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May 07, 2014

Q&A with Jayette Salvador: Recovering from Typhoon Haiyan

by Ashley Westerman

Six months ago, Typhoon Haiyan wrecked parts of Southeast Asia, particularly in the Philippines where more than 6,000 people were killed. Typhoon Yolanda, as it was called in that country, hit the Philippines' Eastern Visayas region the hardest. The widespread devastation in the area, such as what the storm surge did to Tacloban City, made headlines all over the world.
 
Almost immediately after the typhoon, charitable donations started pouring into the country and humanitarian organizations - both worldwide and local - got to work on recovery.
 
Jayette Salvador is the founder of Bangon Madridejos, a community organization she established the day after Typhoon Yolanda ravaged her hometown on the northern tip of Cebu Island. Salvador, who is based in Cebu City, said that what started as a shout-out to her some 2,000 Facebook friends for help has become a full-fledged relief organization that's done everything from re-building houses to helping grocers get back in business in Madridejos. She said donations are mostly made from abroad.
 
Voice of America Daybreak Asia's Ashley Westerman spoke with Salvador about seeing her hometown of Madridejos right after the storm.
 
SALVADOR: One word for the devastation is it looked like a warzone. So when we stepped in our town, I was really crying. The port was busted, only one rollo could dock and then everything, uprooted trees, houses turned into pieces, the boats - the fishing boats - totally damaged. What else? Uprooted trees. No coconut trees. No trees anymore to give you shade, it's very, very hot there. And everything, everything I saw I posted on our page right away. I even took videos. So when they found out about this, when saw first-hand the situation in our town, they were all worried but at least they know that [there were] no causalities, their families are safe, although they don't have houses already but at least no casualties.
 
WESTERMAN: So what kind of work has your organization been doing since Typhoon Yolanda, also known as Haiyan, since it hit?
 
SALVADOR: First week after Yolanda we were distributing relief goods, because the rollos are not back and [operating] normally to supply the rice, the needs of the people. Second week of November, I was already distributing materials to fix their boats until now, it's still ongoing. And then another, for livelihood also, another thing for livelihood is livestock raising. We gave out piglets for them to raise and then, feeding programs, relief goods, rebuild-a-boat, livelihood things that was all our projects, all our campaigns.
 
WESTERMAN: Are there still needs that need to be met in the area?
 
SALVADOR: Oh yes, a lot. A lot still needs to be done. More people still don't have decent houses and livelihood. That's my very concern right now because when I was giving out boat materials, many would approach me and be like, "Ma’am, don't you have materials for our houses? The sun is very hot, the kids are very sick now." Because it gets really hot in the morning and really cold in the evening and they don't have a decent roof, a decent house. And that's why I - I forgot to mention this - I organized a medical drive. We gave out vitamins, hygiene kits for the kids because after Yolanda many kids were very sick.
 
WESTERMAN: Now that we're six months out from the storm, how do you think reconstruction is going? And do you ever think your hometown of Madredejos will ever be fully recovered?
 
SALVADOR: Actually, I went home last Holy Week and I can see that, yes, they have recovered, like, I can say, 50% of the people. Fifty percent of the people are slowly recovering. And what I like most about my home folks is they're really self-reliant, self-sufficient. They don't rely mostly on help from other people especially from the government. I'm so amazed of their spirit, very hopeful.