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Dublin: 5 °C Sunday 20 October, 2019
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'That dive guide is now homeless. So is the waitress who made your mango shakes and chatted about her kids'

An Irish scuba resort owner on a tiny Filipino island is raising funds that go directly to stricken communities in the area, which he says has been ‘flattened’.

80 per cent of the dive school's boats were sunk in the storm
80 per cent of the dive school's boats were sunk in the storm
Image: Evolution Diving/Facebook

DAVID JOYCE RUNS Evolution Diving  on Malapascua, part of Cebu Province, which was in the direct path of Typhoon Haiyan last week.

The tiny island was “completely cut off” following the storm, and over the last seven days, he’s been working to get aid directly to the people who need it.

€24,000 has been raised towards the effort, including one Irish donation of €10,000. He says some areas near the site of his dive school have been “completely flattened” in the wake of the typhoon, which has affected some 11 million people in total and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

Originally from Ireland, David has been diving for over 14 years, and settled in the area four years ago. He’s married to a Filipina, has two kids and says they’re now “pretty settled” on the island.

TheJournal.ie contacted David via email this week to find out about his relief drive, and efforts to rebuild homes and communities in the area. Not to mention, his business.

We began by asking, ‘how bad is the damage’?

The island was at the epicentre of the storm where the winds are strongest (it’s due west of Tacloban).

From walking around the island my estimate is is that 95 per cent of buildings are damaged, with many of them needing massive rebuilds or beyond repair.

These buildings range from the homes of locals to foreign-owned businesses such as mine.

And the surrounding area?

All of northern Cebu has been annihilated, so the last hour drive towards the area to get the boat to Malapascua is also in bits. All electricity poles came down. Most trees fell. Roofs of nearly all houses are gone. Every school I saw was badly damaged.

To get relief to Malapascua, which is my current priority, means driving through flattened areas where the children hold up signs by the road side pleading for food and shelter.

It is not easy to ignore some for others.

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Home in the area have been “completely flattened” [Image: Evolution Diving]

What are you and your team doing to help?

We are actioning a three pronged approach.  Our first aim is to try and stabilise the island and ensure there is shelter for everyone and food and water.  There is no potable water on the island so it all needs to be taken from the mainland.  However 80 per cent of boats were damaged or sunk by the typhoon so this is now difficult.

In addition, the water distillation centres in northern Cebu are unable to function due to lack of electricity, so we are forced to drive water from Cebu City in bottle form.

Our second approach is to try and get the business operational.  The resort has been badly damaged but luckily some key components are intact, so we are hoping we can get some form of resort and dive shop open again in 4 to 6 weeks, the restaurant will follow.

The third approach for me is to then try and repair my house which has no roof or windows anymore.

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The remains of the resort’s bar/restaurant ‘The Craic House’ [Evolution Diving/Facebook]

You made the decision to pitch in yourself, rather than advise people to donate through charities…

Yes, it was a fast reaction to a major crisis.

I have lived on Malapascua for four years and know the area well.  It was completely cut off from the storm.

Running a business there has always been about logistics so we knew we have the resources to get things happening right now and the support within the community to make it work immediately.

We are spending the money we receive immediately and getting food, water and now building supplies directly into the hands of people who need them.

We absolutely endorse going the NGO route and are quite surprised by the great reaction of donors. However we have a plan in place and are getting basics to the island daily through our own network.

How much have people been donating?

Donations range from €10 to €1,500.  One Irish person has pledged €10,000, and that will come via bank transfer.  People are being incredibly generous.

It started with our own customer base who have visited Evolution on Malapascua in the past and they dug deep immediately.

If you visit the Philippines you will interact a great deal with locals so everyone has a memory of people they met.  That brings the disaster much more in focus for people.

In simple terms, the dive guide you enjoyed diving with daily is now homeless.  So is the waitress who made your mango shakes and chatted about her kids.

Now with media coverage and an Irish connection people who have not visited us here are also getting involved.

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The tiny island is just 2.5km long [Google Maps]

What’s the plan for the next few days?

Currently we are still purchasing and transporting the basics – food and water.  Building materials are in hot demand all over the region so we are trying to get tarpaulins, roofing,  plywood, tools, nails etc. onto the island.

Medicines are also needed such as tetanus, and we are also getting nappies and sanitary items there.

This week I am directing operations from the city while my business partner is managing our issues on the island as well as distribution.

I also need to find a place to put my family.

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[Evolution Diving/Facebook]

David said he wanted to make it clear to anyone thinking about donating that they are “not an NGO,” merely “a couple of guys in the middle of a big mess”.

Details on how to donate can be found at Evolution’s Facebook page.

Read: US aircraft carrier steams in to Philippines as UN admits slow response

Related: Gilmore announces €1m emergency fund for Philippines relief effort

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