Philippine Response Blog

Humanitarian Communications

1 of the 11,000: A Shelter Beneficiary's Story

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Roxas City Sub-Office has been operating in Region VI, Philippines since Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) tore through the neighbouring provinces last November 8, 2013. Over the course of the past sixteen months, IOM Roxas has never faltered in supporting the affected members of the population.

To date, IOM Roxas has reached out to an estimated total of 11,000 beneficiaries from its Shelter Unit along with the 110,000 beneficiaries from the Health Unit. Those numbers don’t include the migrants who have been supported through the Camp Coordination and Camp Management Unit, Protection, Communication with Communities and the Common Services Project.

However, the testament to the impact made by IOM Roxas on the people in the region couldn’t simply be found in the astounding numbers of beneficiaries or the wide geographic reach but could be best evidenced by the change it has brought to the lives of people in its area of operations.

Judith Bulana, a 50-year old wife and mother who lives in Barangay Tiza, Roxas City, is one such case.

When Typhoon Haiyan’s winds which went well over 300kph, Judith’s old home didn’t stand a chance. In a day, all of their life’s savings and investments were washed away, and as she says, “Nothing was left.”

Her husband, a diabetic, was hospitalized afterwards due to an exacerbation of his symptoms caused by stress after the typhoon. Coping with the regular bills, paying for their debts acquired from the hospital, and making-do with repairs on their old, destroyed home proved to be challenging but being the head of her household, Judith didn’t back down.

She easily recalls one conversation which took place weeks after the typhoon hit. That was when her sons asked her, “What will happen to us”?

To which Judith replied, “Why are you crying?” She would turn her back on her disheartened children afterwards. “I don’t want them to see me cry. If I cry, they won’t have any source of strength.”

Upon learning about IOM through her workplace, she approached the Shelter Team for assistance and passed the Shelter Beneficiary Selection Criteria after a thorough assessment. Her family became beneficiaries of the Transitional Shelter Unit and in a matter of days, they were finally living under a home designed to be stronger against future typhoons thanks to the infusion of Shelter Disaster Risk Reduction principles in its construction.

Judith and her husband were also referred to the Health Unit and after undergoing the basic medical examinations qualified to become Health beneficiaries as well, receiving a short-term supply of medications.

“Our situation is finally better,” she says. “Before, my smile was just a mask for my life’s problems and sadness but now, it is genuine and we won’t have to run away from the storms because my home is stronger.”

Judith continues to work and provide for her family, never faltering to send her youngest children to school.