"Most people thought it was the end of the world." This reflection on the unforgettable events of November 8, 2013 by Dr. Jean Aposaga Gloria, head of the Tapaz General Hospital on Panay Island, the Philippines, is a common memory seared in the minds of millions affected by Typhoon Haiyan. But tragedy is not new for the people of Southeast Asia who have been afflicted by a string of super storms and natural disasters. In recent times, the massive scale of death and destruction caused by the Indonesian tsunami ten years ago will never be forgotten, and the 2011 tsunami in Japan that washed away swathes of cities and towns across the northeast shocked a country known for its economic strength and strategic influence. As in other disasters, time passed slowly for the survivors of Haiyan which killed over 6,300 people.
For Project HOPE’s medical volunteers, Haiyan was a call to service: to rebuild a health system compromised by disaster. We didn’t have to look far to find dedicated doctors, nurses, and counselors, and our own staff, willing to spend their Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays deep in the remote areas of the Philippines helping people regain their strength and strive for a sense of normality as the weeks and months passed. Project HOPE deployed 80 volunteers to provide crucial support to a distraught corps of local health professionals who had lost colleagues, family members and faced the daunting task of providing care for communities whose hospitals and clinics were damaged or destroyed in badly damaged areas of Tapaz on Panay Island and the Camotes Islands in Cebu Province. Thanks to our partners in the global pharmaceutical industry and beyond, we have delivered more than $24 million-worth of donated medicines and medical supplies, which have helped 270,000 people in the Western Visayas region.
Rear Admiral Dr. Joyce Johnson (Ret) was one of the original volunteers to Camotes in the weeks after the storm, and she recently led a HOPE board delegation to the Philippines to see how things had progressed. She was impressed to see homes had been rebuilt, crops and fields regrown, fallen trees removed with new ones growing to replace them.
“With an inspiring level of resilience and a lot of hard work, the people of Camotes continue to rebuild their islands back to the beautiful place it was before,” she said.
The delegation was also excited to see Project HOPE stickers on the newly donated equipment and supplies in the birthing center at the Santa Fe health facility on Bantayan Island. The nurses, midwifes and new mothers are very proud of their new facility and thankful for our efforts to make the reconstruction possible.
HOPE is honored to continue supporting communities, now and in the future, through a maternal, neonatal and child health care program launched in April on the island of Cebu in the Central Visayas region, as well as our volunteer program in Camotes which continues to this day. For the Philippines, the rebuilding of lives and health infrastructure is ongoing, and Project HOPE remains committed to improving the expertise of its health workers to enable them to nurture healthier communities -- now and in the years ahead.
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