Nick Harrop, World News Officer for CAFOD, writes:
Three weeks ago, Typhoon Koppu battered the Philippines. After making landfall near the town of Casiguran, the typhoon travelled slowly across Luzon island, ripping roofs off poorly constructed homes, cutting off power supplies, and flooding huge swathes of farmland. In some areas the storm dumped 130 cm of rain over just two days – more than twice as much rainfall as London experiences in an entire year.
During the typhoon, Luzon island was also hit by a magnitude 5.8 earthquake. In Britain, the quake would have dominated the front pages for weeks; we haven’t experienced a tremor that powerful since the year 1590. In the Philippines, it went virtually unreported.
To say that the Philippines is hit by a lot of disasters is an understatement. Koppu wasn’t the first typhoon to strike this year – it was the twelfth – and it wasn’t even the most powerful. There have also been more than a dozen deadly earthquakes in the country since the beginning of the 21st century, as well as floods, droughts and volcanic eruptions.
But no recent disaster has been more devastating than Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines on 8 November 2013. The so-called ‘super-typhoon’ was one of the most powerful storms ever to make landfall, tearing apart the lives of 14 million people and leaving five million homeless.
Ged Edwards, Volunteer Coordinator in Liverpool reflects on the incredible contribution from volunteers who speak at Mass.
Today, we are more aware than ever of other countries and of the lives of our brothers and sisters across the world. For many Catholics, this awareness goes way beyond booking the next holiday, and our relationship with our global family is especially close at key times of the year. Lent and Harvest Fast Days are times when we are particularly aware of our sisters and brothers overseas. At this time, we think about the support the Church offers through CAFOD.
Lent 2015 – Kyin Nu
During Lent this year, we introduced you to Kyin Nu – a woman from Myanmar who lost her two eldest children to a cyclone in 2008. Kyin Nu and her husband now have one precious daughter left. As the family faced terrible loss and powerlessness, CAFOD worked with our partner in Myanmar to help Kyin Nu’s community to restore buildings, farms and fisheries, and to construct new land defences. We have worked to make sure that next time – and, sadly, there will be a next time – Kyin Nu’s community know how to stay safe. Kyin Nu knows where to safely store her food so it doesn’t get ruined by salt water, where to run to when she hears the warning signal, and her daughter knows to pack an emergency bag filled with essentials like water, food and a blanket.
Carmel Donnelly, one of our volunteers in Salford, shared Kyin Nu’s story with her parish at Mass during Lent. A real person giving an account from their heart helps people to understand what’s going on in the world and what they can do to help. Carmel told me: “It was good to hear of a personal story, as it related to real people in need.” Continue reading “Speaking at Mass for CAFOD Fast Days”
About the author: Jo Joyner is an award-winning actress and CAFOD supporter whose work includes No Angels, EastEnders, Ordinary Lies and The Interceptor. In July 2015, Jo travelled to Nepal where she met communities who were severely affected by the devastating earthquakes and saw how crucial the work of CAFOD’s local partners had been in providing life-saving aid. In the third of three blogs, Jo writes about her experience. Read Jo’s first and second blogs.
Many of Nepal’s schools were decimated by the earthquakes and for safety reasons the government put a hold on all school attendance for a month. This was to give the authorities time to visit those schools that were still standing but fractured, to give them the official stamp from the engineers and approve them as safe enough to house the nation’s young minds.
People I met told me that there was relief that the initial earthquake happened on a Saturday because this meant that many of the children were either outside playing or working in the fields. Open space is the safest place to be when there is an earthquake and looking at the rubble of a school in the heart of the old town of Kathmandu, I shuddered at the thought of that massive earthquake happening during the week, when families were separated and the schools were full.
We visited Mary Ward School in Kathmandu, which Caritas Nepal has been supporting for more than ten years. The girls at the school are the daughters of migrant workers from the countryside who have come to the city from rural villages.
