A trip to the typhoon-stricken Philippines is a matter of family and community service for Clifford Martin of Penticton.
Martin, who works as a mechanic and at the Penticton Golf and Country Club, leaves Dec. 2 for a rural coastal area north of the town of Coron on Busuanga Island.
Although he intends to stay for two months, Martin admitted his heart may lead him to stay longer.
In addition to toys for the children, Martin is also lugging supplies for the relief workers, including a chainsaw donated by Diana Covert of Covert Farms.
The chainsaw, said Martin, will come in handy in areas without electricity to cut fallen trees into lumber for the construction or repair of homes.
Martin has been in contact with his wife Milyn whose family is from the northern end of the island.
Milyn said the region was hit hard by the typhoon, with very few structures left standing, and those that did withstand the storm are severely damaged.
“Their houses are destroyed, their boats are destroyed,” said Martin.
Getting help to the area is not easy, said Martin, as most of the relief efforts are centred around the major centres.
In the first nine days, the only relief to reach the north end of the island was three kilograms of rice per family.
“That’s all they got,” said Martin.
Unfortunately, native construction materials such as grass have also been wiped clean, leaving the locals without materials to rebuild their homes.
Consequently, residents of the village in the northern region of the island must now use corrugated steel roofs.
“These people only make $200 a year, so they can’t afford to rebuild,” explained Martin.
Compounding matters, many in the community relied on the grasses to make baskets and other wares to earn a living.
“So now that’s all gone. It’s pretty dire, not just the typhoon itself, but the impacts after the typhoon as well,” said Martin.
Looking beyond the immediate consequences of the typhoon, Martin also noted the increased risk of mudslides because the trees on the neighbouring slopes were uprooted, leaving the hillsides bare and unable to absorb much water.
“There are swaths on the mountains that are totally devastated, there are no trees. In a couple of years the root systems are going to rot out and then there are going to be mudslides unless there is reforestation.
“I am going to try to get the local government involved in buying tree seeds to start a planting program where they can start growing seedlings and then plant them in the hillsides during the rainy season.
“I don’t think anyone has even thought of that, they’re too busy with everything else.
“You have to look ahead.”
Martin encourages employees of Penticton businesses to hold their own workplace fundraisers. The money, he said, would be used to purchase construction materials.
“It would make a huge difference,” Martin said.
Monies for the relief effort can be brought to Auto Trim, 375 Warren Ave. in Penticton, or mailed to the Arrow Lakes Alliance Church, 339 Alexander Rd, Nakusp, BC, V0G 1R1, Attention: Busuanga Relief Effort. For more information e-mail Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.