Anita Ochia is 66 years old and lives in Naghalin, a village in Leyte province in the Philippines. She lives in a small house made of bamboo with her husband Feliciano and her adopted son Jessie, nine years old. Anita and her family received recovery assistance after Typhoon Haiyan through HelpAge and COSE, our local partner.
“I’ve lived here since I was born. I had four children, but one passed away. My kids have their families now but they all live close by. I also have an adopted son named Jessie. I used to work as a traditional midwife and it’s through this work that I came to adopt him. Midwifery is something I’ve done since I was a teenager and was my main way of earning an income. If a neighbour was less fortunate, I would provide care for free. Jessie was the child of one of the women I was midwifing for. When the government began prohibiting childbirth and delivery at home, I decided to stop. I would only serve as a midwife in emergencies when a woman was unable to reach a health clinic or hospital in time.”
In 2012, I broke my leg. I accidently slipped and fell while I was bathing in the river. Although I now have a physical disability, I can still live my life normally.
Before Typhoon Haiyan struck, we could tell something was different. I remembered the old ways of observing the weather. There were no winds and it was really quiet, which was not normal. At two in the morning, we started to hear strong winds coming in. I prayed for help to survive this typhoon. I was together with my husband and children. I decided we needed to find help and crawled to one our neighbour’s houses. For me it was even worse because of my condition. I didn’t have crutches to use, so my eldest child helped me get to a safe place.
At seven in the morning, we looked outside and saw our house was badly damaged. All of us were safe, but we didn’t have food to eat. It felt like we’d lost everything. We just waited for the relief the next day.
When HelpAge-COSE came, older people were their priority, so I was really happy. Their work for older people is really inspiring. They have helped us with our problems and they work with the barangay (village) to improve how assistance is provided to older people. I was one of the beneficiaries of the 800 PhP ($17.16 USD) Social Welfare Support for six months. I used the money to buy food for our family since our plants and crops were not yet ready for harvest. This little amount helped us recover from the typhoon. I also bought crutches with the money that HelpAge-COSE gave. I can move freely now; you helped me stand up and walk again! I am happy and blessed. No one focuses on helping older people like me except HelpAge-COSE.
I really wanted to work but due to my disability I’m not able to. I can’t help with planting the crops. I hope there can be livelihood assistance programs like yours that help people with disabilities. I hope you continue your work with older people and persons with disabilities.”