620 Carpenters Graduate in the Philippines

Contributed By By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News staff writer

  • 11 June 2014

Carpenters at a graduation in Tacloban receive their government certification and a toolbox from Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder Ian S. Ardern of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

Article Highlights

  • After Typhoon Haiyan, the Church immediately set programs in place to provide relief and help members rebuild, restore, and retool.
  • Each trainee built his or her own house—about 12 feet by 12 feet in dimension—and nine more homes.
  • At the graduation ceremonies, they received a trade certificate that leaders hope will help them qualify for more construction jobs.

TACLOBAN, PHILIPPINES

The things Elder Ian S. Ardern of the Seventy saw in the days after the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines “will linger in my mind much longer than I want them to,” he said.

He wondered how storm victims could rebuild after such a catastrophe. Then he saw a local man standing on a street in Tacloban. He had a discarded piece of wood and a hammer, and he was pulling an old nail out of the wood. “I thought, ‘That is where you begin,’” said Elder Ardern, a member of the Philippines Area Presidency. “That is where these Filipinos will begin. They will begin one nail at a time.”

And that is exactly how recovery has taken place, with the help of the Church, in the province of Leyte, one of the hardest-hit areas.

Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy presided over graduation exercises on May 28 in Ormoc and May 29 in Tacloban for 620 carpenters who are building shelters as part of a Church program following the disaster.

The ceremonies were held six and a half months after Typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda by locals) struck the central Philippines on November 8, 2013, destroying more than 1.1 million homes. The deadliest typhoon on record in the country, the storm left more than 6,100 people dead; injured 28,000; and displaced 4.1 million. Some 1,785 people remain missing.

Tony San Gabriel, area manager for self-reliance in the Philippines, said that after Typhoon Haiyan, the Church immediately set programs in place to provide relief and help members rebuild, restore, and retool. “We thought, ‘How do you teach self-reliance to a people who were ravaged by a perfect storm?’”

They began by helping the some 3,210 members who lost homes in the disaster rebuild. Working with the local self-reliance center and the Perpetual Education Fund, local members entered a Church-sponsored vocational program that would train them as carpenters. The Church also helped them obtain basic tools.

Each trainee built his or her own house—about 12 feet by 12 feet in dimension—and nine more homes. At the graduation ceremonies, they received a trade certificate that leaders hope will help them qualify for some of the 250,000 construction jobs available in the area.

“We married the opportunity for livelihood and the need for shelter,” said Brother San Gabriel. “It was a magic formula.”

Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Seventy and President of the Philippines Area said the shelter and carpentry graduations were a celebration of Filipino resiliency. “The typhoon may have damaged many things but never the Filipino resolve to rise above the challenges around him. Many things have been accomplished after Yolanda. We will continue to serve our brothers and sisters as we follow the teaching of our Savior, Jesus Christ, to help others.”

Ricky Gonzalez is a master carpenter tasked with helping others learn the skills to build homes. He was affected by the typhoon himself, having taken shelter with his family in an LDS meetinghouse when the typhoon struck, but has continued to help others in need. “We knew we needed to help one another so that the building of shelters can be completed quicker,” said Brother Gonzalez.

Elder Ardern said the Church is doing more than just building shelters through the program. “We are building people,” he said.

Tacloban Philippines Stake president Richard A. Abon agreed.

“Today is a celebration of happiness and a brighter future ahead,” he said.

Hundreds of Filipinos are learning carpentry and basic construction skills while working with master carpenters, who were brought in to assist with training through the Church’s Perpetual Education Fund (PEF). The first graduation ceremony was held in Ormoc City.

Graduation ceremonies were held in Ormoc and Tacloban for more than 600 carpenters who are building shelters for typhoon victims.

Orlando Montesclaros built this home with six other carpenters, and his bride recently moved in with him after they were married in the Cebu City Philippines Temple. They own the shelter and pay the lot owner just 1,000 pesos a year.

Carpenters check in for graduation ceremonies at the Ormoc stake center, where their certificates are lined up in green frames.

More than 300 trainees who were certified as skilled carpenters participated in graduation exercises in Ormoc City.