We’ve had a couple of interesting jobs going on this week, broadening the menu of work available again now that our volunteer numbers have increased. In the run up to Holy Week numbers dropped off as people went on break and volunteer turnover was high as short term volunteers wanted to wait and arrive after April 9th to avoid spending a big part of their time idle.
Getting back into the swing of things this week a team set out on Monday morning to begin clearing the scrub and brush on a two hectare site that CRS is going to build transitional shelters on. The plot looked like prime snake country and the team were nicknamed the snake slayers. Armed with rakes and machetes the 7 All Hands volunteers made a valiant start hacking at trees and bushes.
The the Mormons showed up. CRS had asked the local LDS church to provide a handful of people to help us and make sure we were able to finish within the 6 day deadline. Turns out there was some miscommunication and the 8 we were expected turned into a crowd of 80! 80 yellow vested local volunteers appeared armed with all manner of useful tools and the newly massive team got down to business. Needless to say with so many hands on deck the job was finished before the end of the work day. Two hectares completely cleared! Big thanks to the LDS team and our volunteers for a job well done in just 20% of the time we thought it would take.
Just one more amazing feather in the Project CDO hat. Help us do more by voting for us in an online review here. The winner will get $2500 towards their project – in All Hands terms that would mean 125 more volunteer days and if the story above doesn’t show you just what that could achieve, nothing will!
Chris headed off to a tropical island for some R&R on the beach – unfortunately in the rain, but he’ll probably spend most of it asleep any way! – leaving me in charge of Project CDO. Cue evil laughing … mwaa ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaa.
Main task of today is to source a Project Director’s Hat seeing as I’m struggling to grow a beard in order to express my new-found and short-lived seniority. Chris has one, Jeremey had one, seems like a prerequisite for the job. I mean I’m sure I could if I tried hard enough but it doesn’t seem worth the effort for a couple of days. So hat it is.
Upshot for the blog – no posting for the next few days, too much “networking” to do, too much big wigging and bossing people around. Probably more like too much sleeping under my desk and possibly some light weeping in the corner.
Tune in next week for some potentially fabulous news. Maybe. Probably. Get those toes crossed.
I’ve talked a lot about volunteers on this blog, the amazing work that they do and the wonderfully crazy people that they are. They are the purpose of this organization and my job is to give as many people as possible the opportunity to help those in need. This doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten the people we work with and for, the residents of communities around the world struck by natural disaster. One of the most rewarding aspects of life on project is working side-by-side with local residents, making fast friends and getting a unique insight into a place; one that would be very difficult to find as a tourist.
So I introduce to you the first of what I hope to make a continuing series about the people we live and work with – one of the most-loved, if none-too-friendly inhabitants of the community we’ve been mudding since day one, Emily Homes. Meet Angry Cat. Volunteers have marvelled at his continued and unflinching angry-ness, his steely glare, his sullen attitude, in a country where we’ve quickly become used to beaming faces and cheerful dispositions.
Why is he so angry? No one knows. Perhaps he just doesn’t like getting his feet dirty, and if you’ve seen where he lives, you’ll appreciate what a mammoth task it would be to keep your bare feet clean!
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.
As you can see the Philippines has some glorious weather if you want to lounge on the beach sipping Mai Tais. Digging trenches or running wheelbarrows under this unforgiving sun is a different matter entirely. Even repeat volunteers who’ve come here more-or-less straight from Haiti, not known for its cool weather either, are finding it tough to keep racing through the work at their usual pace. For anyone on their way in: pack plenty of rehydration goodies, especially the one’s in tablet form which go a long way. For all those already here and working their hearts out: slow down, put a hat on, drink drink drink and drink some more and know that CDO needs you healthy and happy so maybe take five in the shade! The trench will still be there when you get back.
The crew is back at Phase 3 today – soon-ish to be site of 400 homes for those displaced by the flooding caused by Typhoon Sendong. After helping to complete the very first unit on a very tight schedule in time for the President’s visit, we’ve been invited back to dig the trenches for the next ones to be built. Three more buildings have been marked out and our friends on the Habitat coordination team has challenged us to dig the footings for all three today. Bear in mind that each building is made up of four homes each with a shared wall, so if they finish today 12 families will be the proud owners of some holes in the ground. Which will then be filled with concrete and have houses built on them. No mean feat.
The ten All Hands volunteers have been joined by ten local workers and as you can see the soil is already flying! Click here to see the team in full flow.