"These pictures do not tell the full story," warned Don Foster. He should know. As Siloam's Honorary South East Asia Representative, he understands the plight of Philippine emergency victims he has known and admired for years. Currently, his work includes trying to meet the urgent housing needs of people still affected by destructive weather.
On the northern Cebu Island, people lived a simple life of rural subsistence. Being very poor, they grew maize and sweet potatoes, eating their crops for survival. That was prior to the horrific typhoon of November 2013 which left a wake of destruction – and devastated lives.
After a few days of uncertainty, Hazel, who Don sponsors in her business studies at Cebu University, was able to make contact. She comes from a hill village, one of a large family living in poverty. Yet she was able to travel in these emergency conditions to raise the alarm for her community over the Internet.
When Don sent money, Hazel purchased quantities of goods such as rice and tinned fish, organised parcel preparation and transport. Then she made the three hour return journey to her church family and friends.
The hopeful part
Other volunteers ensured further distribution of goods with Siloam Christian Ministries funding. In spite of their urgent needs, people queued patiently and orderly. Although 180 survival packs were distributed, with only one per family, these basic supplies could not go far. Yet those receiving help asked to have their great appreciation expressed to British donors who came to their aid.
Siloam protects the vulnerable in diverse ways. Working together with social services, a baby and children's rescue centre provides a safe haven for those at risk as well as rescued victims.
Also, an innovative project, 'school in a cart' offers everything from food to early education opportunities for children living on the street. Sponsorship is just one way of helping needy youth. Continuing guidance is available for those who complete their studies. Some then go on to sponsor other underprivileged children.
That is why Hazel and others form only part of the bigger picture. "When you help a youngster, you're not just doing something for one individual," explains Don.
"You are actually assisting their family too. In turn, these young people are equipped and motivated to help their community. This becomes crucial as in the current situation of providing housing for typhoon victims who lost so much. That is the hopeful part of the story, the bigger picture – whatever disaster these brave people may face."