TACLOBAN CITY- Close to a year after their temporary shelter was destroyed by Supertyphoon Yolanda, 16 teenage boys living at the Social Development Center for Children could now feel safe and secure.
The one-building boys shelter located at Barangay Tagpuro, this city, was repaired by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) at a cost of P600,000 last July but was only finished early this month.
Last September 28, the building was officially turned over by the IOM officials to the City Social Welfare and Development Office, which runs the facility. “We are really grateful to them (IOM).Now, we can really sleep soundly and feel safe,” Brian Moreno, 16, one of the boys staying at the facility, said. Moreno, together with his brothers Raffy, 17, and Gerard, 15, have been staying at the said facility since 2011 after their parents got separated. The brothers chose to stay in the streets after their parents’ separation but were taken in to the facility after city social workers conducted a campaign on street children.

During the onslaught of Yolanda, their mother, Rosanna, 49, was killed whose body has yet to be retrieved up to this time. She was living in Barangay 89, San Jose District with her three other children who managed to survive. The facility’s roofs were blown away during the onslaught of Yolanda with its windows destroyed. The boys, however, were spared from experiencing storm surges as the facility is located in an elevated area and is about 14 kilometers north from the center of Tacloban, the ground zero of Yolanda. For a month after the November 8, 2013 supertyphoon, they have to feed themselves as no food assistance came their way as heap of debris were strewn all over going to the facility. “Sometimes we asked from other people and some of us have to walk to the city proper to ask for foods,” Moreno said. He was grateful that while they lost their mother, he and his two brothers survived, he added.

Melinda Sagdullas, center head, said that she could not express enough how grateful they are to the IOM.  “We really thought that the facility will not be repaired. That the boys will have to contend themselves living in the facility that is broken,” Sagdullas said. “Seeing it now, I am truly overwhelmed,” she added. Sagdullas is being helped with four other personnel in running the facility. The facility, founded in 2007 with an annual maintenance fund of P900, 000 from the city government, serves as a temporary shelter for street children where they are taught to do some household chores; basic skills training and send to school.

In the case of the Moreno brothers, Brian is now on his first high school at the nearby New Kawayan High School while his brothers Raffy and Gerard are now at Grade VI and IV respectively at the Tagpuro Elementary School. Romina Sta. Clara, IOM national gender focal person and protection manager, said they hope that with the repair of the boys’ center, this will serve as an inspiration for them to do good in life and in the future. “We are glad to be part of this undertaking where children are protected. We hope this will be a safe place for the boys,” Sta. Clara said. Present during the occasion were Bradley Mellicker, sub-office head, Malou See, executive assistant to the chief of mission office; Cindy Smith and Chelsea Lord from the IOM Washington office and David Atkinson from the US Embassy. (JOEY A. GABIETA)