Knoxville missionary asks for help in Philippines disaster relief

It's been more than a month since Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people, with hundreds still missing. Thousands lost their homes and everything they owned in that devastating storms, and face a very long road to recovery.

While the attention of the world was focused on the hardships in the Philippines for a few weeks, now a lot of the attention has shifted to other events. But the rebuilding efforts are just beginning for the people of the Philippines, and those dedicated to helping them.

Among those doing everything they can to help is Kim Hughes Cruse, a Knoxville native who has been an International Mission Board missionary in the Philippines for 17 years. She and her husband, Jeff, are working with the International Mission Board and Baptist Global Relief to assess needs, and get help to some of the hardest hit areas.

"It was overwhelming. Where do you start? It was heartbreaking to see people who lost... they didn't have much to begin with and what they did have was lost," Cruse said.

Ties to Tennessee

Kim's love for the Philippines started early. After graduating from Fulton High School, she went on to study at Carson-Newman College. While there, she met a man who inspired her to give back.

"There was a speaker in the Philippines and he was asking people to come over and work with him. So I signed up to go that summer. I worked in Manila for that summer and absolutely loved it," Cruse said.

After graduation, she went back for two years. Two years turned into 17.

While she's made roots in the Philippines, now she's reaching out to her hometown for support, hoping the people of East Tennessee will donate to the effort to help rebuild lives in the country she now calls home.

After Typhoon Haiyan

The Cruses are stationed in Batangas City, about two hours south of Manila, the nation's capital. Cruse said they did not experience the worst of the storm.

"We did get some wind and rain but it was not anything bad in our area," Cruse said.

As soon as transportation became available, Kim and Jeff set out to survey the damage.

Assessing the Damage

Kim and Jeff are doing careful surveys of where the worst damage is located. They are focusing relief efforts along the west coast of Leyte.

"That area we're targeting is over 90% destroyed. Very few houses are remaining. Windows are all blown out, roofs are ripped off... Basically it looks like a lumber shop exploded," Cruse said.

In Valencia, a town in the province of Leyte, at least 70% of the area has been destroyed from Super Typhoon Haiyan.

"As you can see, only the beams are standing. The roofs were all blown away. This used to be his living room, that was the bedroom, and back here used to be the kitchen," said Cruse, as she explained some of the damage.

The Cruses have sectioned their relief efforts into three phases: medicine, food, and reconstruction.

Food and shelter

Long lines of people wait in line for food in the Philippines. Their food sources, along with everything, were destroyed by the storm.

"They live on what they plant but the storm tore everything down," said Kim.

She and her husband Jeff, are handing out aid, as well, but Baptist Global Relief is trying to find long term solutions. Besides rice and canned foods, they're trying to get seeds to villages. Pastor Eli Salinas also trains some people in agriculture and planting.

The thousands of coconut trees, destroyed in the storm, will also have an impact on the island's economy. It's one of their primary exports.

In addition to food, finding shelter is also a continuing problem.

"After the storm was finished, they picked up what materials they could," said Kim.

Many of the structures now standing are makeshift shelters, built from debris found nearby.

"We want to do a reconstruction kit where each family would get a certain amount of pieces of plywood, a certain amount of pieces of tin roof sheets, certain number of pounds of nails, and a certain amount of pieces of lumber. So that they can rebuild."

Kim and Jeff will start handing out materials on Friday, but other relief efforts will take more time, like the seeds, which won't be planted until the spring.

How You Can Help

If you'd like to donate, go to the Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief page.

Every day this week we will be bringing you a new story from Kim's journey as she tours and aids in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.


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