Friday, June 27, 2014


About a week and a half after getting here Beth, Arturo and I decided to go to Tanauan. Beth was going down regardless of whether Arturo and I came because she needed to meet with some members there, but when she invited us to go we jumped at the opportunity. Beth told us that she would be at the church for about an hour and a half, and that we were welcome to take the truck around, so that's exactly what we did. While she met with her friends Arturo and I took the Lil' Red around  Tanauan to scout out some possible projects. 

I was blown away by what I saw and all the work there was to do in Tanauan. Up until that point the only places we'd really seen were Tacloban and the more inland areas. Those areas still had a lot of work to do, but most of the relief efforts were already focused on Tacloban City, and the more inland areas didn't get hit quite as bad as the coastal regions. Tanauan is one of those cities on the coastal region. There were a few tents donated by various NGO's but for the most part there was so much work to be done.  

It wasn't too long before we needed to get back to the church in Tanauan to pick up Beth. Before  making our way back to the Burgos Chapel there were a few other stops she wanted to make; one being Magay. There was a person there that she wanted us to meet. That person was Gil Bermiso, barangay captain of Magay. 

Gil is one of the most loved barangay captains I've met here. As we walked around Magay the kids would come running out of their houses to say hello to him. In talking to him it was easy to see why. Since then I've met with a number of barangay officials and almost always the main concen is some building that they've lost. They usually buildings that will benefit a whole community, such as a health center, so the cause is not a bad one in the slightest. The concern Gil showed for the individual people in his barangay was a really neat thing to see. He spent time in their homes, walking from place to place talking to people along the way. Because of that he was able to know that shelter, self-sufficiency, and livelihood were what his people needed, and he was willing to address it. 

We talked about a lot of different projects with him that day. The chicken coop project was one of them. Typhoon Yolanda took the livelihood of many and the chicken coop project would help some people get that back. 

While I was I Cebu last week working on my passport Shaley was back in Tacloban doing all kinds of research. She found out how much food we would need and pricing. She figured out what supplies we would need and then designed a chicken coop with the proper spacing needed. In the days following my return home she was able to meet with Gil to propose our plan to him.

Our plan was this: To get five people who had previous experience raising and selling chickens for meat, then to have them provide their own chicken coop. There were a couple reasons for this. 1) It would show us that they were committed and  2) It would help avoid jealousy within the community because this is something these people had to put something of their own in too. From there we would provide the farmers with 40 chicks as well as the food and medicine they would need to raise them. After that those five farmers would be able to buy more chicks and supplies to begin the next batch and it would just cycle from there. 

When Shaley and Stephen met with Gil to tell him the plan he was ecstatic. He was able to help us find five farmers by the end of that week and told then that we would be back on June 27th to check out their finished coops. 

That deadline was today. Chris, Stephen, Shaley and I were able to go down to Magay to see how the coops were doing. We didn't find five finished coops, but the two that were finished looked so good. 

We spent the rest of the morning talking with each of the farmers, learning their families and talking about how they had gone about raising chickens in the past. What we hadn't taken in to account was that majority of the days leading up to the 27th were filled with rain. Filipinos are some of the most hardworking people I've met, but when it rains they hide. There are cultural reasons that they so it, but because of it we had to extend the deadline. 

For the two farmers that were finished Shaley and Stephen were able to bring chicks and supplies too that night. When the arrived in Magay to drop the supplies off the farmers that hadn't finished were busily working on their coops; some of them were almost finished. We told the farmers that we would be back on Sunday to make sure they had finished, and that if they did we would bring them chicks and supplies on Tuesday.

A chicken farm might be something so small, but to those five people it could be the difference between employed and unemployed. It could be the thing that helps them pay for a child's education or it could be a meal on the table that they weren't able to have before. It is just one small thing that will help the people of Magay on their path towards self-reliance.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014


A group of people working together to accomplish one common goal. 

In our case the goal is to help the people of Leyte and Samar get back on their feet after being struck by one of the worst typhoons ever recorded. Typically a HELP team is made up of college students from various backgrounds, a lot of which are seeking internship credit. Every once in a while you get the students who are just looking for a chance to look out side themselves for a summer. Our team has all of that, but it also has a dynamic that isn't as common within HELP. Almost all of the people who are on our team have served their missions here giving us a connection to this place that isn't found in most teams. 

HELP Philippines Crisis Team 2014

Stephen stepped foot in to the Philippines for the third time on April 27th. He was born and raised in Utah but left in 2010 when he was called to the Philippines Tacloban Mission. For the next two years he spent his days teaching and serving the people here. A month after the typhoon struck the Philippines Stephen was able to come back with his dad and a group called Charity Vision. They were only here for two weeks, but the amount they were able to accomplish was great. It was shortly after his arrival home that he was asked to be a country director for the HELP Philippines Crisis Team, and by so doing signed up for an entire summer here in Tacloban.

Chris' story is a lot like Stephen's. He is also from Utah and also left in 2009 to serve in the Philippines Tacloban Mission. While Stephen was in Tacloban with his dad, Chris was busy planning Run4Philippines with his brother Jaron. It was never in his plan to go back to Tacloban. All he was trying to do was raise some money for the people he grew to love. But when HELP caught word of it all, they approached Chris with the opportunity to return to Tacloban. On May 5th Chris arrived in Tacloban as a HELP Country Director, ready to help and determined to make a difference.

Kulia is about as Hawaiian as they come. He was born there, raised there and will continue to live there after he finishes his time in the Philippines. He spent his mission serving the Filipino people in Bocolod, but that hasn't stopped him from giving his all to the people of Tacloban.

Adam needs to be a motivational speaker. He was only here for ten days but he has the ability to captivate and inspire any audience. Adam is a half Native American, half Filipino from Arizona that spends his days in Hawaii. He was able to spend his mission days getting to know his culture in the Philippines Naga Mission. On thing is for sure; he definitely has the heart of a Filipino. 

Regina was a lot like Adam in the sense that she couldn't stay for very long.We all would have loved for her to stay longer, and begged her to do so. One thing is for sure, she made the most of every second she had here. She was also raised in Utah, and later served her mission here in Tacloban. She loves to dance and the youth here loved every bit of choreography she taught them. 

 Shaley is the last of the four to serve her mission here in Tacloban. She returned home just a couple months before the typhoon hit and jumped at the opportunity to come back to and help the people that she had spent all that time with. Shaley is always willling to help, and if she says she'll get something done you can count on it. No body is more excited than I am that she will be here all summer.

Becca is another Utah local, and although she'd never been to a third world country before she loved it right from the start. The excitement she had for the Philippines was so fresh and exciting and really helped us all to remember what it was like coming to the Philippines for the first time. The kids here absolutely adore her and her passion to help others through their struggles is so genuine.

Sean came to the Philippines for the first time when he served his mission in Cebu. He is  a Utah local who is always willing to help out on a project, and does so without ever complaining. He has a sense of humor you have to love and a real talent for bringing smiles to the faces of all those around him. 

DeeJay is our Hawaii-born, Utah-residing, Cebuano speaking friend. What is not to love about DeeJay is the real question. His love of people and ability to teach has been such an asset to our team. He can have you in a deep conversation about life one second and rolling in laughter the next. We only wish he'd decide to stay longer.

Can I say that we have the best HELP team there is? I don't know the other teams so that wouldn't really be fair. What I can say that I am so grateful for the team that I am on. I have loved seeing each of our strengths in action as we do our best to help the Filipino people. There is no doubt in my mind that we are all here for a reason and I cannot wait to see what else we will be able to accomplish.