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They took refuge on the Palo beachfront, along with hundreds of other people who had lost everything and had nowhere else to go.
Today, one year on from the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall, Irene, now known as the ‘bucko shack lady’, and her family have bounced back with their own thriving small business selling fresh coconut juice.
Irene explains that before Haiyan, many women from her community would sell sari sari (variety) goods. But very few people could make a profit, because so many neighbours and friends ask for credit.
A NZ $143 Philippine Red Cross emergency cash relief grant was given to the Collera family, and was able to give them a fresh start.
Irene saved 1,000 pesos for house repairs and invested the rest to buy 1,200 coconuts from a passing farmer. She repeated this every week until she had saved enough to rebuild her house, setting aside enough to cover health costs and school expenses.
Life is good, she says, because now her children get enough to eat and she’s making enough to employ two helpers and open another stall.
‘My family are very happy and hopefully my business will keep growing,’ she says with a smile.
Almost 30,000 households, like the Collera family, have so far received cash grants enabling them to earn a living again as part of the Philippine Red Cross’s three-year 360-million-dollar recovery plan for 500,000 people on Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Panay and Palawan islands.
"Kick-starting livelihoods is key to the long-term recovery of disaster-hit communities. We have made this – and housing – a priority," said Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.
"One year after Haiyan robbed so many families of their income, we are seeing people resume their work and others even setting up new businesses."
The Typhoon, which hit the Philippines on November 8 2013, affected 16 million people across a scattered archipelago of islands.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s recovery operation extends across a vast area of five island groups and an affected population of 16 million in more than 400 communities.
Building safer shelters and providing community training in construction practices are a central part of the plan, which places resilience and risk-reduction at its heart. Courses for masons and carpenters are being held and more than 6,500 fishermen have been provided with cash to buy boats or repair their damaged vessels.
Over 6,000 houses have already been rebuilt and within the next 15 months 40,000 families will have received safer homes. Nearly 200 school classrooms have been repaired or rebuilt so far and rural health facilities are also being restored."Recovery is well under way, but there are still humanitarian needs on the ground," said Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general of the Philippine Red Cross. "We are working across 400 communities (barangays) to ensure people get the support they need to rebuild their lives."
Since Haiyan devastated the region, the Philippine Red Cross together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been supporting hundreds of communities. Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies from around the world are also working across the country as part of the typhoon recovery effort.