Tzu Chi unveils post-Haiyan aid for victims

By on November 6, 2014

Gary Ho, CEO of Tzu Chi Canada, enumerates the relief efforts undertaken by the Buddhist foundation in the Philippines. (photo by Laarni Liwanag).

Tens of thousands of survivors of Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as “Yolanda”) still live in government shelters a year after the world’s strongest typhoon struck 10 million people, killed 6,000, and left widespread destruction in its wake.

In response, the Tzu Chi Foundation, a humanitarian agency, is looking to install 3,000 temporary homes at the Tzu Chi Great Love Villages in Tacloban, Ormoc and Palo, Leyte. The prefabricated shelters are temporary. CEO of Tzu Chi Canada Gary Ho said, “the foundation will build permanent houses and classrooms for the long term.”

Ho also recently unveiled its post-typhoon rehabilitation program for Typhoon Haiyan victims in Leyte. He enumerated the foundation’s relief works which include: relief supplies and cash voucher – 44,168 households; Cash-for-Work Program – 289,026 participants; Hot Meal Service – 280,320 meals served; Free Clinics – 6,316 patients treated; Temporary Classrooms – 128 classrooms provided; Tzu Chi volunteers – 5,299 volunteers from 11 countries mobilized.

Reports say Tzu Chi has provided P1.2 billion ($26.5 million) to survivors of the Haiyan disaster. The world-wide charity founded by Dharma Master Cheng Yen in 1966, has undertaken humanitarian projects in 84 countries and is currently operating in 47.

According to Ho, Tzu Chi started operations in Canada in 1992 and currently has nine offices with over 2,000 volunteers serving more than 80 service stations across the country.

Prefab units

Tzu Chi said the model unit of the prefabricated shelter displayed at the Ormoc City Plaza has attracted the attention of passers-by since it was assembled on Sept. 27. The following day, the would-be beneficiaries checked out the homes the Buddhist organization has promised them.

Carlos Christian Garbo, with his wife and two kids, travelled from Brgy. Can-untog to the plaza to lay eyes on their future home. “It’s beautiful,” the 34-year-old father said. “I am very happy that this kind of house will be our home soon.”

Just like the other Tzu Chi beneficiaries, the Garbos are currently living in a small bunkhouse composed of only one room, which also serves as a living room, sleeping quarters and dining hall.

Under the foundation’s temporary housing project, however, a family of four, like the Garbos, will receive a 21-sqm. prefab shelter. This comes with a living room, two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a toilet and bathroom. It also has ventilation and sliding doors and windows for ease and comfort.

In Ormoc, Ho said 2,000 temporary shelters will be put up in a 50-ha. land in Brgy. Liloan, 700 units will be installed in Brgy. San Jose in Palo, and 300 units for Tacloban City.


The model unit shown at Ormoc City Plaza was installed by residents of Brgy. Concepcion and Can-untog as part of their training under Tzu Chi Taiwan volunteers from Taiwan.

On Sept. 28, the trainee-builders installed the model unit of the 27-square meter prefab shelter, which is for families with five and more members. Some 2,000 prefab houses will be put up in Ormoc. By teaching them to build their own homes and those of their fellow typhoon victims’, the Taiwan volunteers hope to inspire love and care for each other among the residents.

And it was love and care that many of these locals have displayed when they voluntarily signed up to learn how to build the temporary shelters without any inkling that it was a cash-for-work program.

Ulysses Federicos, for instance, has took time off his work as a mechanical technician at a geothermal power plant to learn to install the prefab houses. This was before he even knew he would get a small amount of cash assistance money from this training.

What inspired him to do so, he said, were the teachings of Master Cheng Yen that Tzu Chi volunteers always remind them. “To do good deeds, say good words, think good thoughts: that’s what Tzu Chi volunteers say. If you do these three, you will truly succeed in life.”

Ho said Tzu Chi aims to give new strength to survivors for them to open a new page in their lives.