On 8th November 2013, a Category 5 typhoon, named Haiyan, (also known as Super Typhoon Yolanda) made landfall in Guiuan, a small town in the Eastern Samar province of the Philippines. The storm affected an estimated 15 million people, with 6,300 reported dead.
There was widespread devastation from the storm surge in Tacloban City, with many buildings destroyed, trees knocked over, and cars piled up. The low-lying areas on the eastern side of Tacloban City were hardest hit, with some areas completely washed away. Flooding extended for 1 km (0.62 mi) inland on the east coast of the province. City administrator Tecson John Lim stated that roughly ninety percent of the city had been destroyed. Journalists on the ground have described the devastation as, “off the scale, and apocalyptic”. Many families lost some family members or relatives; families came in from outlying provinces looking for relatives, especially children, who may have been washed away. The entire first floor of the Tacloban City Convention Centre, which was serving as an evacuation shelter, was submerged by the storm surge. Many residents in the building were caught off-guard by the fast rising waters and subsequently drowned or were injured in the building.
There was an immediate response from the Sathya Sai International Organisation (SSIO). Staff and supplies were deployed with many volunteers from around the world participating. Over the course of the next two years, feeding programmes, medical clinics, education programmes in human values and school assistance were provided. A permanent Sathya Sai Maternity and Medical Clinic was established in 2015. More than 100 international Sai volunteers participated in these relief efforts. They were supported by a small group of local volunteers who not only hosted the international volunteers but also managed the money of the Sathya Sai World Foundation with transfers to Tacloban, and for the purchase of medicines in Manila. They also saw to shipping the medicines usually by military flights, but on one occasion, a devotee had to travel 24 hours by truck over land and sea, to get the medicines to Tacloban in time for a medical camp.
On 16th November, 2013, Sathya Sai volunteers loaded a 20-foot container with goods and supplies, including 351 family packs containing food and other items, and transported it by barge to the island of Biliran, arriving on 23rd November. The food and supplies were distributed to the needy by the wife of the Congressman of Biliran Province. By early December 2013, debris had been cleared from most of the typhoon-ravaged areas and government relief supplies were being widely distributed, but the need for humanitarian relief remained. The SSIO began planning for medical camps and offering of food, water and basic necessities on a long-term basis. During the first week of January 2014, Sathya Sai doctors and volunteers toured the badly damaged areas of Tacloban, Ormoc and Biliran to assess the needs, contact local officials and secure a local base camp for future operations.
February, 2014: Medical Camps in Ormac and Biliran
In early February 2014, Sathya Sai medical volunteers from the Philippines and other countries conducted medical camps in the town of Ormoc and on the island of Biliran. From February 10th through 14th, nearly 2,000 people were served in Ormoc, two hours by road from Tacloban and on the island of Biliran. More than 400 kg of medicines, including analgesics, antibiotics and diarrhoea medications, were distributed. Food supplements and milk powders were also offered to the needy. Sathya Sai volunteers served daily meals of rice, vegetables and beans in Tacloban.
June, 2014: Medical Camps in Dulag
A five-day Medical Camp was held during 21st–25th June 2014 in the Municipality of Dulag, a poor rural district one hour south by car from the Sai Home in Tacloban. Dulag was much impacted by cyclone Yolanda with the eye of the storm passing over the town. The international team consisted of five medical practitioners, one dentist, one nurse/psychologist and five general volunteers. Every day the team serviced a different area and a total of 2,095 patients were seen, including 179 dental patients. All patients received free medical and/or dental care and free medication.
The camps took place at San Jose, Combis, Cabacungan, Tigbao and Dulag. Services also included S.A.I. (“stress alleviation intervention”) and exercise to alleviate ongoing stress issues and sleeping problems. Advice was given on proper nutrition, dental care and the dangers of alcohol and smoking.
Although a small team representing different countries and various cultures, the group became a cohesive team right from the start with one single focus, to Love All and Serve All. The loving care of the Sathya Sai volunteers who had come from all over the world touched the local people.
June, 2014: Reconstruction of San Isidro Elementary School in Palo
Sai volunteers reconstructed one wing of a primary school in Palo, the San Isidro School. All the classrooms received new blackboards, new desks, and even false ceilings to reduce the noise from the rain. The office was given 3 new computers. The students there received not only prepared lunches, but all of their texts, note books, writing equipment, and school back packs.
