TACLOBAN, Philippines — Almost three months after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, Presiding Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, Philippines Area President Brent H. Nielson of the Seventy and other leaders for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints visited LDS Church members in Tacloban on Jan. 27 to see how principles of welfare and self-reliance are working in the storm-devastated area.
Their verdict: “Remarkable.”
“One of the divinely appointed responsibilities from the Lord is ‘caring for the poor and needy’ while building self-reliance,” said Bishop Stevenson. “This is what is special about what is taking place in the Philippines right now. The church is simultaneously doing this for the people there.”
Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on Nov. 8, destroying more than 1.1 million homes. The deadliest typhoon on record in the country, the storm left more than 6,200 people dead, injured 28,000 and displaced 3 million. Some 1,785 people remain missing.
After the disaster, in which 42 Latter-day Saints died, the church sent relief supplies and partnered with local and international relief organizations to assist with food, shelter, water purification, debris removal and livelihood restoration projects. To date, church members have constructed more than 250 shelters, with new homes being completed every day.
Working with the local Self Reliance Center — an international version of employment resource centers — and with the Perpetual Education Fund, members are receiving vocational training and learning skills as carpenters, electricians or plumbers. The LDS Church is also helping them obtain basic tools needed to construct shelters to house those who lost their homes during the disaster.
Church leaders expect that the members’ training and hands-on experience will lead to jobs as the affected region’s infrastructure is rebuilt.
“The principles in action right now are quite remarkable,” he told the Church News. “We are seeing both the principles of welfare, which is caring for the poor and needy, and the principle of self-reliance in action. This is astounding, and something that will have a far-reaching impact upon Church members.”
Elder Nielson said the highlight of the visit was the opportunity to see welfare and self-reliance come together in a remarkable way.
“Each family is given materials to build a new shelter and tools to assist,” he explained. “The family builds their own home with the assistance of a carpenter and three other members. Once the shelter is built then the family assists nine other families in building their shelter. At the end of that experience, the family is given the tools to keep and a certificate of carpentry is issued certifying that they have learned basic carpentry skills. They are then able to apply for the many construction jobs that are now available in Tacloban. In the process, the church helps them help themselves. They help other members and in the process gain a marketable skill.”
Elder Robert C. Gay, Chairman of the Church Perpetual Education Fund, expressed support for the self-reliance initiative. He explained, “The work of building shelters in the Philippines is an example of helping the poor and needy in the Lord’s way. Welfare relief accompanied by training to help our members acquire longer term work skills that help them lift themselves while working as one under the direction of local priesthood.”
Speaking of Bishop Stevenson’s visit to Tacloban, Elder Nielson said, “He was able to see firsthand, the needs of the people and also participate in the work that is being done to assist.”
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