The Philippines comprise a vast island nation in Southeast Asia. This archipelago of more than 7,000 islands boasts sandy beaches, towering mountains and volcanoes, tropical rainforests, and an incredible wealth of natural resources and biodiversity. Humans have called these islands home for thousands of years, predating historic records.
Today, the Philippines incorporate a staggering number of languages, ethnic groups, religions, and cultures. Despite its status as an emerging market, however, nearly half of all Filipinos still earn less than $2 a day. Adequate sanitation and access to healthcare and potable water are still daily challenges in this widely underdeveloped country, which is also prone to typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic activity. The large port city of Tacloban, where the Visayans Community Center at Bliss is located, is no exception to these maladies.
One of the worst storms in a hundred years
At the Bliss housing project in Sagkahan – a community established by the Filipino government for Tacloban’s poor – only fifteen percent of residents actually own the land on which they live. Most inhabit concrete dwellings; but many others live in shacks fashioned from nipa palm shingles, bamboo, and boards. Amid this devastating poverty and its socioeconomic effects, the Visayans Community Center at Bliss supports children living in poverty.
Founded by the local group Volunteer for the Visayans, the center is dedicated to facilitating community development, providing healthcare, and promoting education. The center was especially important to children and their families in the wake of the devastation inflicted by Typhoon Haiyan – one of the worst storms to hit the area in 100 years – which struck the Philippines in November of 2013. In the aftermath, Children Incorporated was able to support families in their efforts to rebuild their homes, thanks to donations to our Hope In Action Fund, while still providing basic needs to children through our sponsorship program.
The letter below from one of our sponsored children whose family received help after the typhoon depicts just how important it was for that community to receive help during its recovery:
“Dear Children Incorporated,
I am writing to say thank you for all the things that we received from you. We encountered a big tragedy, a super typhoon named Haiyan. After the typhoon, we couldn’t do anything; we were just doing our best to get by and to help ourselves so that we could stay healthy and be strong. We are thankful for you – because Children Incorporated helped us through the Hope In Action Fund. It helped a lot for all my personal needs, like shoes, pants, and other clothes. After my personal needs were met, we bought some other things, like materials for our house - plywood, nails, and other materials that were used to fix our house. Thank you for caring enough to help us!
Helping families beyond sponsorship
We are grateful that we were able to help Filipino families after the typhoon, thanks to our amazing donors, and we continue to be proud of what the Visayans Community Center at Bliss offers to children beyond sponsorship today. Not only do children there receive basic needs, thanks to their sponsors, but the center also provides medical check-ups and medicine through volunteer doctors, as well as local medical volunteers. The center also offers tutoring for children every Saturday - particularly for students who are identified as having difficulty with school lessons, and who therefore need extra attention. These one-on-one tutoring sessions are conducted by older sponsored and formerly-sponsored children who are in high school and college.
The center also provides swimming and guitar lessons for children, and its staff conduct school and home visits to track students’ progress, and to ensure that children and families have good relationships with teachers. Children also participate in various craft-making activities and games, as well as in neighborhood clean-ups. Administrators offer special seminars and workshops, which help to equip children for day-to-day challenges, and teach them to prepare for disasters. Parents are also encouraged to attend monthly meetings at the center to discuss the children in the program, and to receive updates and learn about concerns school staff may have.
*Name changed for child’s protection.