It was a long van ride but I was excited to travel along as they went to do their weekly food distribution at “tent city”. This community is made of the survivors of Typhoon Ondoy. Record rains fell over a period of only 6 hours and caused catostrophic flooding and damage to all of Manila and 25 of the surrouding provinces. It was the worst flooding the Philippines had seen in over 40 years- September 29, 2009 is the day these people lost everything and for many this included their loved ones.
We were out in the middle of nowhere, far removed from the noise, pollution and crowds of the city as we drove down the little dirt roads into tent city. There was a quietness and a peace here. There were rows upon rows of little houses (the goverment and redcross recently came in and provided housing, but for years these people lived in tents).
This community is made of the people who were hit hardest by the floods, those whose homes and towns were washed away and they had no where else to go so they were brought here. It’s not just a single community that was relocated but individuals and families from communities all across the Metro Manila area- brought together to form this new city.
As I breathed in the fresh air I suddenly realized how hard it must be for these people to find work. It’s not easy to find work when you live in the city but when you have over a 2 hour commute via public transportation even greater odds suddenly stack against you. They have to walk several miles before they can even find a jeepnee or bus to jump on.
You could see the pain in their eyes, the struggle and the frustration. It’s like they’ve been removed from society and forgotten and that’s exactly how they feel. Here you’ll find even more extreme rations on food, more children without the basic necessities like shoes and clothing, shaved heads (boys and girls) to help prevent lice infestations and to help keep cool.
We visited the home of this little child who suffers from a malnoutrition rash. Hunger and lack of nutrients were his only concern until his rash swelled and the skin brokeâ¦ now this little girl is in extreme pain as she fights skin infections eating away at her flesh. It’s hard to keep wounds clean when you live on dirt floors and don’t have access to sterile fluids.
In another home we visited a family of 8. The oldest is 12 and the youngest were a set of 4 month old twins. This little girl may have only been 12 but she’d had greater life experiences than most grown adults.
The mother passed a week after giving birth and now she (the 12 year old) has been mom to the babies and her other siblings as the father is continually tries to find work in the provinces.
The team met them the previous week and provided formula to the infants and extra meals to the older childrenâ¦ at 4 months old the youngest twin weighed only 5lbs and was in dire need of medical care. So they agreed to let them bring her to the hospital where she’d stay to receive treatment.
In this home there was no laughing, no silly games these little ones had lost their home, they’d moved and finally been given a home but now just months ago their motherâ¦ the one that held this family together had been taken away. Pain was painted across their faces but in their eyes you could see the courage and strength their each silently posessed. In the midst of everything life has handed them I know this family will survive.
If seeing the kids line up with their bowls, plastic containers and bags in hand waiting for a warm meal wasn’t enough to cause me to count my blessingsâ¦ meeting and hearing the stories of just a few of those who live in the community surely was.
Living in a country where you’re able to dream and work hard, fighting tooth and nail for what you believe in. Working and chasing after even the wildest of dreams- believing that with enough effort and hard work those dreams will come trueâ¦ is a priveledge. Some might call it luck, others call it a blessing but whatever you call it please don’t ever take it for granted.
Here in America with hard work your life can change- you don’t have to experience the same struggles your parents and grandparents didâ¦ it’s a choice.
It’s your choice- choose wisely and work hard knowing that its a choice many will never be fortunate enough to have.