Typhoon Haiyan: Rebuilding their own homes and communities

People in the Philippines are helping to rebuild their own communities

Aileen Militante's husband Edgar earns a living helping build other people's homes as a carpenter.

It seems ironic then that just as Aileen wanted to build their own home, they were unable to do so due to lack of resources. 

The 37-year-old housewife is a resident of Cutay, a village located in the province of Leyte and badly ravaged when super typhoon Haiyan hit central Philippines on November 8 last year. Their community is located in the middle of vast rice fields, surrounded by plentiful of coconut trees, far away from the town's center.

During the onslaught of the disaster when the strong rains and fierce winds were not letting up and her five children were getting scared, they moved to their neighbour's bigger and, they hoped, stronger house.

Aileen hid her children under a table, but at one point the storm was raging so intensely that a coconut tree fell through the roof, part of the tree painfully hitting Aileen on the head.

Aileen Militante, 37, lost her home to Typhoon Haiyan © CARE

Aileen Militante, 37, lost her home to Typhoon Haiyan

Aileen was just thankful that she managed to get her children out before they were harmed by the falling tree as well.

But this was not the experience from the typhoon that scared her the most. It was when her three-year old child was shivering so badly from the cold and almost turning blue, aggravated by the water falling through the broken roof.

When the worst of the storm passed several hours later, Aileen and her family emerged from her neighbour's house, but soon discovered her own house was completely washed out by the typhoon.

Assisting those in need

Aileen's husband made a makeshift house from the wood they managed to get from the storm's debris and used a tarpaulin from a donor organization as a roof, so they could have a temporary place to stay.

But Aileen says she has never felt comfortable in the set-up, constantly fearing for the safety and health of her kids, especially for her toddler and another child who has special needs.

Their situation worsens each time it rains hard and water enters their house through the makeshift roof. Unfortunately, prices of basic commodities have gone up because of the disaster and they simply do not have the money to buy new housing materials.

That’s why Aileen was thrilled when she found out CARE and its local partner ACCORD would be distributing shelter repair kits composed of corrugated sheets, specialized nails, wire, tools and other useful items to the residents of her community whose homes were totally damaged. 

Given her situation, Aileen’s family qualified to receive shelter support plus an additional supplement of 3,000 pesos (or roughly $68) to buy any extra housing materials needed.

“I am super thankful to CARE for this huge help. If it is just up to us, it would take time to save enough money to buy housing materials, since we're still recovering from the disaster. Having a real house again for my young kids is my priority, to keep them safe. It is very important for us to be able to move on,” says Aileen.

The spirit of 'bayanihan'

Immediately after the devastation of Haiyan, CARE and its local partners responded to help provide emergency support to the typhoon-affected areas in Leyte, Samar and Panay. CARE’s target is to reach 250,000 people with lifesaving food, shelter and livelihood assistance.

In addition to distributing high-quality shelter repair kits, CARE and its partners are working to empower families to repair and rebuild their homes stronger to face the next storm. This long-term “building back safer” approach involves training local carpenters and community members on improved building techniques to make homes sturdier, holding information sessions and having roving teams of local building experts available to offer helpful advice.

Indeed, Aileen’s husband has also volunteered his carpentry skills to the community effort to rebuild homes, in the spirit of the Filipino value of “bayanihan” or helping each other out.

Thanks to the new shelter materials, additional monetary support and training assistance, the residents will help each other with the labour needs as they rebuild their homes, house by house, united in spirit and hoping to move forward and start anew.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.