For more than three hours, Typhoon Haiyan violently shook the roof, walls, and windows of Edgar Chiongbian’s house. The heavy winds and flying debris threatened to collapse his home to its foundation at any moment.
After the winds subsided and the rain stopped, he emerged from where he and his family had taken cover and inspected the damage.
“We were one of the lucky families,” says Chiongbian, governor of Rotary District 3860 in the Philippines. “There was no major damage to our house.”
The outcome was very different for communities and towns in central Philippines closer to the sea. One of the strongest storms in history, the typhoon brought overwhelming destruction to coastal towns, killing more than 5,200 people, displacing 4.4 million, and causing billions of dollars in damage.
Soon after the storm, Rotary clubs worldwide began rushing relief aid and funds into devastated communities.
Chiongbian, whose district includes hard-hit Bohol, Cebu, and Ormoc, quickly coordinated efforts with other Philippine districts and clubs to bring lifesaving emergency aid, including food, water, medicine, and clothing, to survivors.
The district also set up a disaster relief fund to channel money where it’s most needed. Chiongbian says they will continue to focus on providing emergency aid, then shift into rebuilding communities.
“To help the victims through the immediate hardship and get them back to having functional lives will take at least one year,” he says. “The rebuilding and recovery phase that follows can be much longer.”
Chiongbian says the typhoon destroyed homes and meeting places of Rotary members throughout the country, “but in spite of their situations, they are working around the clock to aid other victims. We’ve received support from Rotarians all over the world. It is very heartwarming. We are very grateful.”
Other Rotary relief efforts:
- The Rotary Club of Woodstock-Oxford, Ontario, Canada, raised more than $20,000 in relief funds, which will be matched by the Canadian government.
- The Grid Earth Project, founded by members of the Rotary Club of Northwest Austin, Texas, USA, is working with the Rotary Club of San Pedro South, Laguna, Philippines, and WakaWaka Light to supply thousands of solar-powered lamps to affected areas.
- WorldWaterWorks, an initiative of the Rotary Club of Chelwood Bridge, England, has delivered more than 500 Water Survival Boxes to disaster areas.
- Five Rotary districts in Denmark raised more than $60,000 for emergency aid. The clubs plan to raise more for long-term projects.
- The International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians donated $30,000 to affected districts. Several fleets are distributing aid packages in hard-hit remote areas.
- ShelterBox Response Team members are on the ground across five typhoon-struck islands to distribute nearly 600 ShelterBox tents, benefiting more than 4,000 families.
- Rotary clubs in District 3450 (Hong Kong; Macau; Mongolia) have contributed more than $70,000 toward relief aid.
- Disaster Aid International, an emergency relief organization sponsored by clubs in Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, has provided survival kits and temporary shelter to more than 9,500 people in Leyte Island.
Read a blog entry from a member of the ShelterBox Response Team