In the aftermath of a ruinous natural disaster, it is natural to stand amidst the wreckage and take stock of what has been lost— homes, belongings, the security that comes with an assumption of a future. When the residents of Laud, a community in the San Vicente region of the Philippines, found themselves stripped of their comforts and livelihoods by Typhoon Koppu in October, 2015, they had little choice but to devise a means through which to solider forth using whatever remained. Together, they not only faced this challenge, they found a way to welcome it.
Facilitated by Outreach Philippines field staff, the community met to discuss options for income-generating group projects. Weighing material costs, available labor, and available markets in which to sell their wares, it was eventually decided that woven rugs had the most potential for the largest return on investment. Members of the group approached the mayor of San Vicente, who granted them a little over $100 US dollars to cover start-up costs. With that money, they were able to purchase old cotton clothing to be cut into strips, which could then be woven into doormats using a wooden frame outfitted with nails to help guide their work.
After joining the community group to explore new means of earning money to cover the revenue she lost in the wake of the typhoon , Mely, 70, who works as a farm laborer, found that besides the ability to earn money through weaving, she learned time-management skills and self-confidence. In her words, as the organization developed, “community problems lessened.” Her work has given her insight into how to conceptualize obstacles and consider solutions for her and her neighbors’ lives.
“If you are experiencing problems,” says Mely, “the best thing to do is talk it over, amongst yourselves, study, then act on it to achieve solutions to the problems [that address] the lives of the [other] families.”
Imelda, a 47-year-old mother of three, learned to weave doormats from her sister-in-law, to maximize her family’s income even while staying home with her disabled daughter. The money she earns generally goes towards the cost of groceries, but the project itself “is also like a hobby, or therapy,” she says, helping her focus on something besides the stresses and concerns left over from the rest of her life.
Both Mely and Imelda express their desire for their community group to continue working together and grow stronger as a whole, inspiring neighboring communities to embark on their own collective efforts. Both Mely and Imelda indicate that they have begun imagining a future for themselves, planning to expand their investment, production, and distribution of doormats to further increase their financial independence. It’s a welcome change.
Special thanks to Outreach Philippines field staff for their help in sharing this story.