If you can spare as little as 50,000Rp towards disaster relief in the Philippines, this will pay for solar lanterns in schools in some of the hardest hit areas. Ubud volunteer Susan Spilman is going to join Jen Richardson this Tuesday, and will take cash donations with her for this purpose. Please help! – UN&T Editor




by Jennifer Richardson


Before Super Typhoon Yolanda struck at the end of November, more than two million Philippine families had no electricity. During the typhoon and associated tsunami-like “tide surge”, which was taller than most homes along the coast of this entire region, an additional million houses were totally or partially destroyed, while many thousands more inland lost their roofs and have no power or water.



This Tuesday, Ubudian volunteer Susan Spilman leaves for Tacloban in the central Visayas, joining me, Jen Richardson, and many others from Bali who are working on various islands in the central Philippines. Make no mistake – and with no disrespect to the incredible and exhausting work of local and international humanitarian organisations who’ve been here for two months – the efforts to restore people’s lives and livelihoods from this calamity has really just begun.



I left Bali on December 13 with no specific goal in mind, other than helping where I could. I arrived in convoy with my friend Robin Lim, and had the good fortune to travel with her for the first couple of days, watching her in action as she continued her assessment of the needs of midwives throughout the region. When I arrived, I distributed almost $2,000 worth of donations from generous hearted Ubudians, including more than 40 solar lights of various sizes, which were mostly given to midwives working in the region, through Robin Lim’s network.



Within a few days I settled in the worst hit city, Tacloban, where I find my “job description” changes from week to week, as different needs pop up. One of the most rewarding is assisting Rotary Tacloban with its various emergency aid projects, including rebuilding 88 tiny rural schools.






I’ve asked Susan Spilman to help collect cash for small solar lanterns that will go to tiny mountain villages where there has been no lighting at night for two months. If you are reading this today, but if you have 200,000rp to spare (the cost of one sturdy little solar powered portable lantern) please contact Susan via Facebook here or at  or 081337 812 502 and hand over the cash (preferably a $US 20 note, I know it’s short notice but you have time to find a money changer) before she leaves on Tuesday evening. If not, speak to 3 friends and contribute 50,000rp each! There is a registered solar supplier in Manila who will ship to the disaster area for this price.




These practical, long-lasting lanterns will go to tiny villages/ schools where there is currently no or very little electricity. The first 100 lanterns collected are earmarked for the village of Sanroque, where Rotary Tacloban is already helping the local elementary school. There are 179 students (aged 5-16) in a school with no roof on the classrooms, all crowded into three teeny temporary classrooms put up by Rotary. The village itself is only 20 minutes out of Tacloban itself, tucked away in a fold of hillside, but it might as well be a thousand miles away, in terms of the (normal) standard of living of this little place and the pre-typhoon Tacloban city.



It is an extremely poor farming community, nestled between the folds of the hillside on poor quality soil. Many of the older students still struggle with elementary school because – despite the government’s “compulsory and free” schooling policy – they often have to work on the farm instead of attending classes.



In Sanroque village itself there are 100 tiny little houses. The electricity lines were all whipped away by the 350km / hour winds so the only power comes from 3 small privately owned generators; in other words, there is virtually no electricity, and no lighting after sundown. The village water supply relies on trucked-in supplies and rainwater, because the electric pump for the village well is also broken. I am helping Rotary Tacloban to fund a solar pump for the village well and our goal is also to provide one of these solar lights for each family, and each teacher, a total of 110 lights. (Visit Rotary Tacloban’s page on Facebook here, to see photos from a recent visit to Sanroque school and village).



For the first 10 days, this little orange camping lantern was my only light at night. They are one of the least expensive and yet the sturdiest of those I brought with me, providing good reading light for up to 4 hours.



Rotary’s work in Sanroque is continuing and beginning at the same time at six other equally remote schools – they have a list of 88 schools and will start roofing projects in each of them when international donations come in. As the region’s mother club, Rotary Tacloban has asked me to take on the role of “volunteer international liaison officer” for the island’s five Rotary clubs and to take charge of new approaches for international fund-raising. So I’m also helping calculate the cost of other simple aid we can give to the associated villages, and then writing articles and pleas for funds, to find the money to turn their hopes into reality.



If you can’t get cash to Susan Spilman in time, or you’d prefer to send the money direct to Rotary Tacloban, then please send to the bank account that Rotary Club of Tacloban has set up for international donations. Please make sure that you earmark it for the “village lanterns” project.



Account name: Rotary Club of Tacloban.


Account Number: 1381-00771-5


Bank Account: PNB (former) Allied Banking Corporation


Address: Leyson St, Hi Way Talamban, Cebu City


Swift Code: ABCMPHMM


Jen Richardson can be found on Facebook here.