Monday, May 8, 2017

Local, US troops bringing hope to communities

From the Sun Star-Cebu (May 8): Local, US troops bringing hope to communities


Boodle fight. What better way to express their gratitude than to share food with local and American troops, who constructed a disaster-resilient classroom for a community in Guiuan, Eastern Samar. (SunStar Foto/Alan Tangcawan)
VIVENCIA Yudico, 77, had long wished that Surok, their barangay in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, would be spared from the ravages of typhoons.
So when American and Filipino troops arrived to build a disaster-resilient classroom, she was ecstatic. “We are happy for all the help that they extended because it will be my grandchildren who’ll benefit in the safety of these classrooms,” Yudico said.
 Capt. Gabriel Christianson of the US Marines, the team leader assigned in Surok, said he appreciated the residents’ resiliency. “The people on the ground are close-knit and that is an advantage to the communication that’ll be established during calamities,” Christianson said.
Super typhoon Yolanda made landfall in Guiuan on Nov. 8, 2013.
 Aside from being a multi-purpose room, the classroom can also serve as an evacuation center during natural catastrophes.
The building of the structures was part of a series of activities for the 33rd Balikatan Exercises, a civilian-focused coordination between US and Philippine troops aimed to create long-term solutions during calamities for the community to sustain.
 During a symposium, the soldiers taught residents how to react properly during emergencies.
Isabel Cablao, 48, and a mother of a Grade 3 and a Grade 8 student, recalled how Yolanda created a path of destruction in their community.
Gratitude “That’s why, we are really thankful for the NGOs (nongovernment organizations) and the army, who are building stronger shelters and schools for us.
There is hope for our children, for a stronger generation, who will not cower at the scream of a super typhoon but instead, act clearly to survive its wrath and rebuild Guiuan,” Cablao said.
 Col. Medel Aguilar, assistant chief of the united staff for civil military operations of Central Command, said the Balikatan exercises hope to reach out to communities.
“With this, we are hopeful that civil efforts will rebuild one community after another. The structures are designed to withstand typhoons with a maximum of 250 kilometers per hour and the seminars are held to hammer long-lasting lessons to civilians who are first rescuers in calamities,” Aguilar said.
Lt. Sgt. Junley Morata of the Philippine Navy said they started building the classroom, the school’s stage and a water tank last April. These are set to be finished on May 15 and will be turned over to the school’s on the 16th, in time for the opening of classes next month.
Orgenia Lagramada, principal of the Surok Elementary School, said that the classroom will complete their facilities. “It will house our E-library and will also act as an evacuation center. We are thankful that our school was blessed with a disaster-resilient room,” she said. To express their gratitude, residents, government officials and American and Filipino troops participated in a boodle fight.

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