Article by Andrea Ayala
Out of the 68 buildings that were part of the infrastructure of the Estancia Central Elementary School, 35 were partially damaged, and 19 were totally damaged in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. The municipality of Estancia was not only devastated by the typhoon, but four barangays in the area were also threatened by an oil spill that occurred when a power barge was knocked onshore during the storm. As a result of the contamination of the fumes, some of the students attending the Estancia Central Elementary School have been relocated from their homes and are currently living in a tent city. Additionally, in attest to the magnitude of the storm in the area, the school also received a number of transfer students from the island schools that had been completely demolished.
Although school reopened two weeks after the typhoon, some students were unable to attend class because their supplies had been ruined from the rain. Moreover, the students in the first and fourth grade, whose classrooms were nearly completely destroyed, have had to learn in temporary shelters made out of scrap material. As there was not enough space in these makeshift classrooms for the entire grade, the school has had to rotate the students in the morning and afternoon to fit in the daily curriculum.
Since November 8, the ISM community has mobilized it’s disaster relief fund to aid the families, such as those in Estancia, who were affected by Typhoon Haiyan. According to Stephanie Hagedorn, ISM’s Director of Admission and Advancement, the school administration met with UNICEF members, who were also part of the ISM community, to establish where the money should be directed. In the process of finding beneficiaries, it only seemed fitting that as an educational institution ourselves, our efforts should assist in restoring the schools that were damaged in the havoc of the typhoon. As one of the largest, but at the same time, one of the most heavily affected schools in Estancia, the Estancia Central Elementary School seemed appropriate.
The school has typically been able to house 3000 grade school children (which is more than the total number of students in ISM), although this has become difficult following the devastation from the typhoon. In order to address this, the 70, 000 dollars, or 3.2 million pesos from ISM’s disaster relief fund has been contributed specifically towards resurrecting three buildings in the school, that will collectively house 600 1st Grade students in 10 different classrooms.
When Mr. Woods and Mr. Flynn visited the school in December, there were only the doorway frames left inside one of these buildings, because the roof had been carried off by the winds of the typhoon and the walls of the classrooms had been knocked down by the flying debris. In order to ensure that this doesn’t happen again, instead of keeping the skeletons of the roofs as wood, ISM’s funds have been able to buy new steel foundations for the roofs, which is more durable. ISM’s money is also being used to construct the walls of all of the classrooms inside the buildings with a sturdier design.
Aside from ISM, the Estancia Central Elementary School has garnered substantial support from the international community, as the Korean Red cross, the Yes Pinoy Foundation and even individual Australian missionaries, have pledged money to help the rebuilding process. Despite the overwhelming amount of aid given, there is still a great deal of work to do be done in the school.
The school’s gymnasium, for example, which was being used as an evacuation center, caved in during the typhoon. Although, all of the people inside the gymnasium were able to be transferred to more robust classrooms just minutes before the roof collapsed, the entanglement of rusted aluminum has remained in the middle of the structure, because the school doesn’t have the funds to clear it up.
Principal Gerry Tingson stated that the school was established in 1935, and having attended the school himself, he noted that the place has been struck by other typhoons before, but this was the “first time in my entire life that I have happened to see and observe a typhoon like this.” In addition to the gymnasium, there are four other buildings in the school that have not been pledged yet, and are currently unable to be used because of the wreckage. In our interview, Principal Gerry pointed to a roofless structure, saying, “I am appealing the building over there because it is one of the classrooms that I was in when I was in grade 6.” To think of the number of students who would’ve have grown up in this school and how their education would have impacted their lives individually is a hard idea to grasp. But to think of all the other children who may not be able to gain a valuable education, because of the buildings that weren’t able to be repaired, is a simply frightful thought.
The money that the ISM community, and the extended international community, have donated to the Estancia Central Elementary School are not only helping rebuild a school, but also, the lives of children in present and future generations. On behalf of the school and the rest of the community in Estancia, Principal Gerry expressed his gratitude to ISM, saying, “Thank you very much for helping us, I really appreciated God’s love and blessing through you, your school and your families, thank you very much on behalf of my faculty and staff, the parents and especially the children.”