Relief and Recovery in the Philippines

ChildFund continues to actively respond to the large-scale emergency in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan just a few weeks ago. Geoffrey Petkovich, ChildFund’s regional director for Asia, reports that we are very fortunate that none of the children in our programs or staff from our local partner organizations lost their lives in the disaster.

Yet, our hearts break as we continue to remember the more than 5,000 who died as a result of this super typhoon, which may prove to be the strongest storm ever to make landfall. The destruction on the ground is unbelievable, with most homes destroyed or severely damaged in the most hard-hit communities of the central, eastern and western Visayas.

The office of ChildFund’s local partner in Ormoc was heavily damaged – its roof ripped away and offices inundated by floodwaters – but despite these massive obstacles, this team was able to work with our emergency staff to set up Child-Centered Spaces. These are safe havens for children who’ve lost their homes and their normal routines.

Response to this disaster is still in its early phase, with much work needed to be done by ChildFund and all the organizations that are working with the Philippines government on the ground. I wanted to share some of what ChildFund has been able to accomplish and our goals for the coming months.

ChildFund was the first organization to establish Child-Centered Spaces in the storm-impacted areas. We were also the first international organization to deliver food and non-food items to a number of communities initially cut off after the storm passed.

These actions are the result of the dedication and determination of our field staff on the front line working in difficult conditions, supported around the clock by ChildFund’s national office staff in Manila, our emergency management unit and our regional and headquarters staff.

We are implementing a two-phase response. Phase one, over the next three to six months, is focused on relief through the distribution of food and non-food items, the establishment of Child-Centered Spaces (CCS) to assist with child protection, support for early childhood development (ECD) and basic education and support for maternal and child health and nutrition.

In the following six to 12 months, we will focus on livelihood recovery for families and communities, strengthening community-based child protection and disaster risk management and emergency response training for these communities.

We are extremely grateful to ChildFund’s sponsors and donors who are contributing to the Philippines Relief and Recovery Fund. Your ongoing support for children and families is so critical to the massive rebuilding effort that is required to restore lives.

Children Caught in the Eye of Typhoon Haiyan

It was incredible to see ChildFund’s emergency response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines unfold last week.

When Haiyan struck the Philippines on Friday, Nov. 9, ChildFund staff from across the globe were in Bangkok, Thailand, as part of activities marking the 75th year of our founding. Representative staff from more than 50 countries had gathered to exchange ideas around innovations in our work for children, to discuss the changing environments in which children live and plan for how we can improve the impact of our work in the future.

We woke up Friday morning to learn that Haiyan was hitting the central area of the Philippines. We also woke up to a hotel with no electricity. Haiyan had also brought heavy rains to Bangkok, and a tree near our hotel came down in the night, taking out power lines. We started our meeting a little in the dark (figuratively and literally) and very sweaty with no air-conditioning in the 90+ humid weather.

By Saturday, reports from the Philippines started coming in. We learned Haiyan had devastated Tacloban and surrounding areas in the Visayas – where one-third of ChildFund’s project areas were located. We knew we had to respond.

REUTERS/Japan Meteorological AgencyNOAA, Courtesy of

Immediately, our emergency response systems were set in motion. Katherine Manik, our national director for the Philippines briefed the 12 CEOs of the ChildFund Alliance, just as we were starting our semi-annual meeting. She shared an incredible satellite image of Haiyan just as it was hitting the country – the scale of the typhoon was hard to comprehend – what may turn out to be the highest winds ever recorded had just plowed through an area where 10 million people were living in homes that could not withstand such force (really, what buildings could?). The eye of Haiyan (called Yolanda in the Philippines) was clear as a bell, an ominous sign. We learned that three of ChildFund’s local partners’ operating areas were directly in the devastated areas.

On the positive side, for the past several years, we had been preparing for such a disaster, as typhoons occur frequently in the Philippines. All of our local communities had been trained in disaster risk reduction – how to reduce your vulnerability to a natural disaster. In addition, they had all been trained in disaster management, including the international SPHERE standards for emergency response.

Several ChildFund staff prepared to leave for the Philippines immediately, including one vice president, who volunteered to join the team to help support our communications. Once in the Philippines, members of the emergency response team were deployed from Manila with enough supplies to support themselves and their work for a week.

