Empowering the Philippines
‘Empowering the Philippines’ is a humanitarian project using EFT to relieve the trauma suffered by thousands of people following Typhoon Yolanda, the worst storm in history, which struck the Philippine islands on 8 November 2013. The typhoon caused mass devastation, thousands of deaths and countless injuries. Emma and I were privileged to be part of the aid team visiting Tacloban, one of the very worst hit areas, for 3 weeks in May 2014. The team is made up of Steve Wells and David Lake from Australia, Rehana Webster from New Zealand, Gene Monterastelli from the USA, myself (Sue Beer), Emma Roberts, Tania Prince and Tom Wood Finn from the UK – all invited by Dutch good guy Sebastiaan van der Schrier whose vision and tenacity made this project happen.
Some of the ‘training’ venues!
Here are some of the highlights and photos of our trip.
First Impressions/Day One
We land at Tacloban 6am in the morning. It is blazing hot already, almost 100F. Everything is broken, exposed and the sea seems very close. Rehana, Steve and David, on their way home after the first phase of the project, are there to meet us, along with Sebastiaan and Tom Wood Finn. Steve presses anti-mosquito spray into our hands in an alarmingly urgent manner, handing over the baton – “You’ll need plenty of this!” he says. And so the new team consisting of myself, Emma and Gene, alongside Seb, Tom and Anna, the amazing local NGO expert, is launched into the burning, brand new day. After a shower and breakfast we are ready to go out to Palo, one of the worst hit, to observe Seb and Tom working with a group of villagers.
We meet Meg who will work with the children using puppets and song. We travel in a minibus and through a haze of the heat and time distortion we are still very aware of the utter devastation that mixes with signs of new life, the cacophony of traffic – there are no traffic lights working, brightly painted ex army jeeps and rickshaws crisscross everywhere, a heady mix of grit and pollution thickens the air. Observing the work, the simplified tapping protocol the team are developing works quickly and effectively. Powerful. Tears and laughter. Heat. Flies. Fans.
We make it to lunchtime and then collapse.
Some of the Local Accommodation and Transport
The First Weekend – The Legislative Office
We are at the Legislative Office of the Vice Mayor of Tacloban teaching staff from theDSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development). Anna Malindog, the local NGO exper,t has played a big part in setting this up. And we have aircon!
We are given a heartfelt welcome by the Vice Mayor on day one. He returns on our second day here and says he wishes we could have come sooner. This is repeated throughout our stay – we realise how much our help is needed and wanted. Six months after Yolanda there has been virtually no trauma debriefing or psychological support.
It is a privilege to witness the small group I am working with. They learn the streamlined trauma protocol we are teaching very quickly, and are powerfully supportive of one another as we begin working through the sensory aspects of each person’s experience. By the afternoon they are working in pairs, tapping and Telling the Story in their own language.
These people are the psychologists, social workers, first responders, teachers and admin staff – leaders in the communities – and all have experienced the same traumatic event. They are very motivated to help themselves so they can pass it on to others.
We are allowing ourselves a day off, hoorah! As we head off in the minibus for the beach I am dreaming of pure white sands and turquoise seas. But it’s raining, and when we get to the beach we find it has been requisitioned by the Red Cross. There are temporary tents and shacks everywhere. It’s a sharp reminder of the reality that is life here. We move on and optimistically get out of the van further along the coast, hoping to take a dip even in the rain. The beach is strewn with the debris of lives lost and homes destroyed. We learn that zips are one of the biggest problems, being sharp and non biodegradable. We can’t swim we learn from the locals, because the nets which keep the giant jelly fish at bay have been torn apart…..And yet the deep and eternal underlying beauty of the place is tangible. It will start over, come again, renew. Everyone is quiet as we explore.
The Healing Power of Arsenal Football Club
Sebastiaan likes to play football. You can play football in any language. He goes out to find other people to play with, tells them what we are doing and gets invited back to demonstrate one on one with 2 interested youth leaders. Emma, Gene and I go with him. The sun has already gone down when Deodie and King greet us at the stadium. We gather a small group and soon have everyone tapping. Emma and I work one on one with Deodie and King. Deodie was a first responder and had to clear up dead bodies. “The bodies….were my friends”, he says.
King and his father had held a door against the rising water for 2 and a half hours. He said the worst moment was when his father slipped and said “That’s it , we are gone…” ….but King had managed to hold the door on his own for an hour as the water continued to rise. As we worked the trauma fused into the phrase “I had to hold the door” shifted to “I held the door”…then “I..held the door and we all survived…” Something important seems to have shifted for King alongside this change in tonal emphasis. Both men have experienced a world of difference in a matter of 15 minutes or so and they are keen to help us take tapping to more people they know. King becomes our translator for the rest of the trip. And it turns out he is an Arsenal supporter, keen enough to get up in the night to watch games on the other side of the world live. He screams with delight when I tell him I am an Arsenal season ticket holder. I truly think I am the icing on his cake today!
The National Maritime Polytechnic
Things unfold synchronistically here. The next day we arrive back from a hot rewarding day out in Palo village to find Deodie waiting for us at the hotel. I notice he looks changed, he actually looks inspired. He asks if we will go to the National Maritime Polytechnic, his former workplace, he has been there this morning to tell them about this work and the Director has asked that we go and teach a group.
We find ourselves in a very nautical mahogany boardroom (air con hooray!). Bizarrely, there is already a tapping diagram on the blackboard. I realise Deodie must have drawn it when he visited earlier. I am moved that he has gone immediately to share what he has learnt from us, and that has led to us being here now.
More and more people gather, word has spread about this trauma debriefing. It turns out the Director has stopped work so everyone can come. The room is packed as he welcomes us – his words about the importance of flexibility and seizing opportunities stick in my mind….
Later Deodie shows us round the grounds. The sea continues where the land ends and over it the giant structure of the biggest bridge in Asia stretches towards Western Samar. The huge tidal surge of Yolanda meant the water came in very fast here. Some people survived by clinging to the roof of the Director’s house, which somehow stayed in place. Others were not so lucky and it seems there are still bodies lost in the thick undergrowth.
Today, taking in the beauty and tranquillity of the place, it’s hard to believe what happened such a short time ago.
Homeward bound – What’s next?
As we headed home we have the satisfaction of knowing our mission has been a great success. We set out aiming to spread tapping all over the Philippines, get it accepted by the world’s leading NGO’s, and spread our documentary virally to inspire people to try it for themselves, and create a global shift in the way the world perceives healing. And it’s happening!
In the 3 weeks of the mission our team has taught an estimated 1000 people in our basic trauma treatment model. Of those 1000 we taught about a 100 of the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) who are now looking at getting this accepted within the trauma treatment protocol of the DSWD that they’re rolling out soon.
These are just a few of the tapping friends we made …
A Week Later…
On a personal level the mission to Tacloban has been an amazingly enriching, rewarding experience. Yes we saw suffering, and we also witnessed life affirming resilience, strength and beauty. We seem to have brought home so much with us – not least friendships, and a renewed conviction in the power of committed people to make things happen. It really feels like we were and are part of a web of love in action….and this is just the beginning.
If you would like to support our continuing work with this mission then please do look at the full website. Any donations would be very welcome – please help us help them move on from the trauma of Typhoon Yolanda with the tapping.