When Super Typhoon Haiyan swept across the Philippines on 7 November 2013, destroying more than a million homes and tragically killing 6,000 people, our partner network PCMN already had people on-the-ground in Eastern Samar.
As a result, PCMN was ready to respond immediately by co-ordinating emergency supplies and, with Viva’s support, put together a comprehensive disaster recovery programme called Restore Eastern Samar Together (REST).
It is encouraging to see that, because of REST, the situation of children is, in many areas of Eastern Samar, better off now than it was before the typhoon.
Back then, it was reported that many children were being abused and neglected in communities that were, for the most part, indifferent and desensitised to the situation for young people.
The reality was that churches who could have responded to protect children were too inward-focused and there was a lack of real engagement from network members in Eastern Samar.
However, more than three years on, there is now a thriving, active and influential network of churches, committed to addressing the issues of children.
Looking at the numbers, PCMN’s local network in Eastern Samar grew from three churches before the typhoon, to 50 Churches in six muncipalities in the first two years of REST, and increased to 80 churches in 11 municipalities in 2016: a significant increase when a decrease was expected.
Within the first year, the network co-ordination team changed in personnel, many of whom were practical activists. With support from Viva, they received skills training on every level, from finance, governance, partnership management and programme delivery to report writing, communication and child protection and development. This built a foundation for REST to flourish.
There have been four focuses to the work:
- Safe child
- Safe school
- Safe church and community
- Safe governance
The results that REST achieved in the last year of the programme are substantial. The number of children in need of special protection has slowly decreased from the initial 600 to only 25 still being monitored and provided for with food pack subsidies and family support.
Each time a child’s home situation is stabilised and they are removed from the list it is considered a cause for celebration in the network.
Sixteen Operation Safe trauma debriefing camps were held, teaching children important principles to emotional recovery, and this has increased the resilience of 1,028 children.
Additionally, a further 17 community-based training camps taught almost 1,500 children about being safe in emergency situations such as fire, flood, earthquake and typhoon. This is important because an average of 20 major storms hit the Philippines every year.
Twenty children were supported through the back-to school programme, and seven daycare centres were constructed. Three Supervised Neighbourhood Play (SNP) programmes to keep toddlers safe and ensure that they receive adequate early childhood development activities have been established, and six new teachers trained.
Thirty churches in the local network took part in Viva’s Understanding God’s Heart for Children programme, and 1,078 children and adults were reached through Viva’s Good Treatment Campaign, based on advocacy and awareness-raising.
Fifty churches in Eastern Samar completed the foundational training on children’s work, and a government partnership with the network has been agreed, focusing on child protection and family strengthening.
An external evaluation highlighted five ways the programme was conducted that will support the ongoing child protection work of the network. They are:
1. Well-organised leadership that has been excellently developed.
2. The outward focus of Christian churches to help the community.
3. Networks working together is now a proven model in humanitarian response.
4. The competencies gained by the network in these three years may be utilised for future local network programmes.
5. Churches have become operational centres of a sustained response to children’s issues.
As the three-year funding for REST comes to an end, what remains is an organised, mobilised and equipped network with more that 300 trained volunteers to call upon, and a proven programme plan.
As Dilsy Arbutante, PCMN Chairperson, says, “We are inspired with God’s work in REST. The network co-ordination team are looking for more growth and sustainability, and they are rich in their faith to keep REST going even when the present support declines.”