The Philippines: Myra, a hero of the Typhoon Haiyan response
It has been all hands on deck since Save the Children started responding to Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall. Our operations centre in Manila quickly filled with emergency staff who arrive sleep-deprived from the long flight, but determined to hit the ground running.
During the first few days, Save the Children’s logistics expert asked, “Is there anyone who can help with emergency logistics?” A small voice piped up: “Me, Mr James, I can help.” The voice belonged to Myra – a logistics assistant who has worked for Save the Children in the Philippines for four years. Myra has since turned out to be one of the heroes of our response.
A different kind of storm
“I was in the office when we heard the about the storm,” Myra told me. “Here in the Philippines we are used to storms and floods but we quickly realised this was going to be on a massive scale. We worked around the clock, procuring and distributing aid and deploying staff to the islands to provide immediate humanitarian support.
“The ability to communicate with staff on the ground is vital in any emergency and it was part of our job to work out how we could do that. With power lines down, this proved quite a challenge. I have been working long hours, six days a week but all the staff know they can contact me 24/7 if they need support.”
Met with one of the biggest natural disasters her country has ever faced, Myra rose to the challenge; she is part of the reason we have been able to reach over 140,000 children and adults in just over four weeks. Anyone I speak to in the Save the Children office claims that Myra is one of the most capable logisticians they have ever worked with, as well as being exceptionally modest about her abilities. But it was when I asked her why she joined Save the Children four years ago that I realised her true heroism.
Tragedy and determination
“My eldest daughter passed away four years ago,” she replied. “I hadn’t worked since I had got married and had children, but after that I needed to divert my time to something else. The pain doesn’t go away and the memories of her will always stay with me, but I needed to move on from what happened. I love my job with Save the Children – the organisation plays a big role in my life. If I wasn’t working here, maybe I would never have felt complete after my daughter passed away.”
Myra pours herself into her new job. “It is a big responsibility but I am learning so much every day. I am really proud of our achievements – I managed to deliver household and hygiene kits to survivors of the typhoon in less than a week, despite the huge challenges. Now we really need to support families to recover – we need to provide them with a livelihood, a source of income.”
As the festive season approaches, Myra’s quiet courage is even more noticeable. “Christmas has been different for our family since my daughter passed away – I’m prepared to work over the holidays. I’ll have my phone on me in case anyone needs my logistics support. I know the team won’t slow down – there is still so much help needed.”