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By Lanelyn Carillo and Jon Carlo Fortich, WV Philippines
A day after Christmas, Salim’s face beams with joy as he rides on the grocery cart being pushed by his mother Melanie, 39. The mother and child were among the affected families who received food and non-food relief items through “gift certificates” facilitated by World Vision (WV) in partnership with Robinson's supermarket in Cagayan de Oro. For that moment, six year old Salim could only have fun and a joyride on a shopping cart, gliding along the colorful hallways in the grocery store. But for his mother, he is a boy coping from the tragic calamity that happened in their village a week before.
Salim is all smiles as he rides down the grocery aisles excited to purchase his favorite food. World Vision in partnership with Robinson's supermarket were able to provide needs of affected families in CDO. Send your help now!
The village of Balulang is home to hundreds of families living just a few meters away from the river, where the residents normally wash their clothes and the children freely swim during summer.
But on that dreadful night, the river that has helped them in so many ways suddenly showed its fury triggered by heavy rains caused by Typhoon Washi (local name Sendong). December 17 seemed like an ordinary rainy day until the people noticed the swelling of the river, rising to deadly heights in just a few minutes. And much worse, everything occurred in the dead of night when everybody was still in deep sleep.
Melanie recalls that she, her husband and Salim, rushed and climbed up the roof of their neighbor’s sturdy two-storey house. She heard in the darkness the people’s voices, shouting, crying for help as the sound of the waters rage. From appliances like small televisions to vehicles including heavy equipment were dragged by the flashflood hitting the roofs of nearby houses.
For what seemed like forever, Melanie’s family and their neighbors waited for hours on the roof while the heavy downpour persisted. Cold, numb and anxious, they could only pray that the nightmare would end.
“I’ve never experienced like this in my entire life, only now. I was in mixed emotions, almost collapsing seeing the magnitude of the devastation. It was horrifying…sad…” Melanie said in Filipino. As the sunlight gradually set in, the once peaceful coastal town became a ghost town with ruined houses all over, and worse --- countless dead bodies, some of whom Melanie knew.
Authorities estimate that more than 65,000 families are greatly affected and over a thousand dead. Thousands more are missing and injured.
Like many of her neighbors, nothing was left of Melanie’s house. “My husband painstakingly built it for a year from his meager salary so we can have something decent to live. All of that one year was swept away in seconds,” she said. What remains of his husband’s hard work is a toilet seat.
Her husband, who has been working for several years in a government agency, is not a regular employee and is only earning about US$90 a month. “The house is all that we have. Now we have to start again,”
The tragedy has plunged many families in Balulang into poverty and homelessness. Even Salim, young as he is, sensed that his life would never be the same again.
“This Christmas, we only had rice and sardines. Last year, we had spaghetti, bread, apple and orange. I’m sad our house was swept away. I know mama and papa can build another and better one,” hopeful Salim shares.
After the joyride, Salim and his mother Melanie are ready to purchase the goods using the vouchers provided by World Vision's partner, Robinson's supermarket. Affected families are able to purchase goods that fit their needs. Send your help now!
Melanie smiles yet tears start to flow. “It is not easy. We don’t know how to start. We have nothing. At the moment, we are grateful that many people help,” she says, pausing to wipe her tears. “I’m still thankful that my family is safe, nobody got hurt nor died. I know God has a reason why these things happened. He has a better plan. ”
World Vision shares the gift of hope to Melanie and the hundreds of affected families in her village, providing them emergency food and survival aid such as clean water, blankets, mats, diapers and various ready-to-eat food. WV targets to assist 10,000 families and over 2,000 children through Child Friendly Spaces in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.
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