Two months ago, Typhoon Haiyan swept across the Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people, damaging or destroying more than one million houses and displacing more than four million people. With heavy rains and winds gusting nearly 200 mph, the storm left a path of death and destruction, affecting an estimated 14.1 million people.
Working in emergency response for Lutheran World Relief (LWR), I spent much of November and December supporting relief efforts in the Philippines. Upon arriving in mid-November, I traveled from village to village on the islands of Cebu and Leyte with LWR's local staff talking with people affected by the storm to identify needs and meeting with local government leaders who were doing everything they could to respond.
The damage in areas hit by Haiyan was staggering -- miles of destruction, piles of debris and needs seemingly too numerous to quantify.
Those recovering from the storm spent their days searching for missing loved ones, salvaging pieces of debris for rebuilding and waiting in long lines for relief items. Many did not know where their next meal would come from, where they would sleep if the rain began to fall or what they would do to earn money.
Despite all of the destruction, sadness, confusion, worry and fear I found in the Philippines, I found something else too -- I found hope.
During my time in the Philippines, I saw tentative hope that overcoming this disaster is possible. Hope that houses will be rebuilt, loved ones will be found, boats will be repaired and coconut trees will stand tall again. Hope that Filipinos can build back better. Hope that -- one day -- life will return to normal.
But, this is not my story of hope ...
This is the story of Delia, an elderly widow who was sleeping under a table when it rained to keep dry as all that remained of her house was a pile of debris. Now, with the help of LWR and her nephew, she has designed and built a house better capable of handling storms in case a typhoon hits again.
This is the story of Alan who I met at a shelter repair kit distribution; receiving materials he needed to rebuild his house for his wife and their nine children. He said that "rebuilding the house is my priority" so that his family has a safe place to stay as they recover from the storm.
This is the story of Melody whose house was blown off a cliff as Haiyan hit. Despite all of the difficulties she and her family have faced, they survived, and she was reunited with her husband. She said, "We can stop our tears ... about what happened. Yeah, it's very sad, but we're still thankful ... after that calamity ... my kids, my family are still okay."
This is the story of these three and the many others who hope to one day thrive again in the Philippines.
As the two month anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan passes and you begin 2014, I hope that you will not forget the people of the Philippines. The news cameras may have left, and the attention may have faded, but the needs are still great. Help the world remember their struggle and their hope for what is to come.