Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms on record to make landfall, battered the Philippines on November 8, 2013 and caused catastrophic damage. World Vision’s teams continue to respond with emergency relief supplies for children and families in desperate need.
After Typhoon Haiyan ravaged Wilma Paloma’s village in the province of Aklan, Philippines in November 2013, she was left with the daunting task of leading her village towards recovery. She happened to be in her first term as leader of a village of 600 families when the typhoon hit.
Leadership and participation of women in village councils is gaining ground in the Philippines’ most vulnerable and disaster-prone areas. Still, however, emerging as a woman leader in a traditional farming community is no easy feat. Ms. Paloma’s long history of helping the community has enabled her to win hearts and minds as the new leader.
“I was also a survivor of another strong storm that destroyed our house and the entire village 30 years ago. My aunt who was a health worker entrusted the upkeep of the village’s health center to me. I lived there with my husband for months learning the ropes of providing healthcare to those in need. I even learned how to give birth there,” she recalls.
From then on, Ms. Paloma dedicated her life in serving the needs of the village for more than 15 years as a local health worker and nine years as a village council member. She has been a strong partner of World Vision in previous community projects, including the building of day-care centres.
The village health center was heavily damaged by Typhoon Haiyan but the community organized to make temporary repairs.
Ms. Paloma helped organize the community so that now, the village roads that were blocked with typhoon debris are open and lined with rows of golden rice grains being dried under the sun as the village transitions itself off of emergency assistance. She shares, “We have rice for the coming months but there’s more work to be done. We need to repair our day-cares and health centre. We need livelihood programs.”
Ms. Paloma and the village council have passed a resolution encouraging people to take part in cash-for-work initiatives set up by World Vision. They have also scheduled community meetings about the projects.
A devoted mother to her family, she ends her busy day with a family dinner. As the community’s “mother”, she strongly believes that her community can bounce back again: “People here in our community are doing what they can to restore their livelihood and houses. They cannot just sit and wait for help to come. Everyone must do their part for the village to be whole again.”
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