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Tuesday 12 January 2016

‘ShelterBox was the answer to my prayers’
‘ShelterBox was the answer to my prayers’ (Bill Woodard / ShelterBox)

Just before Christmas, category 4 Typhoon Melor caused catastrophic damage to the region of Northern Samar in the Philippines. Homes, crops and livelihoods were totally destroyed in many communities. 


ShelterBox has been aiding the recovery by working with French aid agency ACTED to provide vital shelter materials and tools to 400 families in the areas of Palapag and Mapanas. 

These two areas were the hardest hit by the typhoon. No home escaped damage, and at least half of them were destroyed completely. 

Mercedes Arca and her husband Valentin, who at 82 is the second oldest person in the island village of Binaly, were just one of the families to lose their home to Typhoon Melor.

Mercedes told us that before the typhoon came, they were warned to seek the safety of higher ground and even to consider leaving their island home, which is where the couple were both born and raised. However, they had heard this warning many times in the past and the little island had always escaped the worst of the storms. 

The couple decided to stay, but after a night of heavy rains the wind started blowing so hard that the roof began to come apart. At this point, they fled their home to the local primary school. More than 400 people crammed into the two concrete buildings as the storm raged overhead. 

Miraculously, none of the villagers were hurt, but more than 120 homes had been destroyed or badly damaged. There was nothing left of Mercedes and Valentin’s house. 

Mercedes was devastated, as they had no way of rebuilding again. She said: ‘What are we going to do? We are so old and have no money.’ But when the ShelterBox team, made up of Andrew Clark (UK) and Bill Woodard (US) provided the couple with materials to rebuild their home, she was overjoyed. She said: ‘Thank you, thank you. ShelterBox was the answer to my prayers.’ 

ShelterBox provided each family with locally sourced equipment including a hammer, a saw, a shovel and corrugated iron sheeting, which can be used as for walls and roofing materials. 

In this video, Tom Tejano, the Mayor of Mapanas, explains what happened to the area when the typhoon hit, and how ShelterBox aid will help people to recover from the devastation. 



The team worked with ACTED to combine distributions of aid with education on the equipment. Community members were not only shown the different ways that the materials could be used, but also ways in which they could build back safer, making them more resilient in the face of future storms. 

ShelterBox has responded to 20 disasters in the Philippines in the past six years, most recently after Typhoon Hagupit in December 2014, but has never worked in this area of Northern Samar before. Together with ACTED, ShelterBox was the first organization to reach these communities and give them the tools to rebuild their homes and lives.
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