733Central Visayas, Philippines:  If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a tremendous heart moving video must be worth millions!

This is definitely the case with today’s release of “Together We Are”  emphasizing the fact that together, as a local and global church, with Christ, we are making a tremendous impact in the communities devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda!

084Here are just a few of the highlights as of this posting:

  • Nazarene and Heart to Heart Medical teams are currently on the ground in three separate locations, Ormoc, Tacloban, Balangiga.
  • Our Nazarene team in Balangiga is seeing patients at the church in the morning and relieving doctors at the government district hospital in the afternoon.  The appreciation expressed by the government doctors at having some relief was incredible.
  • The medical team in Ormoc has been assigned an area that includes 8 barangays (smallest administrative subdivision) each containing around 800 families.
  • The Ormoc Medical team heard of a remote area that had yet to receive assistance and responded this past week, providing much needed medical care.
  • Hundreds of relief food packs have been distributed throughout the areas hardest hit.
  • Child Safe Places have been established at each of our main logistical camps, where children are being cared for and provided with stress relief from the devastation all around them.
  • In Tacloban (largest town featured most in the media), our Nazarene Disaster Response team, which conducts psychosocial counseling and stress debriefing, has been asked by the government to train other local providers and so the Nazarenes are leading the charge in providing this much needed trauma counseling in the community.  Masters Students who speak the local language, have been deployed from Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary to Tacloban, to assist in the training programs.
  • Our assessment teams continue to seek out those who are in remote areas and who have yet to be reached. In just the last few days, our teams came upon new areas in the north of the island of Iloilo who had not yet received any assistance.   Logistics were coordinated.
  • Our blue-vested Nazarene Disaster Responders are leaving their mark of love and compassion across the region.
  • Life saving relief supplies have been provided, our church families have been ministered to medically, and now we are focusing on the longer term process of restoration.
  • Nazarenes from around the world are volunteering to be part of the disaster response.

Where are we going from here?591

The area devastated by Typhoon Yolanda is responsible for fully 1/3 of the rice production for the Philippines.  Villages along the coast whose main livelihoods were fishing and copra (coconut) harvesting, have seen their boats smashed and coconut trees destroyed.  Our emphasis is quickly moving from the immediate disaster response (which has involved medical teams) to the long range process of restoration.   Here is the update on what will be happening in the days ahead:

  • November 25th, at 7:40am, a FedEx Boeing 747 will arrive in Cebu City, full of relief supplies donated by Heart to Heart International.  FedEx is donating the flight from the US to the Philippines.
  • Three 40′ containers with supplies to aid in debris removal are being loaded on the 25th, in cooperation with International Relief and Development (IRD).
  • Our goal is not to step in and take over, but to empower our local Nazarene Districts and Churches as they impact their families and community.  Local volunteers from our Nazarene churches will be taking the lead on distribution of these supplies.
  • The database of global volunteers has been growing.  The plan is to mobilize these volunteers in small teams throughout the region, assisting with debris removal, church rebuilding, and livelihood restoration projects to include agriculture.
  • The government has been asking that rebuilding be placed on temporary hold.  Many areas have been literally leveled, so now is the time for comprehensive planning to be put in place such that the buildings that are rebuilt, will conform to standards that can lessen the damage of such storms in the future.
  • We are anticipating the mobilization of work teams to begin as of January 2014.
  • We will be working with those who have signed up as “Experienced Work and Witness Team Leaders” to begin the process of pulling together teams from around the world.

img_8115While the response may seem slow, it must be understood that the logistics on the ground are extremely difficult.  Up until the 20th of November there was very little fuel to be had, no shelter for volunteers, very little potable water, and very few vehicles (if any) for transport of personnel.  For several days, the situation was only controlled (security wise) through the mass deployment of troops and Philippine National Police, with areas still unsafe for any foreign and most national transport.   Due to the mass exodus of people from the area, ferries out of the zone were booked for more than 7 days in advance, with thousands camped out hoping to get tickets.  This makes the large scale movement of volunteer teams almost impossible. To-date, the only non-national volunteers that have been deployed on the ground are medical personnel.

Ways to become involved:

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1)  If you are interested in being part of the Nazarene Disaster Response, please fill out our volunteer form so that we can get you in our database.

2)  We envision building teams of around 5 members each from the database of volunteers.

3)  These teams will be deployed for around 10 day cycles commencing in January, focusing on initial church building projects and community restoration.

4)  Once you are in the database, you will receive weekly status updates as to how the process is progressing.

Financially:

For the medical teams currently on the ground and the work teams that will be arriving, logistical support is a major concern.  One of the initial needs is for at least three vehicles. We can obtain solid vehicles for transport of personnel and equipment for around $8,000 USD each.  If you would like to be part of providing this much needed transportation,  please contact Todd Aebischer.

Together we are making a difference!  Thank you for being a part.