Nita is a local lady I met a couple of days after arriving here in Mindanao. She was walking house-to-house in the community, and tent-to-tent in the large relocation centre near our base, selling the tasty Filipino snack empanadas – based on the Spanish treat of the same name. At less than 60p for seven little meat/veg/cheese/egg pastries I took a whole bag to share amongst the team. I also took her phone number. Knowing volunteers and their bottomless stomachs, I called yesterday and invited her to stop by in the evening of the project’s opening day. She completely sold out!
As she was selling she began to tell us her story. Nita and her six children used to live down in the city proper and were given the opportunity to move here – about 25 minutes from downtown CDO a year ago. NGO Oro Habitat for Humanity has been building permanent homes for low income families in this area for over 10 years and families can move in and pay for the property through a no-interest loan. Many Nita’s new neighbours in the relocation camp are her old neighbours from when she lived in the city. If the family had still been living there they would have been one of those affected by Typhoon Washi and the subsequent flash flooding that caused so much destruction here.
Her story helps to highlight how important such housing programs are. Residents of low-income areas, families who do not own the land on which they live, people who have no choice but to live in areas which are poorly protected from the storms which often batter this country – have been slowly but surely relocated to safer, more suitable locations and given the opportunity to own their own homes. In the coming weeks All Hands volunteers will begin to assist with the construction of permanent houses like these for those affected by this disaster so that hopefully in the future, fewer people will find themselves so vulnerable.