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Typhoon Haiyan

One of the most powerful storms ever recorded has devastated parts of eastern Visayas in the central Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan struck on 8 November 2013.

Exploring the disaster in schools, whether in assemblies, tutor time or lessons, needs sensitivity and awareness. There needs to be dignity and compassion for those affected. There needs to be concern too for those who can only watch helplessly as human misery unfolds on television screens.

The following activities are suggested as ways that teachers might help students reflect, explore and share their thoughts.

Humanitarian relief

Discuss the relief effort. A priority will be to find survivors and help provide them with the things they desperately need – water, shelter, food, clothing, medicines. Those who lost their lives also need special care: to be identified, so relatives can be informed, and for their remains to be treated respectfully and hygienically. Planners have to juggle priorities in difficult conditions when resources are limited and the needs are unlimited and overwhelming. How do students think they manage those priorities?

Helicopter access

An aerial view shows damaged houses in a coastal community after Typhoon Haiyan hit Iloilo Province, central Philippines©Reuters/ AlertnetIn the hours and days after the disaster, the only way to access some of the worst-hit areas is by helicopter. Discuss what helicopters are good at. Bearing in mind the above priorities, make a list of what they can do well – surveying the scene, gathering information, alerting ground-based workers, delivering provisions. Identify what they are not so good at, such as burying bodies or asking survivors what they most urgently need. Who can best help with those?

A place to shelter

Survivors who lost their homes use a public bus as shelter after Typhoon Haiyan ©Reuters/ AlertnetThose in the photograph are using the bus as their temporary home. Download the powerpoint image and invite students to identify three ways in which that is a good choice after the typhoon. Include basic essentials such as shelter and storage, as well as its location - it is on a road, so when relief teams are able to move by vehicle they won't be hard to find. Look at negatives too. How might it be worse than some of the alternatives? Note the electricity cables. What might happen when the power is reconnected? Invite students to say where they personally would prefer to be - in a makeshift tent with others in a reception centre, or in this bus. What does that say about what matters most to them?

Resilience after disaster

"Filipinos are used to hardship, and for those who have survived this terrible disaster they will stand up and come back fighting – although it may be difficult – with the resilience that has always shaped us." So wrote Rachel Obordo, a journalist living in London. What message would students send to her, and to her country's people.

Family links

Discovering that someone is alive can bring relief, even joy, in the midst of the devastation. Even finding that a loved-one has definitely not survived can bring an end to a kind of suffering that comes from uncertainty and fear. Ask students to think about how messages of people's whereabouts and safety might be passed on. After discussion, research online to find how it is being done following Typhoon Haiyan. Note that the Red Cross has asked people not to post personal information on social networking sites such as Facebook. Instead they suggest emailing details. Why?

Dignity and respect

People caught up in a devastating disaster are vulnerable and open to being filmed or photographed at the lowest point of their lives. They also show great fortitude and resilience in helping others and themselves. Media images show both sides. Ask students to describe a photograph or video sequence that, if they were the subject, they would definitely not want to be shown around the world. (Note, describe it, rather than display it.) In contrast, ask them to find an image that, if it were them, they would be happy to see circulated.

Early warning

Tens of thousands of people left their homes and moved to evacuation centres as Typhoon Haiyan approached. Discuss the importance of responding to evacuation warnings. Each year 20 typhoons reach the Philippines. How might that affect some people's attitude to official warnings. Ask students how they would respond to someone who refused to leave their homes saying they would "sit out" the storm.


This resource was published on 11 November 2013 and written by PJ White of alt62.


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