To help Filipinos and especially people with disabilities to provide for themselves and their families following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, Handicap International runs a “cash-for-work” program that employs local people to clean up storm debris. Below, Philippe Pascal, who recently returned home after managing the project for six months, talks about the program and the impact it’s having.
In January 2014, following two months of emergency humanitarian response work, I focused my efforts on our cash-for-work project. We began by doing careful assessments to identify vulnerable individuals in local municipalities around Tacloban who could benefit from the program. That way we knew we’d hire people who’d really benefit from a wage or from being involved in their communities.
Most of our cash-for-work teams are made up of people with disabilities, older people, and deeply impoverished people. Once identified, we give those individuals the option of having a relative or caretaker participate on the work crew in their place, but they usually want to take part in the clear-up operations themselves.
We adapt work assignments so that people with disabilities can make an impact. We hired one blind man, for example, who did weeding with the help of a relative. He wanted to show his community that he could work, and that there was no need for him to be separated from everyone else, either in this situation or any other. We also hire people in wheelchairs to do stock management.
The 870 Filipinos who have taken part in the project so far have helped clear a lot of debris, including from secondary roads leading to cut-off areas, and from really important community areas like schools, markets, churches, and basketball courts. Basketball is the most popular sport in this area, and it really brings the young people together, so we make a special effort to clear and repair courts. There are courts everywhere, and most of them were at least partly damaged and pose a danger to the children who gather there. So far we have restored 17 courts.
We also help the community by hiring improvised people. Most of these people found it very hard to make ends meet before the typhoon and so lacked the resources to rebuild after the storm. By hiring them, we inject a little cash into their families and communities. This sort of assistance is vital.
Everyone we hire does something they are capable of doing and actually we notice that the work is accomplished pretty quickly. The commitment shown by everyone involved, along with a great team spirit, means we make a lot of progress. I was really touched by the fact that each of the communities I worked with was genuinely grateful for what we’d done.
However, Filipinos will still need a lot of help over the next few years to get back on track. We’re just at the start of the reconstruction effort and it’ll take a long time for each community to reorganize itself and start earning a regular income again. So, if you can help, please lend a hand.