Philippines: Lanao del Norte families to regain homes through Red Cross' "build homes, bring hope"

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The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) takes the lead in rebuilding homes of the victims of the continuing armed conflict in Mindanao through the Red Cross' "Build Homes, Bring Hope" shelter project in the towns of Kolambugan and Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte. The project is for the benefit of some 24 families who lost their homes at the height of perceived clashes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the renegades in the area.

PNRC Chairman, Senator Richard Gordon was in Lanao del Norte recently to coordinate the housing project with Lanao Gov. Mohammad Khalid Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte Rep. Bobby Dimaporo, Kolambugan Mayor Bertrand Lomaque and other local officials of the nearby town of Kauswagan. "This project will unite Muslims and Christians as they work together to build these homes," Gordon said, pointing out that real peace must come from the hearts of Muslims and Christians who are willing to set aside their differences and work together for peace.

The rehabilitation efforts began when Gordon found a donor of a land to be used for the relocation of these families to build their houses after officials agreed to support the construction and realization of the project. A former Lanao Councilor, Anthony Labaro, has donated about 5,000 square meters of land to the displaced families through the Red Cross under the leadership of Gordon stepped up efforts to build homes to protect civilians from attack and to bring them to safe ground.

Gordon stressed that the PNRC will spearhead the construction of an initial 24-unit housing project of families trapped as a result of the conflict and provide humanitarian assistance to them. "These homes will be built through the cooperation between a community of Muslims and Christians. What evil has destroyed, goodness will build in defiance of violence using the bayanihan spirit of cooperation, respect and compassion between Muslims and Christians," said Gordon.

PNRC allocated at least 20 to 45 square meters of land per unit while the local government of Lanao del Norte will ensure that roads, water and power supply, drainage, and sewage facilities are provided in this housing site. "A value-added feature of this development initiative is a livelihood project that aims to teach them home-based business activities that can support the daily needs of these families while they begin to overcome fear and grief amid the upsurge of fighting in Mindanao," Gordon said. This livelihood opportunity will be funded by Gordon's Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Gordon also appeals to concerned officials to augment sanitation facilities and the delivery of food, water and clothing as well as medical services in the area. One of the beneficiaries is Rudelyn Sosima, whose husband and two-year old daughter were killed by armed men who broke into their home. Besides Rudelyn, other beneficiaries include Jessica Patarias, Flora Porcare, Anita Lagura, Mateo Balasbas, Apolinario Laggam, Teodoro Capapas, Fortunato Amomonpon, Juana Amomonpon, Henry Balos, Patronilla Pabginwit, William James Ichico, Geoffrey Dagwan, Emerita Bitasulao, Alexander Malaay, Francisco Sosimo, Jr., Paulio Jumuwad, Teodoro Jumuwad.

As of now, the Mindanao conflict rendered a total of 316,833 people or 61,197 families homeless due to the endless firefights. Innocent civilians were caught in the crossfire resulting to 81 killed and 73 injured. The PNRC has maintained strong links with the victims of the armed conflict. A certain Ivy Macalisan, who is six months pregnant, had a recurring psychiatric condition brought about by her separation from her husband at the height of the crossfire was brought by Red Cross staff to the Lanao del Norte Provincial Hospital and is being closely monitored by the Red Cross Lanao del Norte Chapter.

Red Cross social workers has given Macalisan and the rest of the families in evacuation centers psychosocial support and critical incident stress management to relieve their emotional suffering and cope with their present situation for them to return to their daily routine more quickly. "As most of the beneficiaries lost a parent, sibling or spouse in the fighting and all their homes were razed, this housing project will not only build homes but also bring hope to these separated families to live anew peacefully," Gordon said.

He added that building homes, an act of peace, will become a weapon against war.