Philippines (MNN) — While some disaster-response organizations are pulling out of Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts in the Philippines, Southern Baptists remain on the ground, helping neglected communities rebuild homes, schools and livelihoods.
“Disaster response organizations in five Southern Baptist state conventions have each adopted an area of the Philippines,” said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response. Seven teams of volunteers have already served, and as many as 10 more could be scheduled in the next month.
“This is a long-term response, and the need is massive. We are initiating large-scale work with communities, local believers, and volunteers and will be constantly assessing and gauging the effectiveness of our choices,”
Southern Baptists have donated about $1.3 million for the relief effort through the International Mission Board and BGR. The main priorities in the work are repair and construction of houses and schools, along with water systems.
IMB has arranged for a volunteer coordinator to be assigned to the recovery. “When that person begins work in mid- to late-February, the number of volunteers from the United States involved in the effort can be greatly expanded,” Palmer said.
The task ahead is enormous, said a BGR partner who recently flew into Tacloban, a city of 220,000 that took the brunt of Haiyan’s 195-mph winds on Nov. 7.
“BGR is gearing up for long-term development work as the short-term relief organizations pull out,” said the partner, who could not be named for security reasons. “There is much work to do as we survey areas farther from town that have been neglected but desperately need help as they try to rebuild their lives.”
A base of operations for the recovery effort has been established in Cebu City, Palmer said, from which five areas of work are being coordinated. Missouri Baptist Convention volunteers are working on Gibitngil Island; the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is focused on Panay Island; California Southern Baptist Convention teams will work in Ormoc; Tennessee Baptists are preparing to work on northern Cebu Island; and Kansas-Nebraska Southern Baptists are planning to set up an operations base in Tacloban.
In the fishing community of Agojo on northern Panay Island, a full 75% of the homes were damaged or destroyed in the storm, said Ben Wolf, who with his wife Pam directs BGR work in Asia Rim.
“Approximately 40 families have been identified as needing assistance and are currently being evaluated for priority,” Wolf said. “Some temporary shelters need to be erected immediately, and a priority classroom area has been identified for repair at the local elementary school, which was badly damaged in the storm. Sanitation is lacking, so building community latrines also may be possible.” To help with home reconstruction, BGR has designed a housing kit that will put up a small, wood-framed shelter on stilts for about $250, Palmer said.
On Gibitngil Island, bags of cement have been shipped from Cebu, and concrete blocks are being manufactured on site to replace a school building that was completely destroyed. A three-room school building has been re-roofed, and the school’s water retention system has been restored and expanded.
The Baptist Global Response team asks for continual prayer for families in need in the Philippines. Pray for the team members and volunteers as they help in the face of overwhelming needs. Pray that they choose the most strategic and effective places to work that truly help people physically and spiritually.