In November of last year international media was overwhelmed with news of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. The typhoon devastated the Philippines, with records of over 16 million people who were affected, many of them who were displaced, homeless, and killed.
The world responded with sympathy and support, as many countries deployed ships and aircraft to help, NGOs rallied to provide aid, and celebrities made public appeals for donations. The Philippines was grateful to the international community.
Six months have passed now since the devastation hit, and sadly not much progress has been made. Immediate aid has reached many places however rebuilding homes and livelihoods has now become the main priority.
In the municipality of Dulag, hope is still afloat. The community has come together to build bangkas, fishing boats, to get the locals back on the water so that they can feed themselves and re-establish their livelihoods. It is a simple project, with a big impact, led by a Swiss national living in the country named Daniel Johannot. Daniel has been working closely with local officials, including the mayor of Dulag, Manuela Sia Que, to ensure not only that the project meets the need of the people, but that the people themselves are able to contribute.
Raw materials, fishing gear and the engines are sourced within the country, helping to fuel the economy. The fishermen who are looking to get back on the water are asked to help build the bangkas themselves, making the project self-sustaining. Contracts are being signed between the fishermen and the mayor, whereby each fisherman promises be the one who actually fishes (i.e. he cannot sublet the bangka) and he cannot use dynamite or cyanide while fishing, to protect the local environment. It was the mayor himself who made these points when developing the project, and the fishermen who happily obliged, demonstrating the community's commitment to being transparent, responsible, and sustainable.
By helping each fisherman get back on the ocean, the life of him, his family and community improve. Fishermen can work and supply fish for the markets, and the profits made will touch many more people throughout the barangay, who in turn will be able to buy goods and services and ultimately begin to restore the economy. With this money homes can be rebuild and schools can be constructed.
For the people of Dulag, like so many other people across the Philippines, there is still a long way to go before the life that they had before can be restored. With the support of locals, and those abroad, progress is being made and hope remains afloat.
Please help to build a bangka today by supporting the project Hope's Afloat. On May 10 at the Prince Charles Cinema in London, we will be holding an exclusive screening of the award-winning film 'Metro Manila', followed after by a Q&A with director Sean Ellis. Profits will go directly to the project. Buy your tickets now before they sell out! It promises to be an exciting and inspiring event.
Hope's Afloat is organised by Stefan Liljeberg, Bianca Morris, Isabelle Morris and Katharine Tengtio with support from Philippine Generations in London. You can find out more about the project here.