A barangay on the coast of Tacloban City. The area still bears scars wrought by typhoon Haiyan: washed-up boats, roofs made of debris, crosses that mark graves. It is raining.
Seven-year-old Jesus is sitting on the floor of a roofless house on stilts, surrounded by his cousins.
“I gave birth to him by Caesarian,” says the boy’s mother, Marylin, 37. “When Jesus was born, he went blue every time he cried. He stayed in the hospital for three weeks. He caught meningitis, which affected his limbs. In seven years, he has never walked. No school, no games. He stayed at home all day, watching his friends through the window. I took care of him. I massaged his legs every day. But my little boy was introverted and far too quiet.”
Marylin adds: “Our house is less than 40 meters from the coast, and it was destroyed by the typhoon. There was nothing left. We took refuge in an abandoned building, and we stayed there for three months, without any money. Conreado, my husband, is a tricycle driver and I have four other children. I don’t have time to work. A few months later, we heard about Handicap International. Jesus was given a walking chair, as part of the Disability and Vulnerability Focal Point (DVFP) project.”
According to Handicap International’s Al Joy Laurian “Kookie” Guillera, Jesus isn’t the only child the organization has helped. As part of the DVFP project, 6,000 vulnerable people have been identified: women, children, older people, and people with disabilities.
“From November 2013 to June 2014, we distributed 953 mobility aids, carried out 1,583 rehabilitation sessions, and led 803 psychosocial sessions,” Kookie says. “The sessions help the victims of the disaster to overcome trauma and defeat their fears. In the weeks following the typhoon, every time it rained we were filled with dread.”
Jesus stands up and cautiously moves forward, leaning on his chair. His eyes shine.
“He has been walking since May!” Jesus’ mother exclaims. “He is so excited. He is even going to school! My child has been transformed.”
A huge amount is still needed to support children with disabilities in typhoon-hit areas. Consider donating »
Photos © Till Mayer / Handicap International