. She told FH staff that she didn’t know how to help Isabella and her sister through their loss of their mother. FH counselors worked with Isabella and her sister to help ease the pain of the trauma.

They also trained Remedios on how to counsel the children and gave her support. As the children’s father works away during the week and returns on the weekends, Remedios continues to care for the two girls. She is glad that they have somewhere to play, to learn and to receive support to cope with their losses. She also feels more confident about helping them through this difficult time.

This is the comfort and support you are making possible when you partner with FH to bring relief to disaster survivors. You send a helping hand to people like Remedios and Isabella, so they can find hope.

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