Meridian Services employees traveled to the Philippines as volunteers with Headwaters Relief Organization in May. This was Headwater’s third trip, as a part of the organization’s ongoing support to the people of the Philippines following Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which struck in November 2013.

Headwater’s efforts on this trip focused on bringing tools that teachers, caregivers and families can use to offer mental health support and empower and promote the development of resilience. A central part of this program was the distribution of the second printing of the children’s book When Strong Winds Blow. Using the power of story-telling and imagery, the book helps children better understand their feelings in the traumatic aftermath of a typhoon and how to prepare should another one strike, thereby giving them more control and predictability in their own lives. Written in Tagalog and English, the book was shared and distributed to hundreds of children, teachers and community leaders throughout the trip.

Headwaters volunteers also travelled to a small fishing village called Pinabacdao in Samar. A student named Julius Delos Reyes had asked Headwaters for help via Facebook after Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) destroyed his village in 2014, almost a year to the day after Typhoon Yolanda. The village had received little humanitarian aid to date, so in response to his request, the Headwaters team brought food and clothing. Tito Tabones, a resident of the village, asked team members via Facebook, “How did you ever find us? It is heartening to see that in this often heartless and wicked world of ours that signs of God’s goodness and love appear quite unexpectedly, seemingly out of nowhere. Our village is deeply grateful to these good people for coming to help.”

Headwaters volunteers also provided training at a Disaster Responders Training in Cebu, where they lead training sessions in psychological first aid, grief and loss, compassion fatigue, play therapy and cultural competence. The first responders, religious leaders and health care professionals who attended the training will in turn train others in these techniques, multiplying Headwaters’ impact to hundreds who are on the front lines of disaster relief and recovery.

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