We’ve been on the island of Bantayan for a week now, and what a week it has been. Our volunteers and Young Pioneer Disaster Response staff have been running themselves ragged. On a recent supply run in Cebu, I had to buy a ticket to a movie so I could have a place to sleep midday. It was a Filipino movie — some comedy about a call center and family drama.. I had an excellent nap before heading back to the hardware store.
We are moving right along with our projects on Bantayan Island. While we had originally intended to begin work on the Santa Fe Elementary School, we found the Santa Fe National High School to be a better place to begin our work, so on our second day we started work there. Already we have repaired the administrative building and are almost finished deconstructing two more buildings that were doubly damaged by Typhoon Yolanda and the recent massive earthquake. In the next few days we will begin the process of rebuilding them.
But building schools is no longer our only focus. We have found several areas of the relief effort on the island that are lacking, and we have been unable and unwilling to ignore them.
- On day 2 we found a supply drop that several organizations were bringing food and medicine and temporary shelters to, but nobody was giving them out.
- On day 3 we were awarded the warehouse to manage and coordinate.
- On day 4 we were granted access to every piece of heavy machinery on the island, complete with drivers and fuel, for free. Day 4 also found us coordinating the first ever meeting of the other (much larger) relief organizations on the island, to help coordinate efforts.
- On day 5 we had that meeting, to great effect, and we rebuilt two homes, one of them for only $55 USD. We also met with the mayor, who gave us an island — one of the smaller ones near Bantayan — for whose relief supplies we are now responsible.
- On day 6 we brought a donated truck to the island to help deliver food and supplies around the island. We also installed the islands first clean water supply since the storm using a filter that we procured in Cebu for nothing.
All this with a $20,000 budget. There are other agencies with multimillion dollar budgets that are handing out expensive temporary housing or giving out medical care (between the hours of 1pm and 4pm). They are focused on the now. We are focusing on long term solutions for the future, and we are being smart about the money. Give us $5 million like some of these other guys, and I bet we can rebuild the entire island.
- We are working to build sustainable, low-cost, sturdy new school buildings for the Santa Fe National High School. Our current plan would mean the new buildings would be typhoon- and earthquake-proof, so they could double as a shelter for the next storm.
- We are working with local authorities to identify the long-term needs and goals of the island, specifically ways to reboot and boost the tourism industry. We believe that by bringing more tourists to the island, job creation would draw some of the fishermen of the island off their boats. This would result in both additional money in the local economy and the return of fish to the shores of Bantayan, who have disappeared recently due to overfishing.
- We are assisting in supply runs to deliver food to families all over the island, as well as feeding several hundred children lunch every few days.
- We are providing the island with clean drinking water.
The progress that YPDR has made thus far is incredible to me, and I hope that people who read this will realize how important our tasks are. Bantayan Island was 95% destroyed by the Typhoon. We have a lot of work to do. And we must raise the funds with which to do it.
For more information on our cause, and to give to it, please visit:
For pictures of our work and real-time updates:
I’m back in Cebu for more supplies, and I’m exhausted. Maybe it’s time for another nap. I haven’t been sleeping much.