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From the Field

In Yolanda’s wake: VFV’s Director reflects

VFV Director of Operations Helena Claire A. Canayong

A year on from history’s worst recorded storm, VFV Director of Operations Helena Claire A. Canayong looks back on VFV’s work rehabilitating the communities ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda.

The 35-year-old mother of two was forced to take her family and swim to higher ground when Yolanda struck in November last year.

“My husband and I swam with our sons and our nanny to a higher structure; we took a mattress to place on top of us and shield us from flying debris,” said Canayong.

When Yolanda finally abated, Canayong who has been with VFV for almost a decade, threw herself into damage control.

“The first priority was to check if we had casualties amongst the children who are a part of our sponsorship program,” she said.

“We lost one of our sponsor children and their two parents. We were fortunate not to have lost more.

“Next we notified the embassies of each of the volunteer’s safety.

“Once everybody was accounted for I went to Cebu for a week to deal with communications — notifying families that everybody was okay.”

Classroom rebuilt for school flattened by Yolanda

As international NGOs swept through the country dispensing relief, VFV got to work ensuring no communities were missed in the frenzy.

“We ended up mapping out areas to be sure that we were not wasting resources duplicating the efforts of larger NGOs,” said Canayong.

“We wanted to make sure everybody was getting aid so we were helping larger organizations route where they planned to provide relief.

“We were filling in the gaps and notifying NGOs of what was still needed.”

Two months after the storm hit, VFV had their projects back up and running and focused donations and volunteer efforts on rebuilding and repair.

“We prioritized building work for our sponsor children’s families and our homestay families,” said Canayong.

“We also focused on rebuilding and repairing classrooms — providing the children with sturdy buildings to protect them from the heat and rain.

“We started complimenting some of the projects begun by other organizations to make everything more efficient and effective for the recipients.

“One organization was only doing the roofing of damaged daycare centers so we hooked up with them to provide the walls and floors.

“With the money we saved we were able to fix double the buildings.”

VFV staff demonstrate water filtration systems in transitional camps

With hundreds of thousands of Filipinos displaced, VFV focused on providing effective relief to those waiting in transitional shelters to be moved to permanent housing.

“We went into extending services in the transitional shelters and did extensive profiling to make sure we were delivering the services they need most,” explained Canayong.

“They were already receiving food from the social welfare agency so we supplied them with hygiene kits — we augmented what was lacking.”

Despite Yolanda’s immense devastation, Canayong said the people’s resilience and sense of community has helped them rise from the ashes.

“Honestly, we recovered fast. We had a lot of help but we’ve done very well with the recovery,” she said.

“During those times, from one stranger to another, everybody was kind.

“You would never feel tired because everybody was your friend and everybody was trying lift each other up.

“We were even able to laugh. We swapped the horror stories for funny stories. We had to, there was no more room for sadness.”

For Canayong, Yolanda served as a reminder that VFV’s grassroots work is crucial in building a stronger future for the people of Leyte.

“The key focus for VFV moving forward is to keep empowering local communities to help themselves so they have the tools to survive when events like these happen.”

You can still donate to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda! Much more work is needed rehabilitating these communities — click here to find out more!

*Written by volunteer Emma Bailie, journalist from Australia


Posted in Build-A-Home, Build-A-School, Child Sponsorship, Child Welfare, Disaster Relief, Donate, Dumpsite Project, Education, News, Public Health, Testimonial, Uncategorized, Volunteer Abroad in the Philippines, Volunteer Program | Leave a comment

Writing her own future

Aspiring writer, Janaca Dycoco

Sponsored child, Janaca Dycoco has stepped out of the shadow of poverty to take her place at the country’s top ranked university.

The 16-year-old is in her first year of a four-year-long BA in Communication Arts at the University of the Philippines.

Janaca, who has been a recipient of VFV’s Sponsor-A-Child program for eight years, said she is grateful for the support of her sponsor.

“The sponsorship has been a really great help to my studies — my sponsor has helped me with all of my academic needs,” said Janaca.

“Without them I could not afford the university uniform or project materials and the photocopying is very expensive because books are limited.”

Despite tragically losing her younger sister in Typhoon Yolanda last year, Janaca remains determined to build a brighter future for herself and her family.

“I want to be a writer at a publishing house; I want to make money selling my stories,” she said.

Janaca’s desire to write grew out of a high school crush. Unable to tell anyone about it she expressed her feelings by shaping them into a love story.

“I felt very happy expressing myself like that; I loved writing my own romantic story,” she said.

“In writing we are given the chance to express ourselves and who we really are.”

The proud undergraduate, from Tanaun, relishes wearing her school’s uniform to the local market.

“I am so proud of what I have achieved and that my neighbors look at me and say, ‘oh my god she is studying there even though she is from a poor family,’” she beamed.

Would you like to help promising young Filipinos like Janaca reach for the stars? Click here now to find out more on VFV’s Sponsor-A-Child program!

*Written by volunteer Emma Bailie, journalist from Australia


Posted in Child Sponsorship, Education, News, Volunteer Abroad in the Philippines, Volunteer Program | Leave a comment

Filling the gaps for Yolanda victims

New Kawayan transitional shelter

VFV has brought water filtration systems and hygiene kits to more than 200 families living in transitional shelters in Santo Niño and New Kawayan.

Thanks to a partnership with Wine to Water — a non-profit aid organization from the USA — families displaced by Yolanda no longer worry about access to safe drinking water or hygiene products.

The relief initiative sprung from VFV’s desire to fill the gaps left by government and international NGOs.

“We did profiling within the camps to make sure services were delivered effectively,” said VFV Director of Operations Helena Claire A. Canayong.

Shelter resident Algina Lacaba does her laundry

“We saw clean water as a major issue and we discovered the community was getting sick because they didn’t have the money to keep their households clean.

“They were already receiving food but they were struggling with hygiene.”

To minimize illness families were supplied hygiene kits that included soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

“The water filtration demonstrations have also been very important,” explained VFV Assistant Community Program Coordinator John Balanlay.

“If they understand how to use them and look after them they could have ten year’s worth of safe drinking water.

Algina, her husband and son stand outside their temporary home

“This is improving the community’s health, especially the children who were getting sick from drinking unclean water.”

Algina Lacaba, who lives in a New Kawayan transitional shelter with her husband, three children, niece and mother, said the relief goods have eased their struggle.

“We are so thankful for the filter and hygiene kits because we have saved money buying mineral water and soaps,” she said.

“We are trying our best to recover but there is less and less help now so it is very difficult for us — it is good to see VFV here.”

Would you like to help VFV with their crucial community profiling work? Click here to learn more about volunteering with VFV!

Click here to learn more about the game-changing work of Wine to Water!

*Written by volunteer Emma Bailie, journalist from Australia


Posted in Child Welfare, Disaster Relief, News, Public Health, Volunteer Abroad in the Philippines, Volunteer Program | Leave a comment
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