Interview:

"The Philippines have become my second home"

Since her first intervention in 2011 humedica coordinator Christiane Bähr travels every year to the Philippines.

by Lisa Wolff,  2019/03/14

At humedica we get to know very special people once and again. Persons of the heart, which make our work possible in the first place. Christiane Bähr is one of them. Actually, she planned to go to the Philippines in April for her holiday, but she also offered to visit our humedica projects over there. She will share with us how the local people live after the typhoons, which struck in the last year. And she is exactly the right person for this project. Why? Christiane answers this question in the following interview.

Christiane Bähr im humedica-Headquarter

Christiane Bähr engages voluntarily as humedica coordinator. Photo: humedica

Dear Christiane, you have already taken part in four humedica interventions in the Philippines. Lastly in September 2018 after the Mangkhut typhoon. What kind of situations did await you on site?

Oh, that was always quite different. Shortly after my humedica intervention training, I participated in humedica-Einsatztraining begleitete ich 2011 die the relief measures in the Philippines after the typhoons "Nesat" and "Nelgae". This was my first intervention. We treated affected people on the main island Luzon in mobile clinics. Apart from that it was all about reconstruction measures. Many fishermen had lost their boats and therefore their basis of income. Thanks to the humedica donations we were able to support them with new boats and fishing nets.

In 2013, after the super-typhoon Yolanda, also called Haiyan, the situation was totally different. This intervention was very intense and, in the beginning, also very chaotic. When we arrived, we had to start from scratch. Our medical help started immediately. Initially I was on site for two weeks, but only a few months later I returned for 12 whole months. As humedica coordinator on site I was responsible for the family sponsoring, my second focus was on reconstruction. During my year in the Philippines we have rebuilt the Mother-of-Mercy-Hospital, an obstetrics ward, many houses, an evacuation center as well as a health care station. All thanks to the support of the German sponsors. When everything was completed, I travelled home with a good feeling.

Taifun Haiyan sorgte für verheerende Zerstörung auf den Philippinen

In 2013 the super-typhoon Yolanda, also called Haiyan, left behind disastrous destruction in the Philippines. humedica immediately sent out medical help and remained many months on site to organize reconstruction work. Photo: humedica

In September 2018 I supported the partner organisation PHILRADS together with the humedica pracitioner Felix Mittag. This was completely different. Along with members of this organisation we visited the affected regions to evaluate the situation on site. We jointly decided to get active in the region Benguet. Here landslides caused by the typhoon had destroyed innumerable houses. Thousands of people had lost their homes all of a sudden. These landslides had been especially disastrous in this area as illegal mines had already destabilized the earth before. Hence these people here had not only lost their homes, but also their income. We therefore focused our support on reconstruction measures. Our aim was to open up new ways of income to the inhabitants of this region – as hairdressers, make-up-artists or weavers, welders or masons. There had to be something for everybody. You can imagine this project as a kind of adult education center. After completing their training, the participants receive a certificate, which is accepted all over the Philippines. humedica finances the education, a start funding as well as the job equipment.

You will visit this project again. What exactly are your tasks there?

I will arrive in time for the completion of several trainings. Ideally, I will be able to see the hand-over of the seed capital and the job equipment. I am quite eager to take part in this.

Together with PHILRADS I will monitor again the current actual requirements. Numerous houses have to be reconstructed. Many people are still living in provisory accommodations or have moved to family members in other regions.

For me as a social education worker it is very interesting to see how they organize family consulting and trauma-counselling on site. This is often missed out, but nevertheless immensely important. Especially for the affected children, but also for the many helpers, who have spent their days in the heat to retrieve injured and dead victims. Even so in the acute phase there were contact persons on site, the focus should remain on further follow-ups. I will take a look at that.

Kinder auf den Philippinen nach einem Taifun

After decisive experiences such as natural disasters trauma counselling is immensely important. Especially children are often strongly affected and suffer from the consequences. Photo: humedica

My tasks and the ones of humedica are constantly changing at the moment. This is the reason why these visits are so important. The Philippines are very engaged in "Disaster Preparedness", i.e. the preparation for emergency situations. This is essential, because there is high likelihood that natural disasters will happen again in their country. Besides earthquakes, typhoons and volcanic eruptions there are also violent conflicts in the Philippines. It is crucial to be prepared for the worst case – in particular for natural disasters. Here the Philippines have learnt a lot from Yolanda.

For you personally these interventions must also have been formative. Can you name a story, an encounter or a feeling, which stands out in your memory?

This I a difficult question. I have so many memories of the Philippines.

But of course there are stories that stay with you. When I was on site shortly after Yolanda, we had already planned to put up our tents next to the military base. But then a woman offered us to stay in her house, which was one of the few, which had not been destroyed. The warmth with which she welcomed us was simply unbelievable. I am still in contact with her and visit her regularly. Every time it is very special to return to this house.

This is similar to the Mother-of-Mercy-Hospital, which has been our first point of contact. I always visit it when I am back in the Philippines. There they also welcome me with open arms every time.

Dankesnachricht auf den Philippinen an die vielen Helfer

humedica intervention team member Christiane Bähr has found a second home in the Philippines - and brought about real change for many people. We also say “Thank you so much!” Photo: humedica

The Philippines and in particular Tacloban have become a second home to me. The people there are very close to my heart. I am still in contact with many people I met there over the last years. I always try to visit them, when I stay in the country. In the meantime this happens nearly every year. These encounters have become valued friendships. As soon as I alight in the Philippines, I arrive with all my heart.

Dear Christiane, thank you so much for this heart-warming conversation and your unbelievable commitment! We wish you a safe journey and many happy moments in the Philippines.

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