Last month, Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit the Philippines hard. At first, efforts were on bringing immediate relief to the area. Now the focus is slowly becoming the implementation of mid-term recovery and long-term rehabilitation plans.
To make this happen, help is still needed. Many Filipinos make their living from fishing, but far too many boats were lost during the storm, stranding fishermen without a way to provide for their families.
Luckily they are resilient and ingenious. They make boats out of whatever they can and continue fishing as much as possible. Self-reliance is important to these people.
However, getting more boats to more fishermen will provide a snowball effect whereby people and families and communities are brought out of devastation, back to a place where they can support themselves in a sustainable manner.
Some of them lost family members and other loved ones. But their spirits continue on strong.
For the fishermen with similar stories, what makes it even harder for them now is to survive when the boats they rely on to put food on their tables and to earn a living are also gone.
It must really take a courageous heart to wake up everyday to a vast view of destruction that reminds you of what’s taken away from you. But to many of the survivors of Yolanda, life has to go on.
That is exactly the situation in most of the communities including in Tinagoan, Basey, Samar, where we met Jimmy Palagar. Help is still very scarce in many areas and these people are fighting hard to survive every single day. Jimmy, for example, recovered two refrigerators, tied it together and turned it into fishing boat. I tried to understand the strength they’ve shown after a tragedy of such magnitude. Perhaps it is not because Filipinos are naturally resilient, but maybe because to be strong is the only option left, for them and their loved ones to survive.
The people were a little unenthusiastic when I told them that we came to help and replace their lost or damage boats. They lamented that most of those who came and promised them help did not actually come back. I understand their hesitation but we let them know that the world cared about them.
After Typhoon Pablo smashed Davao Oriental in December of 2012, Yellow Boat Of Hope (YBH) Foundation through a Davao-based NGO (KINSABA) launched a project called Adopt-A-Fisherman. Its aim is to help fishermen by providing them with boats so they can go back to fishing and provide for their family. We have since turned over 168 boats in the province.
In the aftermath of Yolanda, an estimated 120,000 fishermen lost their boats. The number did not come as a surprise considering that most of the affected communities are in the coastal areas where fishing is the main source of livelihood.
Through the generosity of donors, YBH continues to provide boats to severely affected families. So far, more than 200 yellow boats of hope are now under various stages of construction and project partners around the world already committed another 200 boats. The cost of a self-paddled boat ranges from P8,000 to P15,000 ($200-$350) depending on the community. A motorized boat costs between P20,000 to P30,000 ($470-$800).
While hundreds of boat will soon be ready for turnover, thousands of fishermen still need boats. Let’s rally together to restore their dignity as fishermen, one boat at a time.
Like all the yellow boats that bear the name Bagong Pag-asa, all the fishermen need is a spark of hope that the fishing boat represents. For them, a boat is hope and hope is a boat that will sail them through this phase of their lives.