Life for Mariflor has always been something to appreciate.
Born into a farming family in the country village of Gaoquin, in the province of Leyte, Phillipines, she never had much. But it was enough.
Her country lifestyle allowed her to grow up slowly, as all children should, happy with her family and grateful to be able to attend school with her friends. Everything seemed normal and right in her world.
Until the winds of Typhoon Haiyan blew down her home and destroyed her school.
As farmers, Mariflor’s family depended on the harvest of their crops and the sale of coconuts. It took years for her father and mother to develop their farm, but it only took two hours for Typhoon Haiyan to destroy everything.
Now, there is no more school for Mariflor to attend, there is no farm to help her papa tend, there is no coconut juice to drink, and there are no bananas to eat. In fact, there is nothing to eat, and her family has no money and no way to earn any. It will take years to grow new coconut and fruit trees and months to grow any kind of crops.
In the meantime, Mariflor wakes up every morning with her tummy growling, and struggles to fall asleep every night because of her hunger pangs. She hears from her neighbors that many foreign nations are sending food and money to help families like hers. But she doesn’t understand why no one has helped her and her family.
She has been told that somewhere the government is giving out food, clean water, and soap, but for some reason none of this relief has made it to her village.
All of her life, her parents have instructed Mariflor to stay away from the highway because it is dangerous, but now desperate, Mariflor has begun doing what the other children do: standing by the side of the road from early morning until the sun fades over the mountains, begging everyone driving by for food and money.
As each car or truck passes, she stares at the driver and waves, competing with the hundreds of other children from her village who are also waiting by the road. Hour after hour, the sun beats down hard upon her dark hair.
She lays down at night, with no supper, under the dead palm leaves that her mother has gathered for them. She shivers all through the night and prays from deep in her heart, something she has never done before.
When the sun comes up she runs to the road, hoping that today something good will happen. After hours pass with no results, Mariflor has an idea. She runs up to her mommy and asks her to make a sign asking for food.
Meanwhile, the leaders of INfire and some of their key partners drive down that very highway, heading to the small island of Biliran, Leyte, in response to a request for relief. Their hearts are aching as they see thousands of children over a 50 kilometer stretch, standing one after another, waving, jumping up and down, stretching out their hands, with pain etched on their faces.
The men slow the car close to Mariflor and she cautiously approaches, holding out her hand with hope rising in her heart. One of the men gives her the only food in the car, a power bar that he brought all the way from Nashville, and the other gives her a hundred peso bill.
As they drive off with heavy hearts, they yell out the window a familiar, historical phrase in Leyte, “Mobalik kami” — “We will return.”
The next day a supply truck arrives in Ormoc with goods sent from Germany. Some of these were taken to Miraflor’s village, and her prayers were answered. For the first time in a long time, she fell asleep with her tummy full.
But there must be a continual flow of food supplies to keep her and her family from becoming sick and malnourished. Hopefully, someone will provide her papa with seeds so he can begin to rebuild their farm. They will also need wood, tin sheets, hammers, saws, and nails to help rebuild their home.
A home with a bed to climb into at night, blankets and pillows, a roof to keep the rain out, a kitchen, a table, plates — and yes, something on the plates every night.
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