The school is run by Sister Asha – whose name fittingly means ‘hope’. She has worked across South Asia for a lot of her formidable career, and when I asked her which country she preferred to work in, she replied sincerely, “I prefer to be where I am needed. I have God in my heart and do good work. So wherever I am, I am happy”.
The school is a sanctuary off a bustling, broken, dusty road. When the school’s iron-gates close the peaceful, plant-draped courtyard of Mary Ward School wraps its knowledgeable bricks around you.
We were greeted on arrival by an entire playground of immaculate students. I was instantly ashamed at the dishevelled state my twins are often in when they are thrown through the school gates – always late despite living on the doorstep. The students of this school were stood silently with radiant smiles, in pristine shirts and double plaits. They were proud. Proud to be dressed smartly. Proud to be clean and washed. Proud and hungry to once again be allowed to learn, read, write, sing and dance.
About the author: Jo Joyner is an award-winning actress and CAFOD supporter whose work includes No Angels, EastEnders, Ordinary Lies and The Interceptor. In July 2015, Jo travelled to Nepal where she met communities who were severely affected by the devastating earthquakes and saw how crucial the work of CAFOD’s local partners had been in providing life-saving aid. In the second of three blogs, Jo writes about her experience. Read Jo’s first blog.
I want to tell you about 35-year-old Kamala. A mother of three whose husband died in the earthquake, Kamala’s story will stay with me for a very long time.
Kamala is a Dalit woman, from the most socially excluded of more than 125 castes that exist in Nepal – one that we in the West may have heard of as ‘untouchables’. As such, Kamala and her children live outside a village on a patch of land, low down on the edge of the mountain. An unenviable location when the rain washes waste and rubbish from the village down to her door.
About the author: Jo Joyner is an award-winning actress and CAFOD supporter whose work includes No Angels, EastEnders, Ordinary Lies and The Interceptor. In July 2015, Jo travelled to Nepal where she met communities who were severely affected by the devastating earthquakes and saw how crucial the work of CAFOD’s local partners had been in providing life-saving aid. Whilst there she saw how CAFOD’s local partners were providing life-saving aid to some of the remotest. In the first of three blogs, Jo writes about her experience.
The massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on 25 April killed nearly 9,000 people, brought over 600,000 houses tumbling to the ground and tore apart the lives of millions. As if that wasn’t enough, just over two weeks later, on Tuesday 12 May, a second earthquake hit – adding to the destruction and suffering of the Nepalese people.
Before travelling to Nepal with CAFOD, I had very little knowledge of the country. I’d seen images in the months leading up to my trip of a devastated land, but despite this, I had no idea what to expect
We were staying in Nepal’s busy capital city – Kathmandu. A mixture of three and four storey buildings that have evolved over time, been extended and added to with more bricks than mortar! There are a lot of crazy wires and power cables – that I’m glad I don’t have to make sense of – which the monkeys use as their highway.
Traffic weaves between the locals who are completely unfazed. Everyone is keen to make their journey worthwhile – carrying as many cattle, goats or people in their cars or on their bikes as possible. All for one, and all for a lift!
Kathmandu was badly damaged by the earthquakes, but I was struck by the resilience of the people who live there. Cities are cities the world over and like London after the bombings or New York after 9/11, the only choice for a city at the heart of its country’s economy is to soldier on and keep business open. Just as the threat of a terrorist attack doesn’t keep Londoners off the tube, the threat of an earthquake cannot keep the Nepalese from going about their daily lives in their capital city. If huge devastation and destruction was what I was expecting to see, I was – gladly – disappointed.
Three months since Nepal was devastated by an earthquake, CAFOD’s Nana Anto-Awuakye visited a community receiving support thanks to your donations. She writes:
As we bump along the narrow potholed roads in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, heading east for a village in the Kavrepalanchok district, it’s hard to imagine that this bustling city, along with the rest of the country, was struck by a violent earthquake just three months ago.
The earthquake that hit on 25 April shattered lives and reduced ancient and modern buildings, as well as family homes, to rubble within a matter of minutes. It left almost 9,000 people dead and thousands of others injured.
