More than one million houses were damaged or destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines last November. A year later, families on the islands of Leyte and Cebu are moving into new, safer homes, thanks in part to the American Red Cross.
Cherryl Berdan, her husband and four children patiently waited out the typhoon’s high winds and pelting rain at a relatives’ house. When it was all over, they returned to the spot where their home once stood—hopeful that it had been spared.
All they found were posts in the ground.
The family spent most of the next year living under tarps just feet away from those posts. Eager to rebuild, but without the means to do so, the family constructed makeshift shelters to protect themselves from the elements and took what work they could.
But people who saw Cherryl this August could detect something different in her smile. That’s because her family was finally able to move into a new home.
The house—made primarily of local coconut lumber and bamboo—is built to better withstand future storms. Elevated from the ground, it will be less prone to flooding and storm surges. Its strong roof is held down with hurricane straps so that the family can stay safe, even in high winds.
Cherryl’s home was rebuilt thanks to generous donations to the Red Cross. Thus far, the Red Cross has spent or committed $40 million to shelter recovery in the Philippines.
Cherryl appreciates her new house for an even simpler reason. “We can sleep well because of this house. Now, we don’t have to sleep so tightly packed,” she says—recalling how crowded her family had been under that tiny makeshift tarp shelter. She’s thankful that her children have room to run around and play inside—an activity that had previously been hindered by rain. Cherryl is especially thankful for the space because she has a new infant daughter to care for.
The Red Cross employs local carpenters to build and repair houses like Cherryl’s. In an effort to put people back to work after the storm, the Red Cross trains the carpenters and pays them to construct the houses from start to finish. Most had lost their steady incomes when Typhoon Haiyan destroyed about 90% of the coconut trees in its path—the same fallen trees the Red Cross now uses as lumber. Cherryl’s husband is one of the paid carpenters contributing to the rebuilding efforts.
Within a month of moving in to the new house, Cherryl planted tall, fuchsia flowers under the front window and hung curtains—ensuring that the structure isn’t just a house. Indeed, it’s a home.