We received the following letter from the Society motherhouse, passing on word from our sisters in the Philippines:
Digna Dacanay, who is now back in Samar, asked me to write this update and email this to you along with some photos sent by Maribel Carceller from Samar and Sandra Clemente from Ormoc. Electricity has not yet been restored in Samar and Leyte, so Digna has no access to the internet. Communications networks have however resumed operations, so she can be reached through her mobile phone.
First of all, we are grateful for the outpouring of prayers and messages of solidarity from the different Provinces of the Society, as well as from individual RSCJ. At this time of combined shock and suffering, helplessness and hope, your reaching out to us is a source of deep consolation. Now that we receive more news and get to listen to personal accounts of survivors, we experience the pain even more deeply. We mourn with our people. Confronted with real images of death and destruction, we are challenged to seek ways to respond to this overwhelming situation. The immediate need for relief goods is a pressing concern, but the greater challenge is in the broader rehabilitation and long-term restoration of a considerably big portion of the country and of our population.
Two of our communities in Leyte (Ormoc) and Samar were directly hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). We now have first-hand accounts from these two places.
Ormoc: St. Philippine Duchesne Ormoc Workers Foundation Inc (SPDOWFI)
Ormoc, a coastal city in Leyte, survived a major flood that claimed thousand of lives in 1991. With the help of calamity funds from the Society, we were able to help a number of families to relocate and rebuild their lives. For 20 years now, SPDOWFI has been able to serve the community in Barangay Luna through pastoral programs, early childhood education, youth programs, and other community development endeavors. But at one fell swoop Super Typhoon Yolanda caused severe destruction to this community.
The day after the typhoon, Sandra Clemente took the ferry boat from Cebu and went to Ormoc. The people were surprised, but touched and grateful, that she went all the way, crossing the sea and making it through mud and debris, to know how they were and to bring provisions of food and other necessities. (Sandra is now back in Cebu, but tomorrow the 14th, she and Yuka Arita will return to Ormoc with more provisions.)
These photos give us an idea of the magnitude of the damage wrought by the typhoon. We thank God for keeping Luz Dolalas, her sister Fe, our volunteer Ashley, and all the 38 families safe.
On 18 November, SPDOWFI will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a Thanksgiving Mass. Now, more than ever, the community feels the need to come together in shared suffering, but also combined hope and trust in the God who saves.
Digna Dacanay will travel by land from Samar to Ormoc to be with them on this day. She has also asked Ayds Sua-an, who is in Australia, to send a message that she would read to the community. Weather-permitting and if the roads are passable, she hopes to bring a jeepney-load of food supplies. Immediate disaster relief (especially food, water, temporary shelter, and basic supplies) are the urgent need at this moment. But soon, the bigger challenge of rehabilitation will have to begin.
The residents of Ormoc wrote this message on the road, hoping perhaps that pilots on relief and rescue operations would see it. May we, indeed, discover how best to help; and may we be graced with the resources that would enable us to extend that help.
Samar: Sacred Heart Institute for Transformative Education (SHIFT)
The day before the forecasted landfall of Super Typhoon Yolanda, SHIFT (throughMaribel Carceller and our mission partners) braced itself for what was announced to be a Category 5 typhoon. As in previous storms, Sofie’s Farm was ready to receive persons and families who needed to evacuate and move away from the seashore. In collaboration with the local government unit and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and with help from our own Solidarity Fund, SHIFT was able to set up disaster response systems and structures.
The day after the typhoon, Maribel reported that Super Typhoon Yolanda damaged certain portions of the farm, knocked down the mango trees, and destroyed the greenhouses. The roof and portions of the volunteers’ house, the convent’s garage, and Stuart Hall (conference hall) were likewise damaged. Electricity was cut off as the posts and wires were downed by the very strong winds.
In the midst of these experiences of loss and destruction in Ormoc and Samar, we learn with and from our people to hold on in faith, to be grateful for each blessing, and to keep the flame of hope alive.
This photo of a child-evacuee at Sofie’s Farm captures well the spirit that sustains our people at trying times like this.
Thank you again to each and all of you for your concern and solidarity. Please continue to pray for our country and our people. May we indeed live the hope...
Joy Luz rscj
Our sisters are mentioned in an article in National Catholic Reporter.
You may send a gift to help support the relief and rebuilding efforts in the Philippines directly through this site by clicking on the large red Donate button to the right. In the "Designation" box, simply choose "Philippines typhoon relief." Alternatively, you may send a check to the Society of the Sacred Heart, 4120 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63108. Indicate that you intend it for typhoon relief, and we will make sure your gift benefits our Sisters and the people they serve in the Philippines. In the name of the Philippine District, we thank you and request your continued prayers.