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Small loans a big help for typhoon survivors

By Vicki Escarra, Special to CNN
December 30, 2013 -- Updated 1746 GMT (0146 HKT)
Desperation in the streets of the Philippines, weeks after Typhoon Haiyan practically leveled parts of the country.
Desperation in the streets of the Philippines, weeks after Typhoon Haiyan practically leveled parts of the country.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Typhoon Haiyan wiped out the sources of income for millions of Filipinos
  • Jovanna Pardilla is trying to rebuild her fish-selling business to support her children
  • Global attention of the typhoon victims is already fading
  • Help Opportunity International rebuild small businesses in the Philippines: Philippines Rebuilding Fund

Editor's note: Vicki Escarra is CEO of Opportunity International. The non-profit organization has worked in the Philippines for decades with micro-financing efforts. After the typhoon, many of the people once helped by Opportunity International, have had to start over.

(CNN) -- Life was a struggle for Jovanna Pardilla and her family even before Typhoon Haiyan wiped out their coastal village in the Philippines.

Pardilla had a successful business selling fish door to door in Palo, Leyte, which she launched with several microloans from Opportunity International, a nonprofit organization that provides financial services to clients in 22 developing countries.

"The loans were a big help," Pardilla said. "We got the capital to start this fish-selling business. Even though sales were sometimes low, the business helped us get through the day."

Jovanna Pardilla lost her fish selling business in Typhoon Haiyan. But thanks to new loans, she is starting to make money again.
Jovanna Pardilla lost her fish selling business in Typhoon Haiyan. But thanks to new loans, she is starting to make money again.

Pardilla used the income to feed her family and send her four children to school. But in one day, everything changed. When the typhoon hit, she and her family frantically ran for shelter at a nearby hotel on higher ground. But surging waters eventually flooded the hotel and swept away her two sons, Roque, 12, and Aaron, 1, along with her home and livelihood.

The typhoon affected more than 13 million people, including 5 million children, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Even before the storm, nearly 44% of Filipinos lived on less than $2 day and there are now fewer resources than ever to help those in need.

Rebuilding will be long, difficult and expensive. Yet less than two months after Typhoon Haiyan hit, global attention is already fading, despite a dramatic need for support among millions like Pardilla who lost everything.

Jovanna Pardilla\'s community of Palo on the island of Leyte is trying to rebuild with very few resources.
Jovanna Pardilla's community of Palo on the island of Leyte is trying to rebuild with very few resources.

Opportunity International has worked in the Philippines since 1981, providing loans, savings, insurance and training to more than 740,000 people a year. Our clients use the financial resources to launch businesses and open savings programs that break the cycle of poverty, transform their lives and strengthen their families and communities. Access to financial services is especially important following a major disaster, when victims need a wide range of services and assistance.

Losing so much has shattered Pardilla, but she's trying to stay strong for her two daughters, Applejay, 10, and Aljovell, 9. They're living in a makeshift shack built from salvaged materials and still struggling with basic needs like food, water and clothing. But Pardilla is eager to rebuild her life.

I have worked in the nonprofit sector for nearly a decade. Throughout my work, I am continually inspired by the resilience and determination of parents, regardless of their circumstances, to provide a better life for their children.

Laundry hangs to dry in Palo, Leyte. One sign of normalcy among the ruins left behind by Typhoon Haiyan.
Laundry hangs to dry in Palo, Leyte. One sign of normalcy among the ruins left behind by Typhoon Haiyan.

To help families like the Pardillas, Opportunity International launched the Philippines Rebuilding Fund, which provides emergency loan assistance and will help stabilize local economies through investment in small businesses.

With another loan from Opportunity International Pardilla has already restarted her fish business but it will take months, if not years, to earn enough money to rebuild her home and life.

"I'm hoping to get back to our normal lives -- small house, selling fish, school for my two remaining kids," Pardilla said. "I am hoping to get them through this."

Nothing will ever replace the sons Pardilla lost in the typhoon, of course, but with our support she and millions of others can begin to rebuild and put their children on the path to a happier, better life.

To help Opportunity International help rebuild the storm-ravaged parts of the Philippines check out their Philippines Rebuilding Fund.

For more ways you can help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan go to CNN.com/impact.

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