When Typhoon Haiyan struck Bitoon village in the Philippines, it destroyed 95% of the homes and crops in Norlyn P. Valiente’s community.
Most people in Norlyn’s village make a living through growing corn, bananas, cassavas, and fishing, but the typhoon left almost nothing in its wake. The 43 year old voluntarily led the clean up efforts in the weeks after, mobilising the village to clear the debris.
“You cannot predict when disasters will strike, so it is very important that women, especially mothers, who are usually left at home with children can ensure the safety of their family, as the men are often in the fields or looking after their animals,” said Norlyn. Two years ago Norlyn suffered the loss of her husband due to a motorcycle accident, so she is now the sole carer of her 5 children.
The Philippines experiences dozens of typhoons a year and is prone to other hazards including flooding and earthquakes, so Norlyn knows the importance of preparedness and responding quickly to disasters.
“We tell people to prepare 72hr kits containing a flashlight, non-perishable food, medicines, water, bedding etc, and where to evacuate to. When I receive news that a hazard is approaching I then call an urgent council meeting with representatives from each of the 11 hamlets in our village, and brief everyone on the situation and the plan of action. That way, they can make sure that everyone in their hamlets is aware.”
This isn’t the first time Norlyn has had to step up in the face of disaster. “We also have our own learnings from Typhoon Ruby that hit us in December 2013 as many people put sandbags on their roofs and secured their homes with ropes.”
Norlyn is determined to do everything she can to protect her community during times of crisis. “Every time there are training sessions on Disaster Risk Reduction Management, I make myself available as I want to know what to do in future, and pass it on to the community here.”.”