On November 8th, 2013, Category 5 Super Typhoon Hiayan devastated several areas of Southeast Asia and claimed the lives of over 5,000 people in the Philippines. The area worst hit in the Philippines, Tacloban, is on its way to recovery, but post-disaster areas take time to reconstruct and recover, both mentally and physically. Haitians have a particular empathy, having experienced one of the most devastating earthquakes in history on January 12th, 2010.
The students in our Apprenticeship Program have all had their lives affected by the earthquake. Many have experienced deaths of family members, loss of homes, and many are supporting themselves independently now. Several of the students had never heard of the Philippines, and as international news is not widely accessible, subsequently had not heard news of the Typhoon.
Inspired by an open letter written by Louino Robillard, who is on the Board of Director’s for Haiti Communitere (a neighboring resource center which supports local and grassroots NGOs here in Port au Prince), which you can read here, the students immediately followed suit. All twenty students, ages 14 – 25 years, wanted to share their experiences and show solidarity to the teens in the Philippines; they were very impacted by both the news and the letter, and wanted to extend their condolences and advice. They spent two hours on a Saturday afternoon drafting the letters – they are incredibly personal and beautifully written. This was not an assignment, merely an idea; and the students showed amazing thoughtfulness, solidarity and compassion – even the teachers contributed. RG hopes to send digital copies and translations of the letters to a communications center in Tacloban, the Philippines.
The staff at RG is so proud to be working with such incredible people, and we are truly humbled to hear their stories and heartfelt words of hope. Read on to hear some of their words of wisdom:
From Woobenesky, Age 16:
“I can understand your pain, your suffering. I too, had the same suffering as you, so I ask you, don’t despair, have faith in yourself and in God.”
“I ask you, my brothers and sisters in the Philippines, do not despair, do not lose faith and above all, at this moment, stay together, united, close to one another, which will support those who have nothing. As people who have lost much, I also ask you to dry your tears, because this is not the end. We can unite, and walk forwards, not backwards.”
From Stephanie, Age 19:
“I have heard talk of your sadness and solitude because of the huge storm. I have seen the same kind of problem, but it wasn’t a storm, it was an earthquake, and fortunately I, my friend as well as my family, survived. Along the same lines – you know how it was for us…During the night we were afraid to sleep, we thought it was the end of the world.”
“We Haitians, we know your despair and your situation because we went through it. On behalf of the Haitians, we send you our humble support, which is more than courage. We are there with you.”
Stephanie ends her letter with a last word of advice and hope: “Know that after the rain comes sunshine…life continues. We love you.”