Bermudian arrives in Philippines to help in aid effort
Volunteer Dominique Smith has travelled to the storm-devastated Philippines to help orchestrate “massive” relief efforts in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.
Ms Smith, who arrived in the capital Manila on Tuesday, is a director of finance for the international group All Hands Volunteers and a Bermudian.
The organisation is laying the groundwork for a team of helpers to assist with recovery.
Haiyan, also known as Typhoon Yolanda, slammed into the Pacific nation on November 8, leaving catastrophic damage across the Leyte and Samar islands.
Ms Smith, a former Chief Operating Officer of Bermuda Commercial Bank, told The Royal Gazette that an assessment team from All Hands Volunteers had spent the past six days appraising the devastation.
She joined the US-based non-profit in 2011 in the aftermath of Haiti’s disastrous earthquake, and has remained with them since.
Although she hasn’t yet reached the site of the Philippines catastrophe, Ms Smith said reports from the worst-struck areas indicated homes and businesses alike had been “wiped out”.
“Basics such as food and water have been the most immediate need. Now, almost two weeks after the typhoon, there is a greater need for medical care and to provide temporary shelter with a plan for permanent housing and restoring livelihood.
“This will require massive clean up efforts, recovery and rebuilding, which is All Hands Volunteers’ focus.”
The group has secured a base in the Philippines to host volunteers, and is also linking with the World Food Programme.
“It is early days still,” Ms Smith said, adding that the group hopes to invite its first volunteers in early December.
Initial efforts will focus on helping to remove debris.
“Although the international press is focusing on Tacloban, our field staff in Ormoc reported extensive damage throughout the province of Leyte,” Ms Smith said. “A lack of power and telephone and internet services make communications difficult.
“Transportation is a challenge as ferries to and from Ormoc are full, and it can be a two day wait. Roads are difficult to travel and fuel is in short supply.”
Ms Smith is familiar with the Philippines, after joining relief efforts there last year in the aftermath of Typhoon Washi.
The current effort is the group’s fifth project there in the past seven years: last month, All Hands Volunteers launched a relief operation after an earthquake struck the Bohol district.
Ms Smith arrives today at the base in that region, to discuss logistics for recovery projects in Ormoc — where food is now available again but tools and hardware are in short supply.
All Hands Volunteers is currently attempting to track down a ferry to bring in much-needed materials.
Asked how Bermuda residents could help, Ms Smith said volunteers could apply via the group’s website.
“We need volunteers in the Philippines on both our earthquake and typhoon recovery projects,” she said. “We are not requesting specials skills — just a heart and desire to help those in need.”
Donations are also being taken via the website, www.hands.org.