The country Cora Sayre calls home is one of the most vulnerable to climate change in the world.
She has seen the increasing intensity of typhoons over the last decade—and made it her life’s mission to help rural farming communities in the Philippines become more resilient to devastating disasters and volatile economic conditions.
Cora and her husband founded the nonprofit Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development Foundation (WAND) in 2008.
“Both of us were born poor,” she said, “and it kindled a desire in our hearts to really uplift ourselves and help other people who are like us to gain their voice and be active partners in their development.”
The destructive power of typhoons in the Philippines has intensified by 50% in the past 40 years due to warming seas, according to a North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.
“In 2013, when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, it took countless lives and destroyed infrastructures and livelihoods,” Cora recalled.
As a resident of rural Philippines, she noticed major gaps in disaster recovery services after Typhoon Haiyan. WAND filled the gaps, bringing water and sanitation solutions, as well as food security programs, to remote villages. Because they’re based in the Philippines, they’re able to provide long-term support.
Building community resilience to disaster, Cora explained, doesn’t happen in a matter of days or months. It takes decades.
“It’s not only about tree planting,” she said, using one of WAND’s Typhoon Haiyan projects as an example. “It’s about tree growing. You have to monitor the trees you planted to make sure they grow.”
Reforestation is important, Cora said, but the people WAND collaborates are the real key to disaster resilience.
“Before, the rural folks used to only be on the sidelines, but now because of our engagement, training, and partnering, some of them have become village leaders and counselors. Women are involved in cooperatives. They are now agents and stakeholders in their communities.”
Cora is a 2018 Disaster Feedback Fellow of the Disaster Recovery Network at GlobalGiving. Learn more about the fellowship.