A Typhoon in My Heart

A Typhoon in My Heart

Publication info

Laura Sheahen, Senior Communications Officer

In the space of a week, Jocelyn Gonato faced two life-altering storms. A mother of three living on the island of Leyte in the Philippines, she found herself hanging on for dear life while Typhoon Yolanda’s winds shook her small shanty. But as powerful as the typhoon grew, it wasn’t the only thing tearing apart her home.

Like many parents in poor Philippine villages who hear typhoon warnings, Jocelyn sent her children to a solidly-built house for safety while she herself stayed in the family’s two-room shack. “I was afraid because my house is made of light material like bamboo stick walls,” she says. But she had to hold on to the house and what it contained—worn clothes, buckets, a pot for a charcoal stove.

The typhoon winds swiftly blew away the roof and sent a wall flying over her. She huddled under it, praying and asking for forgiveness. Hours later, when the storm passed, Jocelyn was alive. But the home she had tried to hold on to was gone.

Jocelyn’s husband, a driver, wasn’t with her when the typhoon pummeled the village. For many months, Jocelyn had suspected something was wrong. But it wasn’t until a few days before the storm that she learned there was another woman, and two children, in a far-off part of the island.

Her husband didn’t choose Jocelyn. Six days before Typhoon Yolanda hit, “he got his clothes and left,” she says.

There was a typhoon of strong wind and a typhoon in my heart. 

- Jocelyn Gonato

Now Jocelyn is trying to piece together her home with scraps of the old house and ragged tarps that neighbors have given her.  But with no job, Jocelyn isn’t sure how to feed her children, let alone rebuild a real home. “I’m worried the price of rice will go up,” she says. “How will I survive with three children and no money?”

CARE and its local partner ACCORD are working to help families like Jocelyn’s. Beginning with rice distributions, CARE plans to provide additional food, as well as shelter materials, to typhoon survivors who have lost everything. Meanwhile, Jocelyn and her children—including two small boys—struggle to recover from a double blow.

Planes and helicopters often fly above their village as the government and aid groups work to meet needs on a massive scale. Most little boys in the village get excited when they hear sounds overhead.

So do Jocelyn’s three- and four-year-old sons. "When helicopters fly over, they say, ‘Bring back our father and bring back our house.'"

Jocelyn, age 40, is a mother of three. Her home outisde the city of Ormoc was destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines shortly after her husband left her. Photo: CARE/ Peter Caton