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Posted on March 5, 2014

Shining Brighter After the Storm

Rachel joins Gawad Kalinga's Operation Walang Iwanan to give back to Typhoon Yolanda survivors in Tacloban, Leyte

Rachel joins Gawad Kalinga's Operation Walang Iwanan to give back to Typhoon Yolanda survivors in Tacloban, Leyte

I am sitting on bags of rice and relief supplies as the Philippine Air Force C-130 I boarded at Manila’s Villamor Air Base touches down at Tacloban. It is my first time to Leyte and initial glimpses reveal beautiful skies and calm seas; the other side of the aircraft tells a very different tale.

[LEFT] Looking out at calm seas at Tacloban Airport | [RIGHT] Signing up for Operation Walang Iwanan

As the sunny morning unfolds, there are hopeful smiles and cheers all round. Boxing icon Manny Pacquiao arrives at Tacloban City Hall. I join him and Mayor Alfred Romualdez for prayers, inspirational speeches and singing in a beautiful flag ceremony attended by thousands of Typhoon Yolanda survivors. Stepping up to speak before the multitude becomes ironically a very joyous moment for me - the crowd is so welcoming and very happy to see us. Never would I have imagined these were people who had lost so much; if anything, they gave me strength.

[LEFT] Meeting Manny Pacquiao for the first time at Tacloban City Hall | [RIGHT] With Pacman during our tour of Tacloban

Nothing could have prepared me for the heart-wrenching scenes Yolanda left in her path, but throughout my visit, I could not help but notice and focus on all the good that was taking place. Aid organizations and religious groups from all over the world as well as local workforces and charities were aiding in the incredible relief efforts. That day, I pledged to help build back bigger, brighter and stronger than before.

[LEFT] Stepping up to speak words of encouragement before Yolanda survivors. |[RIGHT] The crowd is so very happy to see us. You could never have imagined they had lost so much.

A simple online appeal (through Facebook and my family’s Padua Charitable Fund) raised enough funds to donate one family house to Human Nature’s Goodness Rising campaign to build a new GK village in Ormoc for 100 families. My team and I also spent some time donating food, packing and volunteering at GK's Operation Walang Iwanan in Taguig – photos of which were sent to an American TV station who featured us during the NBA's half time game special!

[LEFT] Crowds of children sing beautifully to us at Tacloban Convention Center turned evacuation center. |[RIGHT] We bring food donations and volunteer for Operation Walang Iwanan.

Giving back to Typhoon Yolanda survivors by helping rebuild is a beautiful ray of hope for those who have lost so much. It also helps survivors in their healing process; it encourages them to stay and heal through the rebuilding process. Volunteering, donating or simply spreading the message of a bright new beginning for those whose lives were shaken, are all ways to ease their burden. Also available from Human Nature is delightful Goodness Rising merchandise, profits of which are donated to the GK village with each purchase.

[LEFT] We stop along the roadside to give out sweets and clothes to children. |[RIGHT] Thankful children smile and wave us goodbye.

The resilience and spirit of Filipinos is unbreakable - much stronger than any historic storm - and radiates hope of full recovery.

Step by step, brick by brick, goodness will rise once again!

This post was posted in Rachel Writes

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