This evening on Project Cagayan de Oro it started to rain. We raised our voices through the meeting and yelled at each other across the table over beers later. Then it really started coming down. The noise of the drops hammering on the tin roof of our eating/meeting area was unbelievable. The conversations stopped, people were just looking around in amazement at the incredible racket. Gradually it began to tail off and the chit chat resumed.
Then Lionel, local volunteer extraordinaire, came over, soaked through and covered in mud. “The tent camp is flooding. Anyone want to help?” Turns out a couple of people had headed over in the rain anticipating that a few extra hands might be in order. The deluge had other plans and had quickly made more than enough work for all of us. Chairs scrapped back, beers were drained and everyone headed back to the house to change back into their work clothes. Travis got out of the shower where he was washing off a day’s mud and dirt to go and get covered in it again. The team trooped out, shovels in hand and got stuck in.
Our neighbours are evacuees waiting for relocation into permanent housing. The communities they lived in were destroyed by the December floods. The land they used to live on has been determined “red zone” as it is high risk for flooding in the future and rebuilding will not be allowed. Having just watched water claim their possessions the residents had turned out in force, armed with shovels and hoes, and begun the work of digging ditches to drain the ground under their new tent-homes. Seeing with headlamps and blinded by sweat, even at this time of night, we worked until all the boggiest “streets” were trenched and then loaded up the truck and came back to change and shower all over again.
This is why I love this place and these people and this organization. Where else could someone interrupt a well-deserved evening of chatting and beer with the offer of getting wet and dirty to help someone they don’t know and receive such an overwhelming reaction. No grumbling. No coercion. Just smiles in the shadows and the sound of wellies being pulled on in the dark.
Read Marc’s account of the evening here.