People stand with piles of construction materials
MCC Photo by Nikko Lacsina

During a distribution of shelter kits that was part of MCC’s Typhoon Haiyan response in the Philippines, the building materials for each kit were separated into a pile for each recipient family. 

AKRON, Pa. – Since Typhoon Haiyan devastated communities in the Philippines last November, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has been helping residents such as Virginia Pagatan restore what took only hours to destroy.

Pagatan, captain of a local government council in San Isidro in Leyte province, is grateful for how MCC and its partners have been laying the groundwork for typhoon response. She cried tears of joy when describing her neighbourhood distribution of shelter kits, which are collections of home-building materials.

“Others have come and made promises, but today you have delivered what you promised,” Pagatan told Ann Campbell-Janz, an MCC staff member who visited the Philippines in May to monitor MCC-funded projects in Leyte and Biliran provinces.

Early on May 21, community members and Pagatan’s volunteer shelter committee unloaded roofing sheets, lumber, plywood and nails from a truck. They numbered 155 piles, one for each beneficiary. The distribution was done with International Children’s Action Network (ICAN), which was working with MCC partner Church World Service (CWS).

Pagatan helped check names on the distribution list and directed people to their pile of materials. Volunteers assisted those who couldn’t get materials home on their own.

MCC has slated $4.3 million for typhoon recovery, which includes providing materials to rebuild homes and supporting school reconstructions. MCC also is partnering with Peacebuilders Community Inc., a ministry of Mennonite Church Canada Witness, to help train pastors in emergency response and conflict resolution.

“The process of community involvement takes time but pays off by building community trust and co-operation. These attributes and skills will be beneficial not only for responding to this disaster but for possible future typhoons, earthquakes or other disasters,” says Campbell-Janz.

MCC’s shelter response emphasizes establishing local volunteer shelter committees that check the beneficiary lists, encourage participation of local government and provide training in typhoon-resistant construction.

By late July, 80 per cent of the 5,179 shelter kits to be provided had been distributed in consultation with the shelter committees.

Campbell-Janz met with beneficiaries such as 32-year-old Jenny Laurente, who lost the home in Navel, Biliran, where she lived with her husband and four boys. Laurente says her husband and brother rebuilt the home in seven days with a combination of the MCC shelter kit and materials purchased with their savings.

In addition to providing materials, the MCC-funded response employs local skilled and unskilled labourers to build homes through cash- and food-for-work programs, and is training them in typhoon-resistant construction. It’s an effort to provide short-term earnings and skills for people whose livelihoods on coconut plantations or in the fishing industry were disrupted by the storm.

MCC has recently approved a second project – a partnership with ICAN to rebuild 13 schools. “When the typhoon hit, agencies started their recovery efforts by providing emergency food and then shelter for families, and now they are ready to rebuild schools,” Campbell-Janz says.

Unlike home repairs, school reconstruction requires skilled contractors. The schools, which as public buildings have different, stricter building codes, also will double as typhoon shelters.