In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan ravaged Central Philippines, displacing entire communities in its path. The catastrophic destruction drew a tremendous outpouring of support from around the world, and immediate relief efforts ensued.
When I recently visited Tanauan, Leyte—one of the three municipalities hardest hit by the typhoon—driving through the streets, it was apparent that the task at hand shifted to long-term recovery. This focus on rebuilding has now placed us in a position to think about how we can best support and coordinate efforts to bring together private, governmental and humanitarian sectors to transition efforts from relief to the complex task of rebuilding lives, homes and communities.
As public and private funders consider how to best leverage resources, Citi and the Citi Foundation’s work with the Skoll Foundation is an excellent example of how thoughtful private-social sector collaboration can bridge immediate relief to long-term economic recovery while also responding to the challenges of building resiliency in the face of disasters and climate change.
Shortly after the typhoon hit on November 8, the Skoll Foundation contacted Gawad Kalinga (GK), a Filipino community development organization, to assess their needs in launching an effective relief and rebuilding plan. Skoll Foundation President and CEO Sally Osberg approved the plan within days, and $250,000 was made available to GK just days later. This timely support made it possible for GK to act quickly, respond to people’s needs as the situation unfolded, and target the hardest-hit communities.
“Skoll’s relationship with Gawad Kalinga is built on their long history of impact and also on trust—the trust we have in their proven track record of building strong communities by working effectively with the public, private, and civil society sectors in the Philippines,” said Osberg. “We knew that the best way to get urgently-needed relief to those whose lives had been shattered by the typhoon was to give GK immediate and unrestricted support.”
The Skoll Foundation laid the groundwork for the grant investments that followed from the Citi Foundation. In early 2014, the Citi Foundation approved a 24-month, $320,000 long-term recovery program with GK. The program aligns with the three-year disaster recovery plan established by the municipal government of Tanauan, the Department of Public Works and Highways and the National Housing Authority. Private, public and social sector efforts came together in a way that will provide efficient and strategic resources for long-term recovery efforts to help affected families, rebuild communities, and restore the livelihoods of people impacted in the coastal town of Tanauan, Leyte.
GK, a Skoll Awardee, is already building homes for displaced populations, and in the midst of construction, has started training people on how to better prepare for and respond to future disasters. GK aims to build homes for at least 1,200 families in Barangays Pago, Maribe and Sakme in Tanauan, and when families settle in, they can look forward to GK livelihood programs that will cover the costs of construction and masonry, commercial fishing and basic retail, to jumpstart not only their lives but also the local economy.
At Citi, we have a “more than philanthropy” approach to our community efforts. We believe that by leveraging our business resources and talent, we can enhance our philanthropic impact and make a positive difference in the communities we serve. As such, this year as part of Global Community Day – a company-wide day of service – I visited our program in Tanauan with 20 Citi volunteers to participate in the rebuilding efforts. We painted a row of houses and worked alongside families, friends and colleagues.
We spent a meaningful morning with Typhoon Yolanda survivors, and there, I met a young girl in bright spirits and full of hope. She’s still living in a tent with her family, and chose to come to the worksite because the heat made it impossible for her to stay in their temporary shelter during the day. Her parents are there to give their “sweat equity,” in the hopes that their work will earn them an early spot among homes to be awarded. She could not go to class because her school was destroyed after the typhoon. And yet, she was a ray of sunshine in what was clearly a tremendously difficult situation that will take a long time to rebuild.
Sadly, her story is not unique and only one of thousands more in Leyte. Emerging from the airport, we were struck with the overpowering heat and realized it was due to the lack of shade caused by downed trees from the typhoon. Driving to Tanauan, we passed rows and rows of tents dubbed as “Tent City,” and saw the real urgency for housing to relocate all these displaced families.
With typhoon season only a few weeks away, it is clear that reconstruction efforts not only include rebuilding infrastructure stronger than it was before, but that we also do not overlook the importance of helping people build communities that are disaster-averse.
Successful rebuilding models require an innovative multi-stakeholder lens. Visiting Tanauan showed me that while the road to recovery will be long, the private sector can work with the social sector to design and support grassroots initiatives that involve the right stakeholders and can empower people to build resilient communities.
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