The arrival of Christmas and the holiday season on the Island of Panay, in the Philippines finds 18 Project HOPE volunteers hard at work. The challenges of supporting recovery from Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on an Island far from home goes on every day.
Most of the critical needs following a direct hit from one of the largest, most powerful storms in recorded history have been handled. Many of the first-responders are gone. But for communities like the City of Tapaz on Panay, the road to recovery is just starting. The process will take time. Support from organizations like Project HOPE and its dedicated core of volunteers is critical to a timely recovery.
Panay Island didn’t receive the attention of adjacent Leyete where death and destruction became the center of international attention on November 8. But Panay was pummeled by torrential rain and 150 mph winds. The roofs of most homes were severely damaged. Relief agencies provided some disaster relief but the attention and funds went primarily to Tacloban on Leyete.
The Rotation One group identified a community where relief funds would help provide medical support as people recover in the aftermath of the Typhoon. Tapaz City in the Capiz region is in the center of the Island. The residents of the City are unfamiliar with westerners and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) like Project HOPE have never focused their attention on the needs of this community of almost 50,000 people.
The first rotation of 15 Project HOPE volunteers has returned home. This vanguard set a firm foundation for an ongoing Project HOPE presence. The initial rotation established important relationships with the Tapaz community including local government, the military, the Tapaz District Medical Center and the Tapaz Community Clinic. Those volunteers helped relieve the local medical staff who worked almost continuously for the month following the storm. The Project HOPE volunteers also set up three medical outreach missions taking health care services to Barangay (villages) normally served only by a monthly visit from a midwife. They addressed problems seldom faced in their daily lives and overcame challenges to their medical ingenuity.
The 18 members of the Rotation Two team arrived in Tapaz on December 21 and come from all over the U.S. Theses physicians and nurses will continue the medical outreach programs started by Rotation One. They will also begin an assessment to recommend ongoing activities that best reflect the mission of Project HOPE.
As Christmas morning dawns on Panay Island 18 Project HOPE volunteers will think of their love ones almost half a world away. The fleeting sadness will quickly be replaced by a call to service and the peace in knowing the real meaning of the holidays.
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