Child Champions Lead the Charge
to Help After Devastating Typhoon

By Babylene Bocayes, Philippines Field Communications Specialist   |  Photos by Babylene Bocayes and Hope Center staff

When a powerful typhoon hit the Philippines in 2021, Child Champions were the first to respond to help children and their families get back on their feet and feel real hope for a new beginning.

A little girl sits on what remains of her house.

On Dec. 16, 2021, a super typhoon named Odette (international name: Rai) brought torrential rains, violent winds, flash floods, and storm surges to several provinces in the Philippines.

It affected more than 12 million people, causing 405 deaths and 1,371 injuries, according to the Philippine’s National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council. The damage to livelihoods and agriculture was estimated to be 17.8 billion pesos (about $313 million). It was the second-costliest typhoon in the Philippines, after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

One of the provinces that was heavily impacted by Typhoon Odette was Cebu, where five OneChild Hope Centers, 78 Child Champions, and 701 children and their families were affected.

Houses Struck Down

Upon hearing the news from the radio that a super typhoon would hit Cebu, the family of 49-year-old Deonesia evacuated from their house because their house was made of wood that wasn’t strong enough to handle the high winds.

A family sits outside their wrecked home.

“That time, we were only praying, ‘Lord, help us,’” Deonesia says. Sadly, all that was left after the storm was their furniture.

Most families evacuated to schools and covered basketball courts, but many stayed home and prayed that they would come out alive.

In the part of Cebu where Deonesia’s family lives, houses of lower-income families are often constructed of bamboo and wood. Many such houses were damaged, while others were beyond repair with roofs and walls blown away. Even roads were not passable for several days due to fallen trees and other debris.

Floramie, a 32-year-old single mother of two, says the typhoon destroyed her house, too.

“Our roof and walls were gone. I cried when I saw it,” Floramie says. “It was so painful. I did not know where we would live anymore,”

Due to the extent of the damage not only to their house but also to the whole community, getting food was difficult as well.

“It was hard to get food. Our vegetable garden was destroyed,” Floramie says.

Bamboo and wood homes were no match for the typhoon’s ferocious winds.

Jillymie, 33, says she and her family spent one week at the evacuation center and slept under a makeshift tent for several weeks.

And it took them and most of the families six months before they fully recovered from this catastrophe.

“My husband had no work for more than three months,” she says. It was hard for them to start over again.

Surviving the Storm

Child Champion and teacher Lorelei recalled that day when the super typhoon was battering their house and their small adjacent church, Christ Is the Savior Christian Fellowship.

“It sounded like children were crying and an airplane was crashing,” she says.

Their family of four hid under the kitchen sink for several hours as they had no place to go at the height of the storm.

Lorelei’s husband, Pastor Ronald, who is also the Hope Center Director, couldn’t believe the extent of damage the typhoon caused.

“We just thank God we were still alive,” he says.

“It was depressing when we went outside,” Lorelei adds.

Everything in their house was wet as their roof was torn off. It was a total mess. Winds had carried broken tree branches and leaves into the house.

Child Champions meet with affected families.

It broke their hearts even more when they saw how damaged their church was. The ceiling was down, and half of the roof was gone. The drum set, guitars, and speakers were all soaked.

The room at the back of the church didn’t survive either. That’s where they kept the Bibles, books, and school supplies for the children.

Everything was damaged.

Everyone was shocked and didn’t know where to start.

It was an overwhelming feeling to start picking up the pieces again. But despite their personal losses, our Child Champions were there to help the children.

Ensuring the Kids Were Safe and Getting Help

“I immediately asked my son to check on the registered children,” Lorelei says. At the same time, she was trying to assist neighbors who came to them for help.

They praise God that none were hurt and all the children with their families were safe. At that time, what they needed most was food and water.

Child Champions bring supplies to affected families.

For several weeks, electricity and communication lines were down.

Access to banks was a challenge because of this. There were challenges in getting gasoline and drinking water, too.

“We needed to travel to the city just to have Wi-Fi to ask for help for the children and families,” Lorelei recalls. “We spent hours in line to get gasoline and money from the bank to buy rice, water, and canned goods for the families.”

Pastor Ronald contacted friends who lent them a generator to charge their phones. “I thank my friends who helped us. We were able to buy food for the families,” he says.

Aside from food, there was a more long-term need that they had to address. Families needed to fix or rebuild their houses. Thankfully, the community of Child Champions responded.

Rebuilding Lives and Houses

“We cannot afford it on our own. That is why we are also thankful for OneChild for quickly responding to our needs,” Lorelei says.

Kids drink some fresh water at a Hope Center.

Within a few days, each Hope Center affected received an emergency fund to buy necessities like food, water, and hygiene materials for families.

Later, the Children’s Crisis Fund provided funds for materials for rebuilding damaged houses and Hope Centers.

Child Champions bought cement boards, galvanized iron roofs, and nails they distributed to each family. Now, children sleep in safer, sturdier houses than they had. Hope Centers were also repaired.

“OneChild was a big help for us. Here we are now, we rose from the typhoon. I am very happy that my house is now like this,” Floramie says.

In addition to the help from OneChild, local donors such as Direc, Boldr, Roxie’s, Child Champions, and even children and families from other Hope Centers all over the Philippines sent help in the form of food, clothes, toys, and other items for the affected families. The government also provided relief food and subsidies for families whose houses were damaged.

Family members hold supplies they received from Child Champions.

The children’s dads joined in the rebuilding process, gathering fallen trees to use in the construction.

The families are so thankful that there were people there to help them recover from the devastation of the typhoon, and that they were able to rebuild their lives.

A New Hope Center

Pastor Ronald feels grateful that despite the disaster they went through, they received a big blessing from God.

“We now have a Hope Center,” he says.

Before the typhoon, the church sanctuary served as the classroom for the children because the Hope Center office was so small and couldn’t accommodate all 74 children.

But with the reconstruction of their church after the typhoon, they were able to build a second floor which is now a dedicated space for the Hope Center office and classroom.

“We are grateful for the people the God used to help us. We do not know them all, but we are forever grateful [for them],” Lorelei says.

The Blessing of a Community

It took the effort of a community to rise from a disaster. From the COVID-19 pandemic to destructive typhoons like this, the presence of the Child Champions who are willing to go the extra mile kept the children from losing hope.

Even if they were also impacted by these disasters, Child Champions kept the children’s welfare as their top priority. And as a result, children are now enjoying a new beginning.

Give children in hard places a new beginning by giving to the Children’s Crisis Fund.

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