Not more than three weeks later, amid the ongoing rescue efforts and emergency aid distributions, another powerful tremor shook the country, claiming more lives and adding to the human suffering.
It is testament to the Nepalese people that today you find terracotta bricks from collapsed buildings in Kathmandu organised into neat piles ready for re-use. It is only as you head out of the city on the tarmac road that you see structurally unsound, lopsided buildings, and houses cracked beyond repair. Seeing them jolts you into remembering the devastation the earthquake unleashed.
I ask our driver Rayesh how the capital has been cleared up and brought back to normal so quickly.
Caroline Grogan works in CAFOD’s Campaigns team. She recently met Fr Edu, a Goldman Environmental Prize winning activist who works for NASSA (Caritas Philippines).
I had never heard a priest and social and environmental activist speak before, so I was privileged to hear CAFOD partner Fr Edu at the Rebuilding Justice Event in London on Saturday. He was there to thank CAFOD supporters for their generous donations that helped people post-Typhoon Haiyan. He spoke about the widespread poverty across the country, where communities are made vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather and a changing climate.
Fr Edu became an environmental activist “by accident” when he stood up for the indigenous Mangyan community he was serving in Mindoro island. “Defending our land is a necessity,” he said, and standing in solidarity with people being forced off their land is imperative.
Fr Edu currently serves indigenous communities in a highland region of the Philippines. I was moved by his description of Filipino resilience as a a strong force which was “enabled by our faith. He is excited by Pope Francis’ ground-breaking encyclical on which he says asks us to put our “faith into action”.
It was extremely inspiring to hear about how he is motivated by love for God’s creation. Fr Edu reminded us that the organisation he leads – Caritas Philippines – means love. Fr Edu expressed this love in these words, “We should never sacrifice people and the environment for short-term benefit of the few.” Continue reading “My reflections of Rebuilding Justice, London”
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, from Manila in the Philippines, is President of CAFOD partner Caritas Internationalis. He reflects on Pope Francis’ encyclical and the devastating typhoon that hit his country in 2013.
I do not need to tell the people in my country that we are living in a time of crisis. When Typhoon Haiyan caused widespread devastation across the Philippines in November 2013, it was immaterial as to whether it was caused by climate change or not; people suffered and the poorest were hit hardest. In such times of crisis what should our response be?
Climate change affects the dignity of the most vulnerable
In the Encyclical Laudato Si’ released this week, Pope Francis acknowledges the seriousness of climate change and how it is affecting the dignity of the most vulnerable, as well as the harmony between humans and nature. In the light of the Gospel of Creation, he calls us all to urgently respond to protect the gift of creation and the richness of life. He challenges us all, governments, businesses and citizens, to look deep within ourselves and find a common answer reflecting all peoples’ voices, for the appropriate response is not an easy or simple issue to be solved. This is a deeply rooted problem, which goes to the heart of who we are and our values.
In line with his predecessors, Pope Francis is looking at the signs of the times that confront us. Laudato Si’ is a powerful and inspiring document calling us to a greater solidarity with the environment, a solidarity that binds the caring for people and caring for the environment. We must recalibrate our relationship with nature, the garden God has created for us, which we have looked upon as a subordinate to our desires and extracted from mercilessly without fear of the consequences.
The environmental crisis is affecting our brothers and sisters worldwide
There is a calmness about U Than Win that can’t be learned. I sat on the floor in his small home – even the jungle around us seemed to wait in silence – waiting for the rains, waiting for him to speak.
“The village is here – in my heart”
The slightly built 51-year-old was thinking – deliberating an answer before delivering a typically succinct, quiet truth. “I do things first for my community” – a pause to make sure I understood every word – “then my family. The village is here” he pointed gently to his chest, “in my heart.”
His wife was quick to tell me that her husband is always working – always tending to people’s needs. “When he does relax” she said, looking at me directly, “it’s for five minutes at the most, then someone will come to our home asking for his help.”