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All Hands Volunteers, Philippines, Project Cagayan de Oro, volunteering, volunteers

On the Ground

It’s always all go at the beginning of a project and Cagayan de Oro is no different. Volunteers will start arriving next Friday and before they do we need to have somewhere for everyone to sleep, work for them  to do, paperwork to be filled out, tools to work with, vehicles to ride in, food to eat … the list goes on and on. Not only this but we have to make sure that we have enough volunteers to do the work but not so many that people end up sleeping under the kitchen table!

Right now I am sitting under a tin roof on stilts sheltering from the rain (good job I brought those hot pink wellies) and updating the information sent out to arriving volunteers with new details about where we’ll be living. Later I’ll head home to check my inbox for volunteers confirming their travel details and tomorrow we’ll be making a start on fitting the base out to house 30+ people.

The need here in this community, and those surrounding it, is huge. Over 5000 homes in CdO were completely destroyed in the flash floods in mid-December and many of those made homeless are now being moved into large tent camps. Although this is better than the overcrowded evacuation centers it is obviously not a permanent solution. We are planning to assist local organizations in the construction of permanent housing which will be sold, through interest-free loans, to families who lost their homes.

Many evacuation centers were set up in school gymnasiums and accommodation needs to be found for those still housed there before school can start again so we can also help to put up some of the hundreds of tents that are still to arrive from Manila and the UK.

And, as has become something of an All Hands specialty, we will be clearing the muck and debris that was swept into homes along the river bank. While low-quality wooden houses were simply washed away, many concrete houses survived structurally intact and now stand uninhabitable. Using techniques honed on projects across the world, volunteers will remove the mud, flush the house with water and clean all affected rooms, helping people to get back into their homes and get back on with their lives.

Come the 20th I hope to be enough ahead of myself that I can pull on my fetching pink wellies for real and head out to get filthy and tired and sore for a great cause: helping a family go home, one bucket of mud at a time.

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About Jess UK

Fell in love with the crazy, inspiring, all-or-nothing world of disaster response and the wonderfully ridiculous, hard-working people who are drawn to it. Currently working in the Philippines as part of the recovery efforts after Typhoon Washi/Sendong! Want to know more? Check out disasterchasers.wordpress.com.

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