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Andre Bloemink extends his stay in the Philippines
By Andre Bloemink
The days have been full bringing ShelterBox aid to those most vulnerable.
The island of Bantayan is where I am currently located. I am currently leading a team of two Americans and one Englishman whom have hit the ground running. We have also been working very closely with other aid organizations and most importantly the Bantayan Volunteer Emergency Response Team (BVERT). This is a group of young 20 something locals who have been working tirelessly to help bring a sense of normality to their friends and neighbours. We are employing the BVERTS to aid us with our field assessments and the erection of the tents.
We are focusing on those most vulnerable following the storm. These are families with infants or women in the last term of their pregnancies, the elderly, sick or injured, people with special needs who have suffered a total loss of their home to Typhoon Yolanda. Yolanda is what the locals have named the storm.
My team is the third one to come to this island. By the time we are done there will be nearly 1500 ShelterBox tents on this island. Please do not forget that we have teams in three other areas of the islands affected by the typhoon.
The people here are what I will truly take home with me. For the most part, they are getting on with their lives as best they can. The storm has affected them on many fronts. The two primary sources of income here on the islands is either farming, primarily poultry, or fishing. Both of these livelihoods have seen devastation on a large scale. In some areas damage to the fishing fleet is upwards of 80 per cent and the fatality rate within the poultry farms near 50 per cent.
Despite all of this chaos, the aid workers here are greeted daily with many smiles and many waves. The children are always the shining stars. We, the volunteers, are a bit of a curiosity to them but they are generally not shy. High fives and fist bumps have been a fun way to interact. I have even been allowed to pilot one of their homemade kites of which there are many.
I hear the fundraising events are taking place back home with great success. You can feel proud that your efforts are making a tremendous impact here in the Philippines. The relief efforts are far from over so please continue to spread the good word. Be nice to whoever was getting stuck to your school walls. Most importantly, have fun!
I will update again as I have extended my stay here to December 20.