Volunteering in one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines
Climbing rocks overlooking majestic shores, cliff diving, and wakeboarding using styrofoam are only some of the things that volunteers were able to do while spending time in Sitio Nabaye.
Facing the Visayan Sea, Sitio Nabaye is an island community located in the most beautiful part of northwestern Iloilo. Clear waters, stretches of white sand, and an abundance of sunshine are things the locals enjoyed everyday, until the destruction of Typhoon Yolanda.
“There was a permeating feeling of hopelessness in the air when we got there,” said Miguel Rivera, founder of Team HOPE, on the state of Sitio Nabaye.
Team HOPE (Helping Other People Endure) is slowly rebuilding the lives of the 35 families residing in the area.
“When we first got there in December 2013, all the houses were practically wiped out, especially the ones by the shore,” said Rivera.
“All of their boats were destroyed. Trees were uprooted and debris were everywhere.”
Team HOPE was initially created to respond to the need for more relief operations in Tacloban during the time of Typhoon Yolanda.
But from December 2013 to May 2014, Team HOPE was able build 34 houses, a church, and classrooms with an initial budget of Php 3,500 in five building batches. With the help of their donors, the budget for each house has grown between Php 12,000 to 18,000, and that meant more plywood and GI sheets for durability.
Aside from rebuilding, they also make sure that the families are well fed and oriented about their new lives post-Yolanda.
Rivera added that Team HOPE, with the help of donors, has given boats and started other livelihood programs to make sure that the townsfolk will never have to go hungry again.
Beauty and sadness
The people of Sitio Nabaye, unlike other areas struck by Yolanda, didn’t get much help from government and other organizations after the typhoon.
Elena Lirio, a volunteer who traveled from Laguna, told of how during her time there, she saw a child who was too shy to ask for anything to eat. The child was eating salt and cooking oil with rice.
Lirio was also part of the original Tacloban response group. She has not only set out on missions as a volunteer but considers the journey as snippets of memorable travels.
“I was alone. The feeling was exciting; volunteering in a new place. I was curious and I enjoyed the bus ride going to the island, even the smell of the dried grass and sweet corn,” said Lirio.
“The locals spoke to me with a different dialect I didn’t understand.”
Lirio has helped build houses with her own hands, fed dogs, and on her spare time, visited islands and saw some of the most beautiful things she has seen in her life — including a view of a glowing ocean thanks to bioluminescent planktons in Sitio Nabaye’s shores.
Lirio also visited the nearby Gigantes Islands, one of the most enthralling stretches of white sand and limestone cliffs in the southern Philippines.
She said that if it wasn’t for Team Hope, she wouldn’t have gotten the one-of-a-kind experience of helping survivors in such a huge way while being able to bask in the wonder of seeing these beautiful islands.
“It was a beautiful challenge,” said Lirio.
To donate or join Team Hope, visit their Facebook page for details.
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