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    Posted March 27, 2013 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Faith-shaking moments

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    OPERATION NOAH (Part 1): Building a home would take but some time to put up, but “re-building” a life takes one day at a time

    There are things that affect us so much that we would either keep the experience to ourselves or we would tell others about it, as we try to unload the heaviness that that experience has brought. Personally, I’ve kept it to myself for about 9 months. I surely could have written about it sooner but I didn’t – because of all the “different angles” that just blew me away.

    Nothing brings people together better than a tragedy. And nothing tests a person’s resolve more than the sudden, unexpected, trials that hit a person’s life. Things like a super typhoon that storms through a village and trashes everything and everyone in its way – just like that typhoon Sendong that devastated Cagayan de Oro City (CDO), Philippines, last December 2011. To the rest of the world it may be past news – but to the people whose lives are forever changed because of it, they live the tragedy even up to this day.

    During my first trip (February 2012) to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan Cities, in the Southern part of the Philippines, I witnessed how people lost everything; how people tried to cope and get on with their lives. I was with the children in one of the areas – and as they were given paper and coloring pencils, they drew what looked to be like simple art work. Then it struck me – while taking pictures, the children drew their memories of their loss – “dead bodies” laying on the ground, homes wrecked and hopes lost. All that they had was a memory. We helped as much as we could – bringing supplies for the victims of the tragedy. But that was just a drop in the bucket. Back in Manila, I knew that I had to go back.

    Two of my good friends, fellow CNN i-Reporters, Sherbien Dacalanio and Andrew Go, and I started planning our next trip to CDO. We had to try to do something more, something that is more permanent and significant, then the suggestion came from Bien: to build homes for the victims of the typhoon. It seemed like a bold thing to do, it would take time, lots of coordination and a lot of sweat and muscle – and no matter what, it was something we’ve set our minds to do. Thus, I dubbed this charity project: OPERATION NOAH.

    Noah in the Bible built an arc in obedience to the command of God, warning him of the great flood that shall cover the earth and end all life. And Noah in his obedience to God built the arc, bearing the insults and doubts of men. Taking his family and two of every creature on earth with him into the arc, when the storm did come and flooded the entire earth it was Noah, his family and two of every creature that were saved. In like manner, though in the “reverse”, we set out to execute OPERATION NOAH – to initiate the building of the first homes that would be the model homes for the victims of typhoon Sendong, victims who have lost everything but the clothes they were wearing at the time and hope that someday they could get their life back.

    Sherbien got to work on the contacts and through coordinating with Habitat For Humanity in Manila with their CDO office, we set a date for 4 days (June 27 to 30, 2012) to build the first 6 homes in EcoVille Xavier – Lumban Site in Cagayan De Oro City.

    Visiting the Habitat For Humanity Office in CDO, we had the pleasure to meet the dedicated staff, as well as HFH COO – Tots Escalada; thru their support, we had Jan Awitin from HFH with us to take us to the site and regular HFH Volunteer Dawn Virtudazo to accompany and work with us on site; and of course with the help of youth volunteers – April Mecaros and Rusty Quintana, who gathered anywhere from 18 to 30 youth volunteers, we were all set to start building.

    At the Lumban site, which was at the EcoVille Xavier area, we entered this huge 5 hectare property donated by the Jesuits for the purpose of building homes for the victims of the typhoon. One the right side of the property was the make shift houses made of wood; and with only a door and one window, and no electricity for lights or even an electric fan, that piece of space is just as good as a box where all you could do is sleep. But for now, considering that all has been lost, it is better than having nothing. On the left side of the property though – this is where the homes shall be built.

    As of June 2012 there were 8 sites in which 2000 housing shelters that were completed and/or undergoing construction. At the EcoVille site, it was our team that would initiate to build the first six (6) “houses” of what is supposed to total five hundred seventy six (576) homes.

    Here we were, three CNN i-Reporters from Manila, strangers to the people in the area; but because of this, we found ourselves starting the build, with the help of youth volunteers who have the same heart and goal as we do. Working hand in hand, even with the victims of typhoon Sendong – fathers, sons, brothers, building what would be their future homes; even their women helped – working on the fabrication of rebars or making hallow blocks – everyone had a part.

    People could choose to stay victims or move on and become victors. People may lose hope and even end up losing their faith; but to believe that through all this hardships – God is still in control; to believe that there is a glimmer of light in the hearts of men, that will bring men, women and children together – hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder; from different faiths and creeds, ages and levels of understanding; for this purpose we are one. To help rebuild the lives of those who need our help.

    We each have a cross to bear – and for this moment, if this be the cross we are to carry – to have helped build homes for the homeless, then so be it. For as the Lord Jesus has said in Luke 9:23: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
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