Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines: Twice a Survivor: One Volunteer’s Story


Blog by Laura Sheahen, Emergency Communications Officer

“It was the most terrifying moment in our lives,” says Fay Camallere, a woman from the typhoon-stricken city of Ormoc in the Philippines. “I felt death was coming.”

Fay had felt death coming before. In 1991 at age 13, she was walking home from school when powerful flash floods ripped through Ormoc. As the waters rose, Fay swam to a three-story building and waited with others until the flood subsided. But on the way home, she saw bodies on the road. “I thought my family was dead.”

Thankfully, Fay and her family survived the floods over twenty years ago. But in early November, another catastrophe engulfed their city. Typhoon Haiyan, locally also known as Yolanda ripped through the streets, twisting metal sheets into spirals and uprooting trees.

Fay was in a sturdier house. The wind was hitting the front of the building and she was hiding in a back room with a window that wouldn’t open. When she saw her neighbors’ homes being blown apart by wind, “we broke our back window with a wooden pole, on purpose, and shouted to them, ‘Come! Come!’”

Four families took shelter in Fay’s house. “There were 22 people all in one room, including many children and a two-week-old baby,” says Fay. “We prayed. We thought we were going to die.”

But when the storm ended, they were alive. Fay had survived two of the most harrowing natural disasters in her island’s history.

Fay wanted to do something to help other survivors. “When I hear the news about typhoons and see the people suffering, my heart breaks,” she says. She volunteered with ACCORD, a CARE partner in the Philippines. With many other volunteers, she spent hours packing food parcels for people in villages devastated by the typhoon. CARE is distributing thousands of the food packages to families whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed.

Fay may never meet the people she’s helping. Many live in the hills outside her city, farming coconuts and vegetables. But they are grateful that they haven’t been forgotten in their time of need.

People in the typhoon zone have many fears about the future—how they’ll repair their houses, how they’ll earn a living when their crops are gone, how they’ll send their children to school. But thanks to volunteers who are themselves survivors, they won’t have to fear hunger.

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