What follows are words directly from one of our team members on the ground in the Philippines. They are truly heartbreaking. We hope this helps bring a better understanding of the true reality of thousands in the Philippines this holiday season.
"I'm going to try to update you on Leyte - words are hardly adequate. The scale of destruction is so enormous it's very difficult to even attempt.
I've spoken with relief work practitioners who have been all over the world plying their trade and they say this is the worst disaster they've ever seen. Along the coastal towns and cities 15 meter walls of water and 300 kilometer winds shattered everything during the storm surge.
A few days ago were we're driving and saw a small three way intersection filled with wooden crosses. We came to halt. Our local team believes the true death toll is at least 25,000. The local governments are too scared to do official body counts because the national government withholds aid if the LGU's (local government units) make them look bad by advertising "high death tolls."
Gathered in front of a set of 4 crude crosses a father, mother, their two year old and her teenage auntie stood trying to process. Little candles burned. Marnel, the father was so broken I tried hard not to bawl. A few tears would have been okay but was scared if I opened the faucet it wouldn't stop! Marnel felt responsible - he had no job, no house, and no possessions except the clothing on his back. His wife Apple-Jane could still graciously share a smile with me. She simply asked for clothing for her sweet 2 year old baby, Chloe-Shane.
In seconds their lives had changed. The storm surge broke through their home. Winds and debris pounded them. Their three children, Keith, Cedric and Earl were swept away, along with their grandparents and Auntie Elnora. In just seconds over half the family was gone forever.
As the family huddled in front of the small wooden crosses and the flickering candles, I realized how their story was a story of tens of thousands of people in Leyte. Most of us can imagine, at least in a small way, the grief that would strike deep into our souls if we lost one parent or child. This family lost three children and two parents.
We have delivered nearly 70 tons of food in the past weeks, have visited dozens of villages with teams of doctors and are continuing to lay tracks for the long term problems. Especially for the thousands of children that will be human trafficking targets in the coming days.
We are so grateful for you continued partnership with us. Time is still of the essence. Join with us while we can rescue and save a few more..."