Roger Modesto and his family have a more storm-resistant home, thanks to generous support from United Methodists through UMCOR. Modesto’s previous home was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan.

By David Tereshchuk*

Online donations through UMC #GivingTuesday last year to International Disaster Responsesupported UMCOR’s work in a number of ways. One of them was to help UMCOR rebuild homes that were destroyed during Typhoon Haiyan, which decimated parts of the Philippines. On the first anniversary of the super storm, an update on recovery efforts follows.

November 4, 2014—This Saturday, November 8, marks exactly one year since Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, devastated large stretches of the Philippines, and much successful recovery has been achieved throughout that year.

UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, has been committed to help the rebuilding of houses and village resources in the municipality of Tanauan in Leyte Province. And just as importantly, UMCOR has helped badly hit populations to look to the future with hope.

The local barangay (or neighborhood community) of Calogcog, has been the focus of UMCOR’s work. It has concentrated on providing new houses for those who lost their old homes—and in the same locality rather than requiring families to move elsewhere.

New and sturdier homes for more than 200 families will be the ultimate result, since the “Build Back Better” principle has been a guiding light for the UMCOR team.

“We have been determined that the new homes be built to withstand any future typhoon with the force of Yolanda or even stronger,” says UMCOR’s Assistant General Secretary for International Disaster Response, Rev Jack Amick.

Solid foundations, with an abundant use of concrete, are a vital part of UMCOR’s approach, bringing a significant change to villages where buildings tend to have cement walls that extend only to about knee-high and then are topped with wood and reeds.

The intensive rebuilding program became the heart of UMCOR’s work several months after the typhoon struck. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, needs such as food and other emergency supplies had naturally been the greatest priority of the hardest hit families.

Speedy Construction

Since April of this year, speed in construction has been a hallmark of the program, especially once the initial foundations were laid. While the first six houses were completed in two months, momentum then grew rapidly, with 14 homes then being provided within a single month.

Crucially, says Amick, “homes are being rebuilt in the very neighborhoods where people used to live instead of having families relocate—with all the extra tensions that can accompany such a huge upheaval.”

Consultation with Calogcog’s residents has been an essential part of the exercise. Every new home is customized to meet the specific needs of a particular family, starting, of course, with size. Constraints and opportunities offered by the lay of the land in any particular lot also help to bring to each house individuality and specifically helpful design features.

Stronger Community

While the new homes evidence physical recovery, UMCOR’s work also is having less visible, but nevertheless substantial effects among the area’s residents. “A stronger community as well as the stronger structures is something very valuable that we see emerging out of this ongoing collaboration,” Amick points out.

In line with UMCOR’s Disaster Risk Reduction priority, plans are being drawn for improved evacuation arrangements, should that need arise again someday. The new homes with their much more solid structures will be supplemented with equally sturdy communal shelters for evacuees.

After a year of collaborative work between UMCOR and the people of Calogcog, the community is well on its way to having developed a deeper faith in a safer future.

UMC #GivingTuesday, Dec. 2

This year, Global Ministries will again provide matching grants, up to $1 million**, for online donations made to any project through The Advance as part of UMC #GivingTuesday, Dec. 2, “When Methodists Are United.” One hundred percent of gifts given go to projects designated by the donor through The Advance, The United Methodist Church’s giving channel.

For resources to promote and share UMC #GivingTuesday, click here.

*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to

**Global Ministries will allocate the matching funds dollar for dollar up to the first $1 million in gifts to Advance projects received online on Dec. 2, 2014, between 12 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. EST. A maximum of $2,500 per individual gift to a project will be dispersed as matching funds. A project may receive a maximum of $25,000 in matching funds.

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