Skilled US Volunteers To Rebuild Homes Of CNMI Typhoon Victims

Addresses critical need as even some of the victims who have received FEMA and Red Cross funds have not been able to rebuild their homes due to high demand on contractors and skilled labor

By Raquel C. Bagnol

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Augustm08, 2016) – Skilled volunteers from national organizations will be arriving on Saipan this month to help rebuild or repair homes that were damaged byTyphoon Soudelor last year.

American Red Cross-NMI chapter executive director John Hirsh said the first group of volunteers will be here at the end of the month.

Hirsh said the volunteers are construction workers, carpenters, masons and others who are members of the Mennonite Disaster Service, a North-America faith-based group that provides immediate and long-term responses to floods, hurricanes and other disasters anywhere in the world.

Hirsh said several groups of volunteers will be coming over to the island. The first group is made up of 18 carpenters and masons who will stay for a month. Once they leave, the next group of volunteers will arrive.

Red Cross will direct them to the areas where damaged houses need to be rebuilt, Hirsh said.

“We will see to it that construction materials are there so they can start working immediately.”

The Red Cross has a list of families who need help in rebuilding their homes. Some need specific repairs while others must be completely rebuilt, Hirsh said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay for the airfare and transportation expenses of the volunteers while the CNMI government will pay for their accommodations, he added.

He said the volunteers will be housed at the former Far Eastern Broadcasting Corporation facilities in Marpi.

Hirsh said as of Aug. 2, 2016, or exactly one year after Soudelor, there were 425 families still living in tents and needed help with home rebuilding and repair.

He said the Red Cross is committed to continue with the recovery efforts for the next 18 months.

One of the biggest issues that arose was that some people who received monetary assistance from FEMA and from the Red Cross have not done proper repairs to their houses because there are not enough carpenters and construction workers available on island.

“We want those people who received money to repair their homes and to get the work done professionally to withstand future storms and typhoons,” Hirsh said.  

So much work has been done, but there is still so much more to be done, he added.

“We can’t rebuild people’s lives overnight. A majority have recovered but the final percentage are usually families who were hit the hardest and we are still serving them.

“So we thank the support of FEMA and the CNMI government and the agencies and organizations who continue to help us help those who need us.”

Working with the Red Cross is the Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts or CARE whose director, Jenny Hegland, said the value of FEMA’s latest assistance could exceed $1.5 million over the next two years.

She said CARE will likely match or exceed the amount for materials and additional contractor labor.

Marianas Variety
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