Home – Theresa

Home. I have been thinking about the meaning of this word. I recently moved into a new house, after years of renting and moving between states and countries we finally built our own house. It is slowly becoming a home, the new creaks and groans of the house settling into the ground at night are becoming familiar. A few weeks ago I returned from doing an evaluation of a emergency shelter project in the Philippines. I was blessed to be able to wander inside many new shelters built after Typhoon Haiyan in December 2013. Officially I was there to look at the construction techniques, and whether the shelters had followed the “build it back better” construction guidelines to help a building survive a typhoon. And I did look at foundations, and cross-bracing, and rafter supports. But I couldn’t help notice how each shelter had been transformed by its owner into a home. Many people I visited were happy for me to photograph them inside their homes, and tell me a little of their stories. So my next few blog posts will be sharing some of these stories.

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This is Theresa. She is a mother to 10 children, who have given her 60 grandchildren. During Typhoon Haiyan Theresa and her husband lost their home and lived in a small shelter made of salvaged timber. This shelter is now leaning against their new house, and they use it as a simple kitchen. On the day I visited it was hot and sunny outside. Inside there was a cool floor, and a cool breeze. The house was spotless, and empty. Other than a few photos and a few pieces of furniture, Therese and her husband lost everything else. There is one chair beneath some precious photos hanging on the wall. Theresa explained to me the stories behind some of the faces in the photographs on the wall.

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Then we sat in the breeze, chatting and telling stories while the younger NGO staff simultaneously checked Facebook on their phones. Just before we left there was the sound of someone clearing their throat behind the bamboo wall. The house was initially just a single room shelter, but Theresa’s family have helped her divide the space into three small rectangles – one for eating and sitting, another has a small bed, and the third space is empty now but would be able to provide some floor space for visiting relatives. Theresa’s husband had been having a snooze and wandered out to find his home full of unfamiliar visitors!

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Theresa explained that they were both too old to work now, so they rely on their children to bring them food. They are quietly enjoying a retirement in a small wooden shelter with no running water or sanitation, but it is home. I hope this home will stand over them well in the next typhoon.

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