SRT members Bill Woodard (left) and Sonny Ongkiko (crouching) with Eric and Evelyn Nono and their five young children, Philippines, January 2013.
Bill Woodard has just returned home to his wife and family in USA's Washington state after deploying as a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member in cyclone-hit Philippines. Having completed the extensive SRT training in October 2012, this was his first deployment. Although he was able to put his training into practice and help families in need, his biggest reward came from the Filipino people themselves.
'Thanks to the leadership of Alice Jefferson, ShelterBox's in-country coordinator, SRT member John Cordell (US) and those SRTs who proceeded me, much of the planning and hard work had been done prior to my arrival in the Philippines. My role was therefore to execute the plan.
'John and SRT member Max Hogg (UK) saw to it that I got to put as much of my training in to practice as possible: cluster meetings, working tents through customs, the logistics of getting the tents to site, training teams to put tents up, and most importantly, evaluating families' needs and helping put up their tents. By the time I left the Philippines I felt as though my 'text book' first deployment was productive and meaningful.
'But the real surprise and the greatest reward came from the Filipino people themselves. I left the Southeast Asian country feeling as though I was leaving friends behind; we shared so many common values, they were so open and friendly and in spite of all they had been through were still fun-loving.
Bill Woodard (left) and Sonny Ongkiko (right) with beneficiary Emore Sotto infront of his new shelter for him and his family, Mindanao Island, Philippines, January 2013.
'During my short time there so many people that I came in contact with expressed their appreciation and thanks but in the end I felt as though I should be thanking them equally for what they had given me. The following are just a few of the people and their stories that contributed to my experience.
'The optimistic and forward-thinking Lieutenant Colonel Krishnamurti Mortela of the incident command post in Baganga, who asked the tough questions and pushed hard on the humanitarian relief community to move faster to assist the people who suffered the worst of the storm, and daily sent 25 of his soldier carpenters into the community to help in the rebuilding of their homes. His admiration for SRT members John, Sharon Donald (UK) and Bruce Heller (US) set the tone for his high regard of ShelterBox.
'Emore Sotto and his two children were separated by the storm from his ill and asthmatic wife, who we found crammed into a family member's home. With his help we identified a tent site that would allow the family to reunite, but the site needed extensive preparation work. Because of this we expected it to be several days before the tent could be put up. However, several hours later we drove by the site and found it was ready to go. In monsoon rains we put 'my' first tent up for this very deserving family. Emore's response was sincere and appreciative even though we did not speak a common language.
'Atty. Domingo T. Duerme, Senior VP with Philippine Airlines, whose company's foundation covered the cost of transporting 204 tents from Manila to Davao City. Prior to our parting he said, 'I can't tell you how much we appreciate ShelterBox assisting the recovery effort; we would be happy to do any future transports you may need.
SRT member Des O'Connell (UK) in a village in Compostela Valley in the Philippines, one of the hardest hit areas by Cyclone Bolaven, January 2013.
'Ronnie Lopez, our excellent driver, asked John and I if he could take us by his home to meet his family and have a bite to eat before we left. Little did we know what he had in store for us: his wife Amy had prepared an absolute feast of wonderful Filipino foods, including a roast pig! Ronnies fun-loving spirit and sincere appreciation for what ShelterBox was doing was reflected in his willingness to help us whenever and wherever we needed it.
'Eric and Evelyn Nono with their five young children were living in a very small home of around 20 square metres. Eric had been a coconut harvester in the mountains but the storm had toppled the trees he relied on. He moved his family down the mountain to the coast. His aunt was providing him land to build a home on, but he had neither money nor a job. The ShelterBox tent will give his young family some time to get re-established and to find a job in order to start building. Evelyn could not wipe the smile off her face from the minute we met her. Before we left she pulled me aside and in broken English, with tears in her eyes, she said, 'My home, thank you ShelterBox.'