by Jennifer Richardson


People in other countries are saying this country is ok now. It’s not true. They have an amazing fighting spirit, but it will be months before everyone has a safe place to sleep, let alone before the hideous debris is removed and they start to rebuild their homes.


Help a Great School


I’m staying in Sacred Heart Catholic School in Tacloban – on the floor of the principal’s office – until school resumes on Jan 6th. Six precious nuns upstairs. Bell for mass every morning at 4am (closer than my temple in Junjungan) so I go to mass. A feeling of community is so important and it’s a good way to start the day. Though soooooo early! But then there’s an 8pm curfew and no electricity, so I’m asleep by 9pm….


At the school, the primary school part was not damaged – the tsunami wave only reached the top of the ground floor, and all the kids’ classrooms and books were safe on the 2nd and 3rd. The 350km/ hour winds didn’t break the glass. Some kids have been moved to safety in other cities and won’t come back this term, but none died.


The senior school was not so lucky. The roof blew off and most windows were broken, so everything was damaged. The library was on the ground floor and everything was destroyed, and the librarian died. So not only are there no books, but the person who knows what was there has also been lost.


Really, they need HUGE donations of books on all general topics – English is fine – and class sets wherever possible. They also need a volunteer librarian for a term to set it up!!! And they’ve already spent every bit of donation money getting the electricity restored, and the water and sewage systems repaired, and still need money to replace two destroyed water pumps. So if you know anyone in the education system, the Catholic system or working in libraries or bookstores, please stir them up to donate.


Help Rotary Help the Island


The nuns have handed over the grounds of the school as the “Command centre” for Rotary Tacloban, who are feeding a hot meal to 1,500 people every day and working with the school system to replace roofs etc on 800 other schools on the island….and whatever else they can do. They’re extraordinary people. There are 400 Rotarians on the island, many of whom have lost their homes, jobs and/or businesses. 100 or more of them have been working 24/7 on whatever was needed, often with their own money. They are absolutely exhausted but clearly have no intention of stopping. Their cars are mostly out of action, at least temporarily, their truck’s gear box has died (which hasn’t stopped the driver, by the way) and they still keep going.


Club president Joel Caminade has a printing press business, but all the Xerox machines were under salt water for several hours. He ran a newspaper but, like the other local papers, it’s not being published now, at a time when so much information is needed.


I attended a water and sanitation meeting yesterday. A wonderful group of international aid agencies working harmoniously together to provide water and latrines, and to make sure that these mostly very poor people, now homeless, get basic hygiene, so they don’t come down with ghastly disease as well.


I keep thinking how great it would be if the paper could come out. A free edition maybe, with community information of all kinds. So if you know Rotary Clubs who can help with any of this, please encourage them. Or a Xerox company executive or technician, who could donate repair parts and have the time to fix ISO quality machines.


Community Morale Booster


It turns out I wasn’t crazy to bring a little sound system with salsa music. Everyone loves it. One of the Rotarians has suggested we start a weekly free dance evening for the community. So we’ll do at starting 2nd week of January, I hope. I want to get Ernesto over here from Cafe Havana for a week. And maybe Davis to come volunteer for a month – on the Dengue eradication project, and teaching dance – and in the meantime I’ll find local teachers. And a hall. And a bigger sound system.


I have to get off this wifi now. I will report again later. Sorry, photos just won’t upload.


More later about the Dengue Larvicide Project I’m setting up and a glimpse of the amazing work of Ibu Robyn Lim, Dr Laura and her solar suitcase, and the Mercy Midwives.


If you can help and would like to communicate with Jen, you can contact her at +639204 755 822. Or email, and we’ll pass the message on.


Or donate to the Bumi Sehat Foundation – see


To see a video on Bumi Sehat’s Response to the Philippine Disaster, click here