One Year Later: Moving from Recovery to Reconstruction in the Philippines

Picas Elementary SchoolDesign team meeting with community members

Over the past year, we have taken great strides with our reconstruction efforts in the Philippines following the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013.

In January and March, we headed to the region to meet with key stakeholders and trained more than 120 architects. In June, we announced the launch of our work with long-time partner Happy Hearts Fund on the reconstruction of Picas Elementary School. In August, we traveled back to the Philippines as part of a group of design and construction experts for post-disaster communities. Last month, our Typhoon Haiyan Recovery Program manager met with community members, architects and partners as design reconstruction begins.

Reporting by Hiromi Tabei, Program Coordinator

Back in August, I was invited by the Consuelo Foundation to travel to the Philippines as part of a group of experts in design and construction to advise on disaster reconstruction and resilience efforts following the damage left in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. During the eight-day trip, I saw firsthand the destruction the community had to recover from, but I also saw how Architecture for Humanity could contribute to better building in the region.

Last month, I journeyed back to the Philippines and visited several sites. One of the schools I saw, Bagong Buhay Elementary School, is in varying conditions – none ideal for learning. There are approximately 472 students between grades K-6 at the school. The satellite site they are currently using has two tent classrooms, but the drainage is so poor that whenever it rains, one of the classrooms is flooded. According to the principal, the school has been operating for a little over two years. Every year, they are attracting more and more students because of the high quality of teachers here. In order to address the increasing student body, Bagong Buhay will need to add four more classrooms, including a computer lab.

Picas Elementary School

I also had the opportunity to visit Picas Elementary School on this trip. Several months ago, we partnered with the Happy Hearts Fund on the reconstruction efforts and it was great meeting with the community to hear their needs as design gets underway. It was also a chance for the design team from the Architect of Record (AOR) and United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) Leyte Chapter to learn more about the work ahead. Community members shared their wish list for what they’d like to see in the reconstructed buildings and Architecture for Humanity will be working closely with UAP to incorporate them.

The next few months will be crucial for our reconstruction efforts on the ground in the Philippines. As we continue to meet with community members, designers, architects and partners, we are also beginning the next big step of making this all a reality.

Hiromi Tabei joined Architecture for Humanity in June 2011. She manages the Tohoku Rebuilding Program, and co-manages the Typhoon Haiyan Recovery Program and the One Burrows Pocket Park project. Originally from Japan, Hiromi came stateside to study geography at the University of Oregon and after graduating, got a job as a cartographer with a U.S. company. Her work stirred a curiosity in the human scale and architecture. Hiromi acquired a Masters degree at the Boston Architectural College, and followed that up with several years of experience at design firms in Boston.