Due to the severity of the storm, the number of people impacted and ChildFund’s extensive experience in the area of the world, we have established the Philippines Relief and Recovery Fund. In addition to responding to urgent needs of children and families, we are committing to helping with the long term and equally critical recovery period. The ChildFund Alliance has set a goal of raising $10 million, with $4 million for emergency assistance to children now and $6 million for longer term recovery – helping families rebuild their lives. This is the largest disaster response ChildFund has mounted since the 2004 Asian tsunami response.

Children are wandering the decimated streets.

As we continued our meetings in Bangkok, CEOs from around the ChildFund Alliance sprang into action, reaching out to supporters for help. Leaders from ChildFund New Zealand, Australia and other countries would stop me in the hallways to advise that they had just had a commitment for $100,000 or $200,000. In the U.S., ChildFund also launched a major appeal online and began reaching out to donors who sponsored children in the Philippines. The immediate support from around the world was gratifying.

In the days that followed, we learned that our community training had paid off – all of the children enrolled in ChildFund programs and our staff were accounted for! Although many lost their homes and their livelihoods, they were alive. I also learned that ChildFund was acknowledged by UNICEF as the first NGO to get a Child-Centered Space (a structured and safe place to care for children while their parents are busy restarting their lives) up and running.

ChildFund has set up Child-Centered Spaces as safe havens for children.

We still have a long way to attain our $10 million goal, but we are committed to supporting children and families in the Philippines. If you want to help, please donate to our Philippines Relief and Recovery Fund. Thank you!

ChildFund International is responding to the emergency in the Philippines. Super Typhoon Haiyan has left a path of destruction, with the Visayas suffering the most damage, beginning with Leyte, through the northern tips of Cebu and Iloilo westward. Contact has been reestablished with our local partner organization in Iloilo, but the affected areas in Samar and Leyte remain off the communications grid. Thus, we are still assessing full impact on our program areas.

I wanted to share this video from our country director in the Philippines, Katherine Manik, who describes the needs of children and families in the aftermath of this devastating storm.

Your support for ChildFund Emergency Action Fund is much appreciated. Thank you for your prayers and concern expressed for children and their families.

Learning About Healthy Snacking

In Indonesia’s West Java region, some tiny chefs are learning their way around the kitchen.

Children at two Early Childhood Development centers supported by ChildFund took part in a healthy-snacking program earlier this month. They learned how to make sandwiches and an iced-fruit dessert while their mothers joined a session about which snacks are good for their children.

The program was part of a volunteer day, and 20 staffers from the Indonesian branch of Fonterra, a global dairy company based in New Zealand and a ChildFund supporter, took part. Chef Petrus Nugraha showed the children how to make a sandwich with cheese, smoked beef, egg, cucumber and cabbage, followed by a mixture of melons, papaya and strawberries with milk, water and ice.

As you can see, the children enjoyed the experience. After reuniting with their mothers, who heard from a Fonterra staff doctor and a local midwife about good nutrition, the children shared the snacks they had made.

"This is an exciting activity,” Nugraha said. “The children here are not as lucky as we are. We should think how we could help them to develop better for their future. I am hoping this activity could motivate other people to also be involved in childhood development."

A Love for Children

In honor of International Women’s Day today, I wanted to share with you a post written by Sagita Adesywi, a communications officer in ChildFund’s Indonesia office. She recently interviewed Kristin, a formerly sponsored child who is now a tutor in our early childhood development programs. Kristin is the perfect example of the work we do at ChildFund to help girls grow up to become strong, capable women.

Despite 11 years of teaching young children, Kristin still loves what she does each day. “It wasn’t always easy,” she remembers of her early days in the classroom in Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. “I used to be impatient and got angry easily back then, but since I have become an ECD tutor (at Mutiara Early Childhood Development center) I have learned to control my emotions and be more patient with children,” says Kristin.


Her interest in helping children grew from her involvement with ChildFund. “I was a sponsored child for about seven years, and so I have been associated with ChildFund since I was young,” she explains. A capable student, Kristin obtained a scholarship from ChildFund to study early childhood development at an open university, which is linked to the Indonesian Education Department.

