The two most powerful storms in recent memory are the current Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana and the 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Visayas Region of the Philippines. In both emergency situations, the true heroes have been ordinary people of humble backgrounds and local service providers who have made sacrifices needed to rescue their neighbours. Even though these areas are a half-planet distance from each other, the Ilongos and the Texans and Cajuns are distinguished by their unselfish attitudes and tireless acts of mutual support. These every day heroes have compensated for any lack of government resources. Resilient people are the key to survival and long-term rebuilding of devastated communities requires teamwork.
While I have relatives living in Houston who are displaced by the heavy rainfall and floods, in Cuartero, Capiz in the Philippines as director of Asia America Initiative I have had the good fortune to work for the past four years with hard-working landless farmers in rural upland areas damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Rebuilding houses, schools and churches takes time, as we have learned after four years of solid effort by residents of all ages. We have overcome a lack of financial resources through maintaining humble Faith, our hands in the soil and a consistent enterprising attitude.
Malnourished children have been fed through school-based gardens with Grandmothers and Moms cooking daily lunches on-site. Everyone eats together, without exclusions. This has built unbreakable community bonds. Texas, although better off financially, will be faced with an arduous and at times frustrating recovery period.
Shared lessons learned: Teamwork and community-spirit beyond any politics is vital for rescue and recovery.