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Typhoon Haiyan: One year on

In November 2013 one of the most severe storms ever to hit land destroyed a million homes. Parts of the central Philippines were devastated.

Explore the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan with these thoughtful activities. They begin with a reflection and focus on a family waiting to be rehoused. They end with a youth jam. The emphasis is not on suffering. It is on hope and resilience.


Learning objectives

By the end of this activity students will be able to:

  • Describe the personal qualities they think someone needs to respond well in adverse circumstances.
  • Distinguish between the crisis phase of an emergency and the recovery phase and explain the benefits of thinking of them separately.

One year on

Begin with a time for reflection. Ask students to think over the past year. Can they recall November 2013 and the things that have happened since.

What were the major events or personal highlights for them? What did they struggle with? How have they changed?

Move on to talk about life in the central Philippines over the past year.

Use the following briefing points to remind students what happened last November.


Briefing points

  • Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines in November 2013. It had the highest wind speeds of any tropical cyclone to reach land.
  • Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Yolanda, was the deadliest natural disaster of 2013, killing 7,986 people.
  • Five million survivors needed immediate shelter because their homes were damaged or destroyed. They lived under tarpaulins or blankets, with family or friends or in public buildings.
  • Tens of thousands of people lost their livelihoods. Survivors used start-up funding to buy farm animals such as pigs, goats and chickens or convenience store stock to run new businesses.
  • In the UK aid agencies joined together in a Disasters Emergency Committee appeal which raised £95 million. The response had to be rapidly changing, as immediate crisis needs were met, and people needed help to rebuild their lives.

Show students the photograph.


 A mother takes care of her children at a tent city in Tacloban on the eastern island of Leyte on October 14 2014 which was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013© Info

It was taken in October 2014 and shows a mother and her children at a tent city in Tacloban on the eastern island of Leyte. This city took the full force of Typhoon Haiyan. The damage was widespread and destructive.


Hope and resilience

As they look at the photograph ask students to think about hope and resilience. What might the woman and the children be feeling hopeful about? How might that hope influence what they do and dream about?

Focus on resilience. What personal qualities does someone need to respond well to very difficult circumstances? What help might they get from, and offer to, others?

Do you think people who live in the Philippines are used to crises? The area is prone to destructive storms and also earthquakes. Talk about how this might affect their response to a disaster. Are they likely to be worn down by it? Or do people get better at coping?

Is resilience a skill that can be learned? Explore attitudes and areas of agreement and disagreement.



Discuss the different phases of a disaster.

The first is an emergency phase, where the focus is on survival, on the essentials of life such as water, food, shelter and medicines.

Then comes a recovery phase.

Try to match these phases to emergencies in students' own lives. How helpful is it to separate them by focusing on the immediate needs in a crisis? Why might it be unhelpful to think too much about recovery when you are still in the emergency response phase?

During the recovery period the authorities wanted to mark some coastal areas as "no-build zones", because they were too vulnerable to future storms. Some people disagreed. The coast is where their livelihoods were. That's where they wanted to rebuild their homes.

Who do students agree with? Prepare arguments for both sides.

Ask students to research more facts about Typhoon Haiyan and share what interests them with the group.

They could look at the statistics of destruction or the emergency relief plan, name the different bands who contributed to a fundraising album, or find something personal about a family that made them think.


Personal story

A UK journalist who interviewed a survivor in the aftermath of the typhoon went back a year later and met her again.

Melissa Rivera says she is sad. She has six children and doesn't know how to support them without her husband, who died in the typhoon.

Watch the video and discuss it.

[Note: the video contains some distressing scenes. Ensure it is appropriate for your students before screening.]


Tacloban one year after devastating typhoon Haiyan from British Red Cross on Vimeo. © Telegraph Media Group Limited 2014

Video discussion points

  • What are students' main feelings? What message would they like to send to Melissa and her family?
  • Melissa told the reporter that she gets help from her friends, but feels ashamed of always asking for help. Think of two ways that her friends might help - one practical, one emotional.
  • What would students say to Melissa to show they understood what it feels like to have to ask for help?


The chair

Look again at the photograph.

Note the chair in the centre. Invite students to think of the different ways that this family might be using that very familiar object?

Might it be handy for practical storage, to protect clean clothes from mud, perhaps? Or is it mainly for someone to sit on, perhaps an adult after the children are in bed?

Ask for ideas.

Set a creative writing task about how the chair might be used.

Students' stories don't have to be accurate - we can't know. They can be imaginative and resourceful.


Youth jam

Last month a Tacloban recovery group organised a youth jam, marking a year since Typhoon Haiyan.

Ask students to imagine they were among the organisers. What kind of jam would it be? What sort of music? What other activities would help bring young people together.

The actual event, a youth jam for safe and resilient cities, included a DIY arts and craft project, a dance flash mob, a photo pledge photo booth and a freedom wall for young people to express themselves. And, of course, bands.

Check out more details in a report here:

What difference might this event have made?



This resource was written by PJ White of alt62 and published in November 2014.


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