October 24, 2014

Canas Village: Philippines Relief Update

 

If you gave money, you will want to read this.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALEX WRIGHT

Canas Village: Philippines Relief Update

“Thank You Topanga” signs were seen everywhere as the folks in Canas Village and members of Alex Wright’s family posed holding cards with the names of those who donated money to buy food, water and supplies.

In the last week before I flew to the Philippines some amazing things happened with the fundraising. First, my mortgage broker, Robert Wise, (an honest, longtime experienced-with- Topanga expert) whom I had not seen since he got me the best refinancing rate of all time on my home 10 years ago.

He saw the Messenger Facebook disaster relief effort and took action. He sent money and contacted his Pastor Kirk of the Conejo Church. The two of them came up with the generous idea of the church matching all donations for the month of December with a cap of $2,000. That motivated many of you to give at the last minute and we raised $2,000 before I left, which thanks to Robert and Pastor Kirk totaled $4,000 in a week!

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALEX WRIGHT

Canas Village: Philippines Relief Update

Due to the generosity of Topangans and others in raising more than $7,000, there was enough money to feed all of the 800 residents of Canas for Christmas and the following week. They were also able to rebuild 30 homes in Canas Village.

Also, that last week another angel appeared, fellow Topangan Dr. Jan Berlin. After reading the story in the Messenger, he contacted me and told me to get a letter from my father-in-law, Dr. Palma, requesting help from a group he was part of called “A group of 12,” which gives grants to men in need of empowerment that can impact their community if given assistance. After reading the letter from Dr. Palma, the Group of 12 and their subdivision, The Topanga 12, each gave grants to Dr. Palma for equipment for his medical clinic for a total of $3,000. That added up to $7,000 in seven days! More about how much was raised and those who made it happen later. For now, a big “Thank You!” to all the extraordinary individuals involved above.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALEX WRIGHT

Canas Village: Philippines Relief Update

Alex Wright’s wife, Chari Palma Wright, poses with one of the trucks that delivered several thousand pounds of food, water and rice to Canas Village over Christmas.

My wife, Chari, and I started the morning renting a 4x4 truck and hiring a jeepney (bus-truck) with a driver. We then went shopping for food, water and supplies. I asked what was needed most and that is what we bought: two kinds of canned fish, meat, soups, bread, coffee, cooking oil, matches, soap and water. That added up to cases and cases of food and supplies. I did the math, and thanks to many of you sending extra, we had enough money to feed all of the 800 residents of Canas for Christmas and the following week.

We were shopping for 200 families. The store gave us a team of 15 helpers to move the supplies throughout the store and load the trucks. We really should have had another truck because the jeepney was so overloaded that the tires were halfway flat. The driver assured me that it would be fine. We headed out and, because that jeepney was so overloaded, we had to drive slowly, so slow, in fact, that I was driving in second gear most of the time and later in third gear.

Once we left Iloilo city, which had little damage from the Typhoon, we headed across the island to where Typhoon Yolanda hit with full force six weeks earlier (a distance comparable to Topanga to San Diego). An hour into the drive the destruction was everywhere.

What was once thick, lush green jungle and hills was now stripped of leaves and somewhat resembled the aftermath of a California brush fire.

The difference is that vegetation grows back in the tropics very quickly so there is new growth everywhere.

Thousands of trees, uprooted or snapped, lined the sides of the road. Many homes were without roofs or leveled. Filipinos are strong and hard-working people and they knew the government was not coming to save them. They cleaned the roads, collected construction debris and started rebuilding. Most homes were repaired with twisted or bent old corrugated roofing nailed back on the roofs. I could see hundreds of new gray plastic tarps on roofs or made into tents that said “Canada” on them. The Canadian military were the first to arrive, but their relief was only a large plastic tarp, two blankets, a mosquito net, one plastic cup and one plastic plate. That was it! No food, no water, no medical supplies, no matches! An umbrella would have been better than a blanket. Of course, food and water would have been the best thing. In front of the many homes we passed were kids lined along the road with their hands out asking for money.

I was not ready for them and had no change. However, the drivers of our jeepney, bless their souls, threw handfuls of small change out the windows and the kids, screaming with joy, scattered to pick up the coins. This happened about five times during the drive.

When we were 30 minutes outside of Canas village, we stopped at a rice farm. Rice is like white gold to Filipinos. We bought 50 hundred-pound sacks of rice, 5,000 pounds! They loaded up another truck and as night fell, the three trucks drove into Canas to my father-in-law’s home and clinic.

Fifty to 70 people were there to greet us and help unload the trucks. It was like an assembly line in a Filipino canned food factory. Everyone was unpacking the food from the boxes and dividing up each item into 221 bags, one bag for each family. By 11 p.m., they finished and then came the task of dividing up the 50 sacks of rice. A weight scale appeared and they poured 27.50 pounds of rice into each plastic bag.

It was an exciting night. The next day was going to be amazing.

THE BIG DAY

First, you should know that I started sending money to help two days before the Typhoon hit knowing that it was going to be bad. With your help I continued to send money almost three to four times a week.

About 98 percent of the homes in Canas had their roofs ripped off.

Most all wood and bamboo homes and structures were destroyed.

Many cement and block homes were leveled. My father in-law’s home and medical clinic lost the roof, the kitchen and many block walls came down along the tops of the walls where they were connected to the roof. They don’t build properly over here and that’s one reason so much was lost. Later, I’ll show pictures of the construction and the homes that were rebuilt thanks to your help.

The people of the village of Canas started lining up outside the house and medical clinic at noon on the day before Christmas. We had a list of neighborhoods and the families in them. First on the list were the poorest neighborhoods. They came into the compound to receive food and supplies one at a time, family by family.

Thanks to 175 of you and 30 of you who gave a lot extra, it was a great success and a very joyous day. More than 800 people, all of Canas, received food for a week. Everyone was so happy to receive the food and supplies. All they knew was that it was a gift from a place called Topanga. They knew that I asked you to help and that my community wanted to help their community.

They told me that, “never before did anyone come and give to them this much food and supplies.” We made history and they will never forget Topanga.

Weeks before I came, I asked for a list of 25 of the poorest families who needed a home or a bamboo house rebuilt. We put 6,000 pesos (one month’s pay for the poor) in envelopes with the names of those of you who were so generous and gave $300 to $1,000 each. In all, you paid for 30 homes to be built. Some were finished before I arrived including my family’s bamboo home that they are living in for now while their house is being rebuilt.

­As you can see, it was a beautiful day. You touched the lives of many and really made a difference.