Home seems like a different place for Reece Grant recipient Timothy Brideson after an eye-opening 14-day mission in the Philippines.
Joined by a strong team of fellow Australian tradies and his teenage daughter Mel, Tim put the Reece Grant money towards rebuilding a community ravaged by the deadly Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
Tacloban is best known as the home town of Imelda Marcos, the infamous widow of a former president. But the association does it little good, as the community suffers a lack of government funding and support.
“I was blown away with how little had been done to repair the town in the three years since the disaster,” said Tim.
“The town is a mess and people live in tiny temporary houses made from rubbish materials with dirt floors. They sleep on beds made from potato sacks.”
But even in the middle of unimaginable poverty, Tim said he’s never seen a group of happier individuals.
“The community has been through so much tragedy, heartbreak and their living conditions are beyond what we Australians could imagine, yet everyone has smiles on their faces and were very welcoming of us.”
Tim and the team including project leader, John Tucker, worked with local carpenters to rebuild the town’s community centre, where people took refuge when the typhoon hit and the reason why those inside survived.
“There is a tree still standing out the front which I was told had people hanging from it to stop themselves from being dragged away,” said Tim.
“We estimate we poured and carried 28,000 buckets of concrete during the project. Everyone had injuries and burns from the concrete, some people worse than others.”
The work required to rebuild the centre had the team working long days in the heat, sometimes until the early hours of the morning.
“One day we started work at 6am and poured and carried concrete until 5am the next day. The lime in the concrete was rapidly chewing through our clothing so we all ended up wearing the Reece t-shirts we brought with us to give to the community!”
When the project is complete the centre will include a school, a doctors and dentist clinic and residential apartments. The Reece Grant provided funds for the building materials.
“The new building will be the biggest centre for miles and will play a critical role in restoring the hope and strength of the Tacloban community.”
Despite the long days, burns and exhaustion, Tim is already planning his return trip to help rebuild another part of the town.
“John Tucker and I are currently in talks with a local project manager to work out where they need help and when we can go back.”
While there are plenty of willing individuals to help, it really comes down to the support we receive from corporates. That’s why it was awesome to have Reece on board for this mission – we honestly couldn’t have made the impact we did without them.”