In the morning of October 15, 2013, 8:12 am to be exact, the peaceful province of Bohol known for its white sand beaches, the famous Chocolate Hills, and other tourist attractions, was shattered by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. The earthquake totally destroyed about 13,000 homes and damaged another 63,000, with about 340,000 people being displaced and millions-worth of infrastructures including bridges and cathedrals collapsed. Hope Avenue was one of the NGO’s who actively responded to the calamity. Numbers are being checked by international aid groups now but with the recent devastation in the Eastern Visayas by super typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda), aid responses for Bohol seem to be almost at halt.
Two days after the earthquake, Hope Avenue organized a relief operation to the 17 hardest hit towns. Donations from friends, relatives, neighbors, Filipinos abroad and foreign donors came pouring in the center. In a matter of days we were able to distribute relief items to far flung and isolated areas. Medical check up, stress debriefing and food packs distribution became the priority.
The unexpected destruction on Oct. 15 took everyone by surprise but nevertheless, the local government is doing a fantastic job coordinating and delivering emergency reliefs.
International response has been very good from some aid groups, but UN funding and its personnel, for example, have been stretched by the recent war in Zamboanga and the typhoon-ravaged provinces of Visayas.
More than six weeks after the earthquake, thousands of displaced people are still living under emergency shelters, some in tent communities and others in mere plastic sheets. Transitional housing, which is expected to last about 2 years, must now be the urgent concern. Then there will be a move to effectuate the real rebuilding of long-term homes. So Pastor Einstein gathered some of his pastor friends to unite and pool resources to fund the next phase of disaster response which is Rehab & Rebuilding. Thus the birth of Hope Avenue’s calamity arm, the Bohol Evangelical Disaster Response Network (BEDRN).
Based on lessons learned during the Sendong flash floods in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City in 2011, we have organized BEDRN to focus on long-term rehabilitation and rebuilding response. We will be an active participant in these efforts in Bohol for many months after most of the international aid groups leave, which is typically after about six months. The rebuilding of personal homes after Sendong is still ongoing after 2 years, which is our expected target of completion for our rebuilding efforts under BEDRN. When we say rebuilding of houses, we also mean inclusion of the basic facilities inside a home. And we also aim to offer a range of services to the affected areas including ongoing relief goods distribution as needed, medical mission, stress debriefing – which we call “inner healing”, livelihood training, and whichever long-term service is of most value to these communities.
Our role in providing small scale relief and facilitating communication and cooperation will soon transition into leveraging BEDRN group members’ assets – to provide an effective coordination to specific communities and mobilization of manpower, as funding permits.
BEDRN has a separate Board of Trustees mostly composed of Evangelical Pastors, which is still chaired by Pastor Einstein.