Aid workers from the charity Plan that ShelterBox is working with in Leyte, Philippines to help bring shelter to the most vulnerable families, December 2013.
Diana Meridor has six children, the youngest being four years old. She lives in Dulag in the south of Leyte island. A large coconut tree fell across the roof of her home, smashing it into a pile of splintered wood. The family survived only because they had moved into a neighbour’s more substantial concrete house. Coconut palms are an important source of income for the community, so losing the trees and their homes is a double blow.
‘We will replant new palms,’ Diana said, ‘but they take around 10 years to mature.’
Thanks to the generosity of donors, Diana and her family can at least move out of the cramped makeshift shelter they have been living in since the typhoon destroyed their home.
‘We will all be able to sleep together safely now,’ Diana continued.
ShelterBox has been working with Plan, a charity that specialises in promoting and protecting the rights of children, to help bring shelter to vulnerable families in Leyte, like Diana’s.
According to research carried out by ShelterBox Response Teams (SRTs) on the island of Bohol, 68% of the vulnerable people helped by ShelterBox after the typhoon hit were children at risk, and 20% were women at risk. Children at risk include separated or unaccompanied children and women at risk include single mothers, pregnant women, or breast-feeding mothers.
ShelterBox has been able to target children and women at risk by collaborating with Plan, helping bring shelter and safety to these vulnerable people.
Diana with her youngest child happy with their new shelter, southern Leyte, Philippines, December 2013.
ShelterBox interviewed Plan’s Programme Unit Manager Totch Dela Cruz in the Philippines:
ShelterBox: How did this partnership with ShelterBox come about?
Totch: We had good experiences in the past – such as responding to Typhoon Bopha in the Southern Philippines, Mindanao – in coordinating between our two agencies.
It worked in an efficient way with a more development approach in providing assistance to those left homeless by disaster. ShelterBox and Plan make a very good partnership in facilitating shelter assistance.
S: Why is the fit so good? What does each side bring to the relationship?
T: It maybe because we share the same goal of providing protection. The paramount concern is that immediately after the disaster people are left homeless – Yolanda (Haiyan) caused widespread devastation in scale and magnitude. It’s a case of looking at what ShelterBox can provide and what Plan can provide – our strengths are the staff and coordination on the ground. We are looking to penetrate deeply in a short period of time, working with the Barangays and local government units.
Beneficiaries feel safe inside the tent
S: So shared values, a shared approach. From what you’ve said, Plan has the contacts and intelligence on the ground. What does ShelterBox bring to the party?
T: It’s the quality of the product. From our interviews with beneficiaries they love the item, the tent, and they feel good in it. It seems to be that they feel safe inside the tent. Plan looks to ensure the children, the elderly, are in safe sleeping quarters even in the midst of disaster, while they are rebuilding their homes. So in that sense, ShelterBox complements our vision in providing decent sleeping quarters during times of disaster.
S: Many people looking at this from the outside would say that if you have two organisations working together in very difficult circumstances, something is bound to go wrong. Because you are never going to have exactly the same systems, the same terminology, channels of communication. How do you get round those challenges?
T: It’s a question of complementing one another’s strengths. We also have limitations, and these limitations are filled in by ShelterBox. In this case we are good at mobilising people on the ground, because we have people there, our staff who speak the local language. That is being complemented by what is available from ShelterBox to deploy on the ground.
Break down barriers by working together
S: Do you hope to keep this partnership going?
T: Yes because it seems that both Plan and ShelterBox were able to break down barriers by working together.
Thanks to everyone for your support and helping us bring much-needed shelter and other aid to families displaced by disaster in the Philippines. You can also help communities in need around the world and give the gift of shelter this holiday season. Thank you!