This calamity has put to the test the capabilities of many organizations helping in immediate response, rehabilitation and long term planning to aid the wonderful people of this area of the country. LDS Charities has been one of those organizations. We had the opportunity to work with dozens of organizations including Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children Foundation, Muslim Relief Services and many others in this large effort. It also gave our Helping Hands Volunteers the opportunity to give service to those in need.
We have responded to two large projects involving food, water, temporary housing, generators and buildings. The relief and building effort in the barangays of Boston, Baganga and Cateel is going to take an estimated 10 to 12 years to return this area to normal.
To a country that sees more calamities than another other country in the world, this was unforeseen and especially harsh.
This area was full of homes prior to the storm. They are gone but the other side of the street seems minimal in damage.
The large home stood because the large homes are made of concrete and rebar. Anything made of wood and sheet metal where leveled. You can see how the trees became the battering rams that leveled property.
The Philippine Navy and Marines met with us early on to see how we could help in that devastated region. They came in early January with a presentation of constructing multi-purpose halls in the barangays of Cateel, Baganga and Boston. These were the most destroyed of the populated areas.
Progress was being made by the time of our next meeting in the DTAs conference room. By then we were able to get preliminary approval for the largest project I was ever involved with. Not long after this meeting, the formal approvals from the Area Presidency and The Presiding Bishopric allowed us to proceed with the plans.
The plans were numerous and in a two part approach. Part one was for immediate need and included food (Rice, Sardines, Corned Beef and Noodles), temporary shelter for 800 families and collected clothing for all ages. Step two was evening more aggressive as we provided for temporary shelter for another 750 families, generators for 3 communities and 3 multi-purpose halls for the communities of Cateel, Boston and Baganga. The projects are all going strong, but the completion date will be August or September of this year.
One of my learning experiences had to do will all the 'Legal Work' that accompanies all the work we do. Nothing of any size that is donated, gifted or paid for by LDS Charities must have legal work to go with it. The photos now are those that show an event that kicks off the actual work that has been approved.
Elder Benson E. Misalucha is addressing the beginning of the event that will highlight the signing of the MOA (memorandum of agreement). This event was held in the Area Presidency Conference Room.
The head of our Legal Dept in the Philippines is Bro. Doug McCallister. He is the Area Legal Counsel. Because of all the legal connections we have, he has become a close friend. He is a church employee and has his wife with him in the country.
Our event is attended by the top officials of the Philippine Navy and Marines. You can tell which are Marines by the yellow and red patch on the left shoulder.
There as the Flag Officer in Command and the head of the Navy is Vice-Admiral Alano. He will sign all documents on behalf of the Philippine Navy and Marines. This project will have the oversight of the Philippine Seabees for both manpower and organization with the volunteers from the various communities involved.
The signing takes place with many witnesses as all the major networks are represented for the entire ceremony.
Also attending is Mencie Silvestre in the red. She is a well known celebrity from TV 5 and a strong supporter of all humanitarian projects around the country. She has been instrumental in helping fellow countryman in hundreds of ways for calamities to school needs for the children.
Following the ceremony, the Public Affairs group give a tour of the Temple grounds to all those that attended.
Part of the tour included a visit to the Philippine Area MTC and introduction to Pres. and Sister Beck, the MTC President and his lovely wife.
They also viewed the MTC Gym that is just a few steps away from the MTC. It is a beautiful facility and gets more use than just physical activity. With the increasing number of missionaries coming, it is also used for assemblies and devotionals.
The event ended with a wonderful lunch and the final gift exchanges. It seems like a lot of fanfare, but the opportunity to host such high ranking officials is truly a blessing. They are able to learn more about our projects, get an introduction to the church and have an opportunity to feel the Spirit that is present. I am always amazed at the doors that seem to be opened even in the midst of calamities.