Surviving a Super Typhoon and Escaping Traffickers in the Philippines

Surviving a Super Typhoon and Escaping Traffickers: A Filipino Mother Fights for Her Life
Joy endured seven months of unpaid work, including physical abuse.
World Vision
After the storm: rescue, recovery and regained livelihoods
“I didn’t think I would make it out alive. I thank God every day that I am still breathing.”

April 2015Joy*, 49, lived a basic, comfortable life in the remote, rolling hills of Ormoc City in the central Philippine islands. She and her husband made coconut wine and sold two barrels a week to support their family.

Life for people like Joy wasn’t easy. The average household income in the region is $92 per month and nearly half the population lives in poverty.

Then came Super Typhoon Haiyan, which made landfall on Nov. 8, 2013, killing more than 6,000 people and affecting 16 million more.

The typhoon demolished most infrastructure that lay in its path. Gusty winds damaged up to 90 percent of the coconut trees in some areas, eliminating the livelihoods of those who depended on them.

“We had no house and no food,” says Joy. People desperately sought work to rebuild their lives. Joy found a job as a domestic helper for $50 per month.

A few weeks into the job, Joy’s employer asked her to work in a nearby province for $70 for one month. Hesitant, she accepted the offer because her family needed the money.

Then, things went bad. “They kept me for seven months with no pay. I couldn’t escape,” she shared. “I didn’t think I would make it out alive. I thank God every day that I am still breathing.” Joy fell into a trap where traffickers prey on people’s despair.

In April 2014, USAID partnered with World Vision to run the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Through Sustainable Livelihood Recovery for Typhoon-Affected People program. The program restores farming and reduces people’s exposure to trafficking in 10 Ormoc villages.

Rife with poverty and a gateway to Metro Manila, Ormoc and its surrounding area has historically been a significant source of women, men and children for traffickers. Still, many people are unaware of its dangers. Prior to this program, almost 90 percent of surveyed people in the area did not know about human trafficking.

USAID and World Vision reached people through public assemblies and campaign materials. They educated the community about how to recognize and report suspicious behavior and trained local leaders to respond to cases. Through the activities, Joy’s husband realized she was caught in a trafficking ploy. He reported the case, which led to Joy’s rescue.

Since Joy’s return, the program provided her family with two piglets. Once the pigs grow, Joy will sell them, investing the income back into her home-based farm. This assistance helps ensure that vulnerable families like Joy’s do not feel they have to consider offers from recruiters.

“These piglets have made it possible for us to earn income without needing to leave our village,” she says.

Joy looks forward to the day when her coconut trees bear fruit again, and she and her husband can return to their coconut wine business. Until then, she is confident about her future.

Upon completion, the year-long project aims to reach 14,000 people. Equipped with tools and empowered by a network of support, typhoon survivors can now pursue safe and fulfilling livelihoods and thrive in their communities.

*Real name withheld to protect identity.

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