Two of our interns, Hayley and Anna travelled with us to the Municipalities of Mayorga and Palo in Leyte for the second part of our Connecting Communities through the Creative Arts Program supported by Give2Asia’s Apl.de. Ap Foundation Typhoon Haiyan Fund. These are the stories they weaved, in their own words…
Before going to Tacloban I had a lot of expectations in my mind. I had seen all the devastating pictures that dominated international media sources on the topic. I recalled, as our flight was landing, pictures of people crying over the extent of the destruction, whole areas that used to be lower-income housing flattened by the Typhoon Haiyan, and pictures of international volunteers helping with the clean up.
As we drove from the airport to our hotel, I was fascinated with our surroundings. The first memory I recall from that trip was the small communities of people living under UNHRC tents. I also remember the infrastructure. The frames of some buildings were bent over which provided evidence of how strong the typhoon was. However, what was surprising was the level of infrastructure that either survived the typhoon or which was rebuilt in the 8 months following it. From the influence of international media I was under the impression that the extent of the damage because of Typhoon Haiyan was so bad that it would have taken much longer to rebuild. However, once I discussed this issue with my co-workers, I found that this expectation was misguided. My co-workers informed me that the lack of coordination between NGOs and the government on the issue of allocating resources has actually made the process of rebuilding much slower then it should have taken. This revelation was very interesting to me, as media had portrayed NGO involvement in Tacloban as extremely successful. Although international NGOs have made considerable strides in the area, from my perspective and from what I learned from those who had been there before, there is still a long way to go in Tacloban.
The following day we started our first workshop in Palo. As the workshop began, I was really excited to get to know the kids and help in facilitating a safe space for them to use the creative arts for self-expression. I could see right away that we got off to a good start when some music was played and the kids danced. They got so into it that a dance battle naturally commenced. It was at this point, even so early in the workshop, that I could see what SPARK was doing. They were taking alternative activities to let the kids release some of their feelings, but at the same time help them reflect. I really saw the reflective aspect of the workshop when the kids designed and created puppet shows. I believe that by giving them the opportunity to make a puppet show with basically no guidelines, they really gave them the opportunity to express what was on their mind and reflect on how it has an impact on their day-to-day lives. In an area which has faced such trauma, I believe SPARK’s approach is that you need more then just resources to heal trauma. People are people, they cannot just consume basic necessities to survive. They also need maintain good mental health as well as physical health. For me, that is the most important lesson I took away from my trip to Tacloban, and something that I am very grateful for being able to experience.
Lastly, something that I really enjoyed about the workshop was the team dynamic with the staff. As anyone who has worked with a team can tell you, it is extremely important to have a team that communicates well and is very supportive of each other to facilitate a good workshop. The team that was in Palo exceeded any expectations I had. They were wonderful and positive people, who were not shy to lend a hand when I asked. I believe that the first day of the workshop was such a success not only because the participants were focused and were enjoying the activities, but because the staff had created such a safe and comfortable environment to be open and express themselves. – Hayley
So I was really excited to finally get my own impression of this city and to be able to help the ones devastated by this gruesome natural catastrophe.
Landing at the airport in Tacloban already indicated the signs of destruction caused by Haiyan and the only slowly progressing repairs and rebuilding. But the people make do with what they’ve got and master everyday life.
On our drive to the Hotel, the vast destruction became more evident, ruins of houses, makeshift huts and tents showcase the circumstances people have been living in, showing how great the need of the people is even after 9 months.
The first impression of Tacloban was a shock which turned into admiration for the people who face this everyday but don’t lose hope and keep working to rebuild their city.
The Location of our first event ‘Connecting Community through Arts’ in Palo, was a 20 minute car ride from Tacloban giving us the chance to see more of the effects of the Typhoon.
Once we arrived, everyone got down to work.
The mood that was created was vibrant, loaded with energy, simply infectious. All in all the perfect start to the day. The children were enthusiastic over every activity offered and I found it admirable how they appreciated and enjoyed every minute of it while still processing and slowly releasing their experienced traumas.
Even though I only got to experience the first day of the event, I can say that the hope and energy transmitted to the children by this event really impressed me. Every single kid with its own fears and problems became part of a Unity giving them power and hope, showing them that they are not alone. – Anna