Faith-Based Volunteer Groups Rebuild Typhoon Damaged Homes In CNMI

More than a year after Soudelor hit, recovery efforts get boost from Mennonites, World Renew

By Bryan Manabat

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Sept. 7, 2016) – Faith-based volunteer groups World Renew and the Mennonite Disaster Service are on island to help the Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts or CARE as it tries to rebuild homes damaged or destroyed by Typhoon Soudelor.

Ed Buhler of the Mennonite Disaster Service said they are a volunteer network of Anabaptist churches dedicated to responding to natural and man-made disasters in Canada and the United States.

Their main objective is to put families back in their homes, he added.

“We are planning to be here for the long run — so whether it takes till July we will be here,” Buhler told Variety.

He said they appreciate being invited to Saipan.

“It is unfortunate you never heard from us until you had a storm. We will be rotating 16 volunteers every three weeks because it is a long way from the mainland, and it is quite costly to bring us here. We are grateful for our volunteers because they take time away from their busy schedules and they come here for free.”

He said they are also grateful to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for funding their travel costs.

According to Buhler, the Mennonite Disaster Service “has about 5,000 volunteers — men and women, youth and adults — to draw from to provide the skills and labor needed to respond in the wake of a disaster.”

Their volunteers are from Canada and the United States mainland.

“I am fearful that were going to be having issues with getting materials because you are on an island here,” Buhler said. “That is my biggest fear — that we will be running short of materials because you already have so many other construction projects going on here.”

He said an average 24x30 1-2 bedroom house will take approximately two weeks to rebuild.

Harv and wife Verna Klaver are from World Renew, an organization of Christian Reformed Churches.

Verna Klaver said their goal “is to help as many of the people here that really need help in the time that we are allowed to be here.”

She added, “We want to reach out, repair homes and get people back into a comfortable, sanitary place to live.”

Harv Klaver, a retired contractor, said most of their volunteers have construction backgrounds.

“The ones we invited to come to help here have been specifically chosen because of their skills, so the volunteers are experienced and ready and willing to get out there and help people that need help,” he said.

They have already examined some of the houses that need repair, and they are aware of the possible lack of construction materials.

But “CARE has a very responsible person involved in supervising that part of the rebuilding, and we will deal strictly with the volunteer labor — we are not involved with the materials and supplies and so forth,” Harv Klaver said.

“From what we’ve found up to this point, all of the supplies we need have already been stocked at the jobsites or have been ordered.”

He said his group is committed to completing the project.

“Our commitment extends to April 2017, and we will have teams that rotate every three weeks,” Verna Klaver said.

The Community Advocates for Recovery Efforts or CARE recently received a $200,000 donation from Best Sunshine International.

CARE director Jenny Hegland, said the donation is very timely as skilled construction volunteers are now on island to assist in the home-rebuilding program.

Variety learned that the construction volunteers are housed at the old Far Eastern Broadcasting facility in Marpi.

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