The lost orphans of Yolanda

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Fr. Shay Cullen

Fr. Shay Cullen

Besides the thousands that have been killed, injured, and made homeless by the most devastating typhoon known to humankind, the orphaned children are the most vulnerable. Their towns and villages and homes are no more and their parents are dead. They are threatened by malnutrition, kidnapping, and abduction. Horrible as this prospect is, it has been a deadly reality in times of natural disasters.

These children need our special attention and direct intervention to save them from child traffickers and pedophiles. Under the pretext of saving the children, traffickers can abduct them and sell them as “brides” to pedophiles or earn hundreds of thousands of pounds or euros by providing these children for illegal adoption and even worse, sexual abuse and exploitation.

Urgent vigilance
The Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has called for urgent vigilance by aid workers to this form of child trafficking in the areas devastated by the most powerful typhoon in history to hit land. Called Haiyan or by its local name “Yolanda,” it has devastated and flattened entire towns, villages, and killed scores of people in the central Philippines. Their children will be known as the lost children of Yolanda.

Driven by winds up to 315 kilometers an hour, brutal ordeal will scar the people of the Visayan region for a generation. We too will be judged by how we responded or when we did not.


The television reports show the extent of the devastation and the hardship, hunger and homelessness will last many months. The approaching of yet another rain storm, a tropical depression named “Zoraida” will be lashing the country by the time you read this or will be leaving more destruction to a country already reeling in shock.

As many as ten thousand and more people could have been killed. No one could predict that it would be such a killer cyclone and now the people have nothing. They are totally dependent on the generosity of donors and the ability of the government to deliver relief aid in the shortest time possible.

Help and healing
A time will come when they will be able to pick up the strength and recover and become self-sufficient and self-reliant. But now as in all disasters, help is needed and we are called up to provide it and give back and share with those that need it most.

There are problems getting the relief to the people as roads and bridges have collapsed or buried under landslides. Bodies are decomposing under the rubble, some have been buried in mass graves. This will go on for several weeks more as rescuers and aid workers reach the remote villages

But this tragic event brings with it another kind of danger, the danger to the homeless, lost and orphaned children. With as many as fifteen thousand dead, many children will be orphaned, vulnerable to malnutrition and the worst of all, vulnerable to abduction, kidnapping, and trafficking into illegal adoptions or sexual exploitation.

Struggle against harsh realities
Many people don’t want to read or think about such harsh and painful realities but it happens and we have to do all we can to prevent this. Preda children’s charity is appealing for donations and help to send trained social workers into the devastated area to provide a child feeding station and help find and protect these lost, homeless, abandoned children before they are abducted.

With such challenges before us, we have to summon up the spiritual strength to meet them and overcome them. The Filipino people are a very resilient people and suffer up to twenty typhoons a year and one or two strong earthquakes. Sitting on the pacific ring of fire, it is expected and when there is no exploding volcano to cope with, there are plenty of other natural disasters.

In the past 44 years that I have been a missionary in the Philippines with the people who are poor and needy, I have come through many natural disaster, super storms, floods, landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and rivers of volcanic mud and “lahar” destroying all before them.

The Filipino people have shown the remarkable spiritual strength and resilience and are capable of coping with a sense of humor and smiling at cameras and even laughing at their own predicament. Not this time though, it’s harder than ever before. Yet their will to live and survive is the driving strength of the Filipino people and they do it with courage and resourcefulness and are a people who get on with the task of recovering, rebuilding and planting and harvesting year after year.

These are a people who live in hope and have a great ability to overcome all kinds of disasters and hardship. The people need food, water and shelter. The children need protection, nutrition and the good will of the world community. All need help to get them through this most terrible time in their lives. They believe in a loving God who lives in all people of faith, love and good will and this eternal force of goodness will reach out to the needy through the love of others.

Donations for the orphans of Yolanda to Fr. Cullen, St. Columban’s, Widney Manor Road, Solihull B93 9AB or Dalgan Park Navan, Co. Meath or any TSB bank Preda -Ireland, sort code 990 604, account number 30001836.

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