In November 2013, the Philippines faced a deadly natural disaster. Super storm Typhoon Haiyan swept a path of devastation through the lives of over 16 million people, killing thousands of people. For the survivors, many of who lost their homes and livelihoods, the storm was a shattering experience. Even to this day, many weep remembering the experience.
Embracing the World quickly responded with a $1 million disaster relief aid package to the Philippines Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF) to assist the survivors. This was the single largest donation ever received by the foundation. Working closely with the PDRF, we have made children’s welfare, safety, and education our top priorities. In order to create the greatest impact, our outreach efforts are not limited to one area, but are occurring throughout 6 major provinces in the Philippines.
Amma’s Senior Representative Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri recently made a visit to inaugurate some of our completed projects and assess new ways to collaborate in the rehabilitation of the country. He also met with Mara Cepeda of Rappler, an online magazine to discuss our efforts. Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri explained our philosophy stating that our volunteers are inspired by Amma’s tireless example, stating, “There are people who can’t help others with money, but they have their talents. They can use their time or as Amma says, if someone is in distress, give a few kind words to the person.”
We have worked diligently to find ways to support survivors in lasting ways, not just in the short-term aftermath of the disaster. In collaboration with the PDRF, we have built or repaired multiple classrooms and constructed a vocational training center. Additionally, we are offering aid to 200 high school students. The assistance will supplement the needs of the students and will help them obtain uniforms, shoes, school materials, and meal vouchers. This not only aids in ensuring the completion of their education, but also gives them the autonomy to support themselves and pay it forward by ultimately being able to help to their families as well.
In Madalag, Aklan there is a small community that lives across a river from the main land. When the storm hit, the small bridge that gave the inhabitants access to the main land across the river was destroyed. Now, the 200 families are deprived from the resources they use for their livelihood and the children are unable to go to school. The community’s main source of income is the sale of a traditional fabric made from the miniature pineapple leaf called “pina,” which is exported to make designer wares around the world. We are currently working on plans to build a bridge to give the community access to the mainland again.
Schools have been built or rehabilitated in Pawa, Culasi and Javier. The response from the local communities has been very positive, with many expressing deep gratitude to Amma and Embracing the World.
In Pawa, the high school was in dismal shape, with many classrooms moved into makeshift tents. We set out to rehabilitate the school and were able to construct new roofs, walls, windows and floors. With the completion of the classroom repairs, all 280 students came together and held a ceremony thanking Amma. Swami Ramakrishnananda was present and personally met with the principal of the school, the vice-mayor of the town, the district captain and the schoolteachers. All expressed to him the same sentiment: from the depths of despair; Amma proves that love and compassion still exist.