August, 2014: Service to Women
Every month, Sathya Sai volunteers in the Philippines collect about 1,000 kilograms of fabric remnants and distribute them to 35 poor women to help them earn a livelihood. The women are also given training in making household products that are sold in local markets. Each woman earns about 3,000 pesos (about $70), supplementing her household income. In August 2014, a group of garment manufacturers donated 500 kilograms of fabric remnants, which were collected by Sathya Sai volunteers and distributed at several locations. The women who participate in the programme, in turn, share their skills among themselves and display their products proudly before they are sold.
September, 2014: Free lunch for students in Palo and Tacloban
Sathya Sai volunteers provide free nutritious meals to children in three elementary schools in Palo and Tacloban. A majority of these children come from underprivileged families. Here is the weekly schedule of free school lunches organised by volunteers in Tacloban:
-Mondays: Sagkahan Elementary School in Tacloban
-Wednesdays: Rizal Central School in downtown Tacloban
-Thursdays and Saturdays: Local Barangays (villages) nearby Tacloban.
-Fridays: San Isidro School in Palo, a village near Tacloban
October, 2014: Education in Human Values (EHV) in Tacloban
On Saturday, October 4th, 2014, Sathya Sai Educators conducted a one-day Education in Human Values (EHV) introductory course to 8 school principals and 27teachers of elementary schools in Tacloban, Philippines. The lectures were conducted at the office of the Vice Mayor of Tacloban. The programme began with a guided light meditation session. The course included an overview of the EHV programme, the activities of SSIO, Sathya Sai Philippines and the Sathya Sai School in Manila. The other topics covered during the sessions were the five human values as projected by all religions, an overview of the implementation strategies for incorporating the EHV programme in public schools, expected outcomes, a demonstration of the teaching techniques and concluded with a Question and Answer session. The programme was very well received and a proposal was considered to conduct a similar three-day EHV course.
October, 2014: Three Day Education in Human Values (EHV) Workshop in Tacloban
A three-day EHV workshop was conducted at the university campus in Tacloban for over 100 teachers. The first two days were supervised by Dr. Lakshmi Seetharam, who also oversees the Sai School in Manila. She is a visiting professor at Anathapur Womens College of Sathya Sai where she is a graduate. The final day of training was lead by Loraine Burroughs from the Sai School in Thailand. The volunteers from the Sai Home provided lunch for all these activities.
January, 2015: Sri Sathya Sai Maternity Centre in Dulag
Sathya Sai volunteers set up a Sathya Sai Medical Clinic in San Jose Barangay in Dulag. A local health centre, BumiWadah Foundation Maternity Clinic, partnered with the SSIO to establish a new Sathya Sai Maternity Centre to provide free medical services.
As a first step, the SSIO, Philippines identified a building suitable to set up a medical facility. The selected building was completely renovated by the SSIO and two additional wings were constructed on either side of the existing property to accommodate the free clinic. The owner of the building was very touched by the outstanding services provided by the SSIO and its volunteers. She said “Thank you for serving my brothers and sisters in Dulag. May Jesus bless all of you always”. The rooms in the original building will be used for patient registration, pharmacy, delivery room and recovery room for the mother and child.
In January 2015, the SSIO completed construction of the Sri Sathya Sai Maternity Centre and Medical Clinic in San Jose, Dulag. The establishment was inaugurated on 20th January 2015 by Dr. Narendranath Reddy, Chairman, Prasanthi Council; Dr. V.K. Ravindran, Chairman, SSIO Zone 4; and the Mayor of San Jose. Mothers, who had been forced to give birth on the streets, could now receive medical attention in sterile facilities, along with infant care.
March, 2015: Medical Mission in Marabut
Seventeen Sathya Sai volunteers from SSIO Zone 4 countries (which includes the Philippines) provided free medical and dental care. In total 2,049 patients were seen and treated in four different locations over four days. All patients who needed follow-up were referred to local health clinics, municipal and regional government hospitals as appropriate.
May, 2015: Medical Mission in Tacloban
Sixteen Sathya Sai volunteers mostly from SSIO Zone 4 held four days of medical camps in Dulag. They served 1,703 medical and dental patients. This time medical follow-up was arranged at the new Sathya Sai Clinic.
Ongoing Relief Efforts
In 2016, medical and humanitarian aid is continuing through the permanent Sathya Sai Medical and Maternity Clinic established in Dulag. This clinic provides comprehensive maternity and neonatal services and general medical services free of charge.
During the first 3 months of 2016, there were 72 deliveries and 412 pre-natal evaluations. In general medicine there were 1,423 patient visits. The SSIO organisation has taken responsibility for staffing and supervision. Worldwide, Sathya Sai volunteers can continue to support the clinic through the SSIO.