Children show their gratitude and appreciation for UMCOR’s ongoing support of communities in the Philippines. Photo: Emily Miller
By David Tereshchuk*
February 23, 2016—February 2016 marks two years and three months since Super Typhoon Yolanda, the deadliest typhoon ever to hit the Philippines. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) celebrated two powerful achievements this month in hard-hit Leyte province.
Not only did UMCOR, working with local partners and communities, complete construction of 134 sturdy new homes for Leyte residents, it also completed its fifth public evacuation shelter, this one in the town of San Jose. The shelter was formally handed over to the community in a February 8 ceremony.
Like the other four shelters, the San Jose evacuation shelter will be ready for use to protect the local community whenever a serious typhoon or storm surge threatens the area. In the meanwhile, it also will serve as the town’s Central Elementary School and multipurpose hall.
|Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
(center) president of UMCOR’s board of directors cuts the ceremonial
ribbon to the San Jose evacuation shelter. He is accompanied by UMCOR
and Global Ministries executives and local community officials. Photo:
UMCOR executives in attendance at the San Jose celebration included Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, president of UMCOR’s board of directors; the Rev. Jack Amick, assistant general secretary for International Disaster Response; and Emily Miller, who leads Global Ministries Communications and Development.
They were joined by senior local community representatives when a symbolic key to the building was formally presented to the community.
A representative of the school’s student body, Neo Paul Negado, spoke from the dais to express San Jose’s gratitude and its determination to ensure the project continues to be effective and useful.
“The act of generosity that you have shown us,” he said, “will forever be remembered, and we will continue to treasure it. It is our responsibility to take proper care of this building. We will preserve this beautiful Multipurpose Hall and Evacuation Center so it may serve its purpose well.”
Training as well as brick-and-mortar
|The San Jose evacuation shelter will serve as the town’s Central Elementary School and multipurpose hall until it’s needed to protect communities from storms. Photo: Emily Miller
Throughout the building programs and as part of an overall insistence on minimizing the harmful effects of future natural hazards, UMCOR and its local partners encouraged thorough training of community members in the steps each individual needs to take in the event of an imminent threat.
Well-rehearsed communications systems were established by community members themselves and specific roles and actions assigned to residents for ensuring an orderly evacuation, whenever it might be needed.
For the hand-over ceremony, adults and schoolchildren combined their efforts to spell out a super-sized message as an acronym - all based on initial letters spelling out T-H-A-N-K- Y-O-U- F-O-R- T-H-E- L-O-V-E, U-M-C-O-R.
They extended 23 expressions of gratitude ranged from the first T standing for “Tribute to the kind people like UMCOR who made the people live comfortably,” all the way through to the final R of UMCOR standing for “Resilient evacuation center and houses were donated by the people of UMCOR.”
Student representative Negado referred in his speech to the many United Methodists and others of goodwill across the globe who contributed to the project to aid his devastated area. San Jose’s people appreciate that “it is hard to raise funds in order to realize a project like this,” he said. “A million thanks to all of you, and may the Lord continue to shower you with more blessings and good health.”
Your gift to UMCOR International Disaster Response, Advance #982450, will support UMCOR’s work to help communities confronted with natural hazards such as those in the Philippines.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to www.umcor.org.