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Before rebuilding can begin, shelter kits meet immediate needs

By Soyia Ellison

BOTONG, Philippines — As Typhoon Haiyan approached her island, Janeth Senabre fled to a gymnasium on the mainland.

Janeth and Danilo Senabre — with their children, Desire and DJ Rey — assembled a lean-to after Typhoon Haiyan destroyed their home. The tarp provided by Habitat for Humanity made it more secure and water-resistant. (Habitat for Humanity International/Soyia Ellison)

The storm ripped away the gym’s roof and cracked its pillars, sending pieces of cement crashing down among the evacuees. She huddled in terror with all the others in the gym’s interior bathrooms.

After the storm passed, she returned to Botong to find a concrete slab left where her family’s house used to stand.

“I cried when I saw it,” she said. “I didn’t know where to go or where to live. It felt hopeless.”

Senabre, 22, was born on the island, which is a few minutes’ rowboat ride from the larger island of Bantayam, a popular tourist destination. The 131 families who make their home on Botongo are among the poorest of the country’s poor. Some, like Senabre’s husband, Danilo, are fishermen. Others harvest and dry seaweed, earning $US5 to $US20 a month.

Even before Typhoon Haiyan, Senabre and her neighbors lived in makeshift houses without electricity or running water. But home is home, and now Senabre’s is gone.

After the storm, she and her husband cobbled together a lean-to with scraps lent to them by neighbors. They had to sleep sitting or standing up, because the makeshift shelter flooded during the near-nightly rains this season brings.

But then Habitat for Humanity delivered the first shelter repair kits to the island. With the tarps and hooks in those kits, Senabre and her husband were able to create a sturdier, safer shelter until they can begin rebuilding their home and their lives.

Life is still difficult. Their children — 4-year-old DJ Rey and 11-month-old Desire — are traumatized by what they’ve experienced, Senabre said.

“A small sound of wind or rain, and they start crying,” she said.

The family will need additional help building something more permanent and secure. But for now, they are grateful for life — and for simple tools to meet their immediate housing needs.

“We can sleep soundly,” Senabre said. “The rain won’t bother us.”