“Soon after I finished my schooling, I volunteered to become a tutor. Since then, I have received trainings on teaching and curriculum as well as how to deal with and care for young children. I even learned about children’s rights. Early childhood development is critical for developing a strong base on which to take on life. Just like a house, we need to have strong foundations for when a storm comes,” she says.

“Here, children learn through play. We teach children to have more self-confidence and to be more independent. We teach them little by little, the importance of keeping themselves clean. We talk about the importance of taking a bath, washing their hair, brushing their teeth twice a day and washing their hands before their meals. Parents have even told us how their children now ask them to wash their hands before meals at home. At the end of the day, seeing this new behavior makes me really happy.”


The Mutiara ECD center has become a model program. “We give trainings to other ECD tutors on how to use local and used resources for educational aids,” Kristin says. “For example, we show them how to make a ball from dried coconut skin; we also show them what to do with recycled water bottles, soap boxes, egg shells, etc., to teach children about shape and color. I want to help other tutors gain better knowledge on ECD. I hope ECD centers in Sumba grow bigger and better!”


Delivering Health Care to the People

Last week I traveled to Central Java, Indonesia, with ChildFund International’s Board to take a firsthand look at our programs. Yesterday, I posted about our visit to an Early Childhood Development center.

Our next stop in Indonesia took us to a posyandu, or village health services post. In this remote rural area and in the absence of medical facilities, the posyandu is set up in a community member’s house twice a month (opening times are announced at the village mosque the previous day) and provides health services to the local community. ChildFund provides training to community health volunteers. We focus on maternal and child health, pre- and post-natal care, breastfeeding and developmental stimulation for infants and young children. ChildFund also provides food supplements and medicine.

On this day, the posyandu is bustling with activity, providing birth registration, growth monitoring (height and weight), immunization, counseling and supplementary feeding for children. There’s also parenting education for mothers as well as hygiene training.

Clearly, there’s a malnutrition issue in this area, which was severely affected by the 2010 Merapi eruption. The entire village was evacuated and it took a year for the community to return to normal life. Water sources were polluted and all crops were completely destroyed by volcanic ash.

As I weigh Tegar, a 3-year-old boy, I note that he is smaller than he should be. The village midwife tracks his height and weight monthly; the chart shows he is below average. For cases like this, we routinely offer nutrition counseling on site and provide supplemental food. And we keep close check on the children who are underweight. If a child misses two appointments at the health post, we follow up with a home visit.

As we prepare to serve children a nutritious meal of rice, egg and vegetables, community volunteers first remind mothers and children to wash their hands. “Now we understand it is important to wash our hands before and after preparing food and eating,” Murjilah, a young mother, tells me.


As our group prepares to depart, menacing dark clouds move in. The weather can change quickly on the slopes of Merapi. And then the heavens open. We hit the winding roads again, surrounded by lush vegetation; this part of Java certainly gets its fair share of rain.


Our final stop for the day is to visit a sponsored child. Visiting a family dwelling always brings home the fact that ChildFund really does serve the most deprived people.

When we can go no farther on the road, we get out of the car and walk the rest of the way in the pouring rain to the house, which sits at the bottom of a steep path. As we enter the home, it is dark and damp. The father rushes to turn on the lights and greets us with a warm smile and a soft handshake. The floor is an uneven surface of stones and dirt. The living room has three chairs. A little girl, Sidi, emerges from the kitchen area. She has been sponsored for one year through ChildFund.

Once we get acquainted, she becomes talkative. “I dream of becoming a doctor to help my parents stay healthy,” she tells me confidently. Sidi is in school and doing well. She says she enjoys learning and being with her friends. She wants to make her parents proud.

We go through to the kitchen area, which consists of nothing more than an open fire pit and a rack on which to store plates and utensils. The mother starts a fire. She tells me the family will eat rice and vegetables for dinner, like every night.


A tiny bedroom sleeps five and I notice a ChildFund-provided mosquito net. Good to see the children have some protection against malaria.

An unusual family member lives in the next room. As I go through the door, a large cow, chomping grass, stares at me. I learn that the family received the cow as a gift through ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope catalog. The cow is providing a steady source of milk and is making a real difference in Sidi’s family’s life.


Although conditions remain challenging for many families in Indonesia, I am happy to see children like Sidi moving forward with their education and their dreams.