May 4, 2022
Volunteers conduct site survey in Palo Great Love Village for permanent housing project
By Ben Baquilod
Tzu Chi volunteers from Manila flew to Palo, Leyte for a site survey on April 28 in line with the upcoming permanent housing project in Palo Great Love Village. The village, which was built in 2014, is composed of prefabricated houses and livelihood center for Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) survivors.
Through the years, Tzu Chi has worked tirelessly to uplift the lives of the villagers since the tragedy of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. In its disaster relief, rehabilitation, and recovery response in the province of Leyte, 280,000 residents were provided with instant hot rice; 68,000 families received cash and material aid; 300,000 residents benefited from the cash-for-work program; 8,400 patients were treated; and 600 temporary classrooms were built.
To continuously uplift the lives of the Palo residents, Tzu Chi will replace the prefabricated houses in the Palo Great Love Village with permanent houses. The livelihood center inside the village will also be improved with new facilities. It is targeted to be completed in November 2023, in time for Typhoon Yolanda’s 10th year commemoration.
The Manila volunteers were pleased to see the villagers during their visit. Although some has already left, many families have happily stayed in the Tzu Chi village. “From what we learned from them, the reason why they stayed is because they really feel the peace inside our village,” says Tzu Chi Philippines Deputy CEO Woon Ng.
Alice Tupaz, a resident of the village can attest to this. She’s been living in the village since 2014, and has been working in the livelihood center as a seamstress. “When my husband got involved in an accident, I became the breadwinner of the family. The livelihood that Tzu Chi gave me has been a big help,” says Alice, mother of five.
Blessed to have been a beneficiary for years, Alice wanted to pay it forward and became a volunteer in 2016. “I feel happy to help others. During relief operations, sometimes, you get really tired. But when I think that I’m doing this for others, it feels good,” she says.
Alice has so much gratitude for Master Cheng Yen for the many things she learned from the Tzu Chi founder. “Life is impermanent. So, if you have time, do it now. And if you do good today, do good again tomorrow,” she adds. “Thank you for being an inspiration to us. Because of your teachings, we get to help not only ourselves, but also others.”
Little did Alice know that more blessings are coming for her. When she knew about the upcoming permanent housing project, she cried in joy and gratitude. “We’re so happy. This is what I’ve been praying for,” she says.
The project also gives a lot of hope for Geneve Aumentado, volunteer teacher at the Daycare Center. “I’m a single parent to two children and I also take care of my sickly mother. As the family’s breadwinner, the house will surely help us,” says Geneve.
Geneve recently joined Tzu Chi’s Typhoon Odette response in Southern Leyte where they gave cash relief, rice, and blankets to the typhoon’s victims. “Nothing compares to the joy of helping, especially when you see them crying in joy and thanking you. I feel my heart grows larger,” she says.
Since becoming a volunteer, Geneve has been more environmentally-aware and has embraced vegetarianism. “Before I didn’t care about the environment. All I wanted in life was to work and have an income. But when I became part of Tzu Chi, my life has changed,” she says.
Because of the latest gesture of great love from the volunteers—with the blessing of Master Cheng Yen—she felt a new level of inspiration to continue the good work. “Thank you, Master Cheng Yen. You never left us.”