Dominga Arias in her new house built with a new shelter kit provided by MCC.
MCC Photo/Kriz Cruzado

Dominga Arias, a 50-year-old widow and mother of three, sits in her new house that was built with a new shelter kit provided by Mennonite Central Committee and the leftovers of her old house that was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan. 

AKRON, Pa. — One year after Typhoon Haiyan destroyed the house of Dominga Arias in the Philippines, the 50-year-old widow and mother of three has a new home with a more spacious bedroom.

The simple wood structure with a tin roof was built by combining wood from her old house with a shelter kit of new wood, tin roofing, rebar and building supplies, provided by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) through Church World Service (CWS) and its partners.

The new building in Leyte Province was critical to Arias’ recovery because her income from washing other people’s clothes does not cover her expenses.

“I like my new house better because it’s stronger and the materials are of good quality,” Arias told Kriz Cruzado, who oversees MCC’s typhoon response. “But, my favourite part of the house is our bedroom because this is where we snuggle as a family.”

By the end of September, Arias was one of 5,076 families that had received new shelter kits. This was financed through the $4.3 million in donations given to MCC after the Nov. 8, 2013, typhoon devastated large swaths of central Philippines. In addition, Filipinos trained in disaster-resistant construction were paid in cash and food to build 4,146 homes so far. Ecoweb, a local partner, completed construction of 40 homes, distributed construction materials to an additional 118 families and provided training in disaster risk reduction.

The donations also will support reconstruction of 72 classrooms in 12 schools, where students are currently meeting in temporary spaces.

Peacebuilders Community, Inc., a Philippines-based ministry of Mennonite Church Canada Witness, has provided training in emergency response and conflict resolution for pastors.

Many labourers, including carpenter Agustin Abilar of Leyte Province, lost their sources of income in the typhoon. Abilar’s carpentry tools and rice were washed away. However, through MCC’s cash-for-work program, he was able to purchase some carpentry tools to start working again.

“I also learned new techniques in building houses, especially ways of making them typhoon resistant. Certainly, I could use this new knowledge whenever I get carpentry jobs,” Abilar says.

In a food-for-work project, labourers worked together to dig out a tilapia fish pond on Ronaldo Elcarte’s property in Leyte Province, creating a new way for him to earn money. Recognizing the larger need of the community, Elcarte formed a co-operative with 15 people, who helped to purchased fingerlings for the pond, so that the project benefits all of them.

The food package that Cantina Velarde picked up as payment for her husband’s work on community projects included turkey canned by MCC’s canning volunteers and crew. MCC sent 40,320 cans of meat last January that are being used in the food-for-work program.

“It’s the first time that I received a food bag like this,” says Velarde. “I couldn’t buy the contents of this bag because they are expensive. We don’t have enough income, so eating good food is almost a luxury. We will consume these foods slowly, so we could stretch it for weeks.”

Laurie Robinson is a freelance writer based in North Newton, Kansas.