February 28, 2023
Tzu Chi breaks ground for permanent housing project in Palo, Leyte
By Ben Baquilod
Tzu Chi Philippines held a groundbreaking ceremony of the Tzu Chi Palo Great Love Village permanent housing project on February 24 in Brgy. San Jose, Palo, Leyte. More than 80 volunteers from Manila, Pampanga, Cebu, and Zamboanga joined local government officials and villagers in the auspicious occasion.
“This is the first permanent housing project of Tzu Chi Philippines. It’s a very exciting project that we plan to have done by year-end,” said Tzu Chi Philippines CEO Henry Yuñez.
The village will be constructed on a 14,428 square-meter land—a portion of the Tzu Chi’s 9-year-old prefabricated temporary housing—with 60 units of 40-50 square-meter houses. It is composed of 17 buildings including four livelihood training centers, a multipurpose hall, daycare center, mushroom farm, and central kitchen and bakery.
“We wanted to create a historical, inclusive, livable, disaster-prepared, sustainable, and Master-planned community,” said project architect and Tzu Chi volunteer Gem Marielle Lim on the village’s design. “We had 27 design revisions for this project, because we wanted to make sure we give the best for the Yolanda survivors,” she added.
“This is really what Master Cheng Yen promised to the people here: that Tzu Chi will be here to uplift their lives, and I think she has fulfilled that,” said Tzu Chi Zamboanga Liaison Office Coordinator Dr. Anton Mari Lim.
For the past nine years, Tzu Chi worked progressively to uplift the lives of the villagers since the tragic devastation of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 that claimed over 6,000 lives. In Tzu Chi’s disaster relief, recovery, and rehabilitation response in the province of Leyte, 280,000 residents were provided with instant hot rice; 68,000 families received cash and material aid; 300,000 residents benefited from the cash-for-work program; 8,400 patients were treated; and 600 temporary classrooms were built.
Tzu Chi also helped rebuild the Sto. Niño Church in Tacloban with a 25-millon donation and constructed Great Love Villages in Palo and Ormoc. Overall, with the help of volunteers from 46 countries and regions around the world, Tzu Chi spent 3.2 billion pesos for its Yolanda response.
Through a letter read in the groundbreaking by CEO Henry Yuñez and Deputy CEO Woon Ng, Dharma Master Cheng Yen thanked the Tzu Chi Philippines volunteers for accompanying the survivors for the past nine years.
“This once injured land has now grown branches of kindness,” the Tzu Chi founder said.
This kindness was what drew typhoon survivor Jose Mari Aldeza to Tzu Chi, saving him and his family from homelessness—and hopelessness.
“I was still rattled, my mind confused. I had no job, no food, nothing,” Aldeza recalled when Tzu Chi volunteers found him in a bunkhouse, having to constantly move from one evacuation center to another for many months. “I was one of those given free temporary housing in the Tzu Chi Great Love Village. That’s when I calmed down. I felt safe because my children had a roof above their heads.”
Together with Tzu Chi volunteers, Aldeza helped build the village, assisted the elderlies, and has been greatly involved in the community affairs for the past nine years. “I have learned to have respect towards people and to help others,” he said confidently. “I have also stopped drinking and smoking.”
At the groundbreaking, he was filled with joy to be one of the recipients of Tzu Chi’s permanent housing project. “I’d be more assured if my children had homes of their own after I’m gone. I am indebted to Master Cheng Yen for the housing. Thank you very much!”