Wednesday, 20 November 4:23 pm
Submitted by Roderick D. Davies
A volunteer team of 14 Utahans arrived Monday in Ormoc City, Leyte, Philippines in the region of the most severe damage from typhoon Yolanda. This advance team, sponsored by several Utah companies and Charity Vision, were tasked first with assessing needs. Jon Woozley of Cedar Hills, a physician's assistant (PA) at Intermountain Health Care's (IHC) Utah Valley hospital, is one of the team leaders. Woozley reported today from Ormoc City that "conditions are unbelievably stark and desperate. Our group were able to treat over 500 local citizens yesterday from two temporary field locations." Treatments ranged from wound care to dehydration to diarrhea among all age groups. This advance team includes several MD's and PA's, ER doctors and nurses, a local Utah fire captain and search and rescue professionals. Jared Richards of American Fork, Utah was leading part of the team with donated chain saws to the clearing of downed trees and debris. "Our chain saws never stopped for hours on end", said Richards. "We only stopped to refuel." Hundreds of local Filipinos have been mobilized to assist this advance team in salvaging humble possessions, including lumber and roofing materials being gathered from the rubble to start the rebuilding. "More than 90% of the homes are simply gone", said J R Rowley, a PA from Salt Lake City TOSH.
Most of this advance team had served LDS missions in this region of the Philippines and were fluent in local dialects. "The language skills is making a huge difference in our effectiveness", commented IHC ER doctor and team member Gary Sanderson. "The devastation in Tanauan, near Tacloban, was astounding", observed Sanderson. "Locals were barely saved from the storm surge by literally clinging onto the rafters of an LDS chapel there as a raging river of ocean water ran through the building." "Destruction in the wake of these 20 foot high surges is awesome", said Woozley. "One tearful mother told us how she hung on to a beam in the chapel rafters with an infant in her arms, knowing that if she let go she and her baby would not survive." Apparently 13 local LDS members lost their lives in this small town. "The clean up in Tanauan needs bulldozers, not shovels", Woozley observed. "There is thick black mud everywhere from the receding storm surge".
One of the side benefits from this early relief effort is the "spark of hope" generated among the locals as this team of volunteer professionals showed up to help. "This Charity Vision advance team are completely self contained and equipped", said Tom Aguilar of OmniMed, another Utah company sponsoring the effort. "They each hand carried 150 pounds of every imaginable form of medicines and supplies, tools and solar equipment donated by Bluffdale, Utah company Goal Zero. Tom, who is a native Filipino and local LDS Church leader, has been arranging transportation and other logistics for this advance team. "There is an amazing outpouring of support from so many Americans, and citizens of the world", said Aguilar. "The biggest problem remains logistics. There are thousands of homeless refugees clogging local ports, trying to find food and clean water; trying to escape the disaster areas."
This advance team is hoping to coordinate the efforts of volunteers who want to further assist in the relief effort. If the air cargo of tools, equipment and supplies can be arranged and financed, many dozens more are standing by to assist in the Philippines. Charity Vision in Provo and Highland, Utah based Global Goods are processing volunteer requests and donations at http://globalgoods.com/charity.html . Charity Vision is a 501(c)3 accepting these tax deductible donations. They have performed charitable surgeries in 25 countries for 29 years. Charity Vision's long term experience in the Philippines has allowed for very effective, rapid deployment of staff and supplies in this massive relief effort. "It is only the very beginning of a very long term undertaking", said Charity Vision President Doug Jackson. www.CharityVision.net.