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cbm “breaks barriers and opens doors” by reaching a group of women isolated by the typhoon

"Members of the cooperative are like a family. We don't want Haiyan to torn the family apart." Group of members. Jemalyn & Myline have asked the men to stay with them to keep them safer. Men from left to right are: Christian, Elmar and Edgar Philippines after typhoon Haiyan, November 2013.

Group of women with disability: “If we stay here, we die of hunger. If we leave, we lose everything we lived for.”

On the mountain side of Tacloban slightly elevated above the city, the cbm Rapid Assessment Team found a group of women, many with disabilities, and children sheltering in the workshop of the Tacloban Persons with Disability Cooperative. The group had been living there for eight days and had food to last them only two more days. They were scared, hungry and had lost all sense of hope.

On the day of the typhoon twelve of them hid inside the workshop. “At first we were relaxed because we thought it was an ordinary typhoon” said Jemalyn Estonilo, a project manager at the Cooperative. “I thought it was just a mild wind but then the water started coming in. It was very deep and rose fast up to my waist. We were scared and crying and shivering. We managed to smash a hole in the back wall to let the water out” she said.

Jemalyn describes how afraid the group has felt over the past eight days. “At night I hear people come and rattle the lock to see if they can get in. We are frightened because we are mostly women here. We are on the mountain side and there are no neighbours” she told us. “I have heard of rapes happening in the city and without men here I am very afraid” Jemalyn said.

The group faced an agonising decision. “If we leave here people will steal the equipment and machinery. Then we will have lost everything, our homes, our income and our work. We will have nothing. But without food we cannot stay. We have no money and we are not safe here. We feel we have no options” she said.

The cbm Emergency Response Team spent the next 24 hours with the group figuring out solutions to ensure their safety and welfare. The Redemptionist Church in Tacloban provided five volunteers, three men and two women, to sleep at the workshop to ensure their safety. cbm began supporting arrangements for the workshop to be moved two hours north of Tacloban where the group could continue work, earn an income and access electricity.

“We are getting strength from you. We are getting hope for a brighter future” Jemalyn said, “thank you for giving us hope”.

Jemalyn’s story is just one of many examples showing how cbm and its supporters are breaking barriers and opening doors to make humanitarian action inclusive – an impulse given by the theme of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2013.

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