14 November 2013

The 101 children of Tacloban

14/11/2013 - “Mama tied a rope around my waist which was connected to hers so that I will not get separated from her,” recalls nine year-old Arvin. He is among the 101 brave children from the SOS Children’s Village in Tacloban who were lucky to survive Typhoon Hayian.

“It was horrifying; I thought I was going to die. Half of our rooftop went flying,” says eleven year-old Marie who was injured by glass as windows were shattered by the raging Typhoon. The rising water levels forced her and the children around her to move to the upper bunk of their beds. But as the storm raged, the water kept on rising.

Family is the heart and soul of SOS Children’s Villages across the world and Tacloban is no different. While scared for his own life, 13 year-old Daniel did what came natural to him; he consoled his younger siblings who cried in the belief that they were about to drown. They had greater cause for concern when they noticed that the roof tops of four nearby houses disappeared.


When family matters  - Everyone caring for one another at SOS Children's Village Tacloban © Archive

Shivering on the rooftops

SOS Mothers improvised as best they could to protect the children. Mattresses were used as shields to protect them from flying debris, as windows continued to smash and water continued to rise. Bunk beds were almost immersed by the water that engulfed the children’s’ village. The only route of escape was the roof. But, those trapped inside did not have the tools necessary to break through.

Fortunately, just before the wind abated a sheet of roofing blew off, providing space for those inside to make their escape on to the rooftop.

“It was as if the heavenly father sent us a way out,” cried Nanay Dottie, while recalling the terror of her experience.  “It gave us hope – hope of survival”. For two rain-soaked hours perched on the windswept rooftop, Daniel and the other children shivered. “I thought I was going to die!” he said. He was one of the 101 children at the SOS Children’s Village Tacloban who were forced to take to the rooftops following the floods that followed the Typhoon.    
 
They are among seven million people in the Philippines affected by one of the most severe tropical cyclone ever observed.  Among the children who will never forget the events of November eighth were their SOS Mothers and a number of retired SOS Mothers. They all lived in the village. that has suffered severe structural damage.  Their counterparts at SOS Children’s Village Calbayog 170 km away have since came to their rescue. Today, the children of Calayog are comforting their guests who appreciate the fact that they are again secure in a loving environment.

In good hands - Children in Taclaban now provided with much needed food and shelter © SOS Archives

Support urgently needed

Across the Philippines food and water supplies are being depleted leaving 2.4 million people in desperate need. In spite of the destroyed infrastructure and spiralling food prices the SOS Children’s Village emergency response team is managing to replenish dwindling stocks.

Children and youths make up the majority of 8,000 people who have been supported across the Philippines over recent years. It is a priority for the team to ensure that the most vulnerable  communities and families are again strengthened.
 
After their ordeal, children like Maria and Daniel appreciate the support they have received. The Director of the SOS Children’s Village in Tacloban, Oscar Garol, also appreciates the kindness of those who have responded to their cause. Looking ahead,  he is acutely  aware that much more is needed to address the mammoth tasks ahead. Again, he is appealing to the public to donate now via the SOS Children's Villages association in their home country. By doing so Oscar and others will be better resourced to reach out to other children and families across the Philippines - people who desperately need immediate support.