“Through the Eyes of the Bearcat Student Delegation”

Article by Joe Flynn

DAY ONE:
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On the 15th of February a selected delegation of Bearcat student leaders assembled outside the security office. Their task was to travel to Estancia and discover the true extent of the devastation that Typhoon Haiyan caused last November as well as to identify what lengths have been taken to ensure rehabilitation of the local community and what role the funds donated by ISM and it’s partners have played in the restoration of the Estancia Central Elementary School, the main institute for young children in the area.
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After arriving on a Cebu Pacific flight, the delegation checked into it’s accommodation in the city of Roxas and visited Punta Cogon Elementary, a small school located with a population of 181 enrolled students, which was half an hours drive away from the city. The student delegation dedicated a good amount of time interacting with the kids, through simple, but energetic ice breakers that both kids and delegates were able to enjoy. The Bearcat representatives then split in order to conduct interviews with the student body, the school principal and teachers as well as the parents of students enrolled in the school during the time of the typhoon.

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A visit to the UNICEF regional office was later established between the delegates and high ranking local UNICEF officials, which included Sam Mawungandi, the head of the UNICEF field office in Rajasthan who has now been seconded to the Estancia area, child protection sub cluster coordinator Nithi Sellapu, UNICEF education specialist Anna Layho as well as Child Fund worker Joy Ayupan. The officials were asked about the effects of Typhoon Haiyan on the area as well the as the roles that the local government and international NGOs have played in the relief and rehabilitation of the schools, the children themselves and the region as a whole.

DAY TWO:

The second day started off with an early breakfast and a visit to the site of the Coca Cola  sponsored ‘Little Red Schoolhouse’ institute. This school was not directly supported by Bearcat funds but as ISM had direct connections to Coca Cola, the delegates toured the school to obtain further details on the relief programs that are run by other organizations.

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This visit was immediately followed by a meeting with the Mayor of Estancia in the town hall, wherein the delegates and Mayor Rene Cordero discussed the effects of the typhoon on the community, the actions that were taken prior to and during Typhoon Haiyan, first steps in rehabilitation, how far the local government and NGOs have gone in the reconstruction of affected areas, and the current processes to develop the welfare of local inhabitants.

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After meeting with the Mayor, the delegation stopped by the Ayala Land Boat Rehabilitation center to observe the program in which local fisherman were provided with the materials needed to construct and replace the boats lost and damaged during the typhoon. Giving the community the ability to create their own boats is an essential part in the recovery process for the area as 90% of the employment for local men revolves around the fishing community, which requires the use of boats. Further down the island, the delegation also managed to drop by the Ayala Land housing project in which Ayala Land hopes to build 600 houses in 6 months. They currently have more than 40 houses already built and ready for inspection, with electricity to be installed within the next month.

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The final stop for the delegates was the Central Estancia Elementary School. This is the institution in which ISM and it’s partners have allocated most of it’s money into reconstructing. At this site, the delegation hoped to collect an assessment of the impact of Haiyan on the school and the local community. As with all the other locations, senior officials, teachers, students and the school principal were interviewed to gain a greater perspective of the progress that has been done since Haiyan.

Although the student delegation visited the beneficiary school very briefly, the extensive range of information that was collected by the delegation, pertaining to the various aspects of recovery and rehabilitation after Haiyan, has determined the trip down to Roxas and Estancia as an overwhelming success.

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