Filipina-American Jessica Cox, the world's first person born without arms to fly a plane, knows the areas between Tacloban and her mother's childhood home of Guiyan as a surfer's paradise—an idyllic, peaceful place where she used to relax with her extended family.
But in the wake of the world's most powerful super storm, Typhoon Haiyan / Yolanda, which charged across the Philippines on Nov. 8, much of that paradise was tarnished. Videos and photos showed that her mother's homeland had shifted—80% to 100% of homes within a few miles of the storm's center had been destroyed. Trees were snapped in half. She knew that "this visit will be like no other," she said.
Yet nothing quite prepared her for the altered landscape that awaited her. The destruction was visible from the air as Jessica and her husband, Patrick Chamberlain, approached Tacloban's airport.
Handicap International Tacloban Field Coordinator, Guerric, greeted the visitors, among them the film crew from RIGHTFOOTED, a movie being made about Jessica's life. Their first stop was the fishing port, now home to numerous boats that were pushed ashore in the typhoon's storm surge.
Guerric also showed the team the hardest-hit areas of Tacloban, pointing out how the storm had warped the landscape, and also explaining where mountains of debris had already been removed.
View more pictures of Jessica's first day in Tacloban here.
Handicap International's emergency staff then gave Jessica an overview of their work, and presented a packed schedule for Jessica and her husband, both Handicap International Goodwill Ambassadors.
Tomorrow, they'll begin shadowing Handicap International's mobile teams, which travel village to village, shelter to shelter to ensure that anyone with limited mobility has access to the care and devices they need to regain their strength, and place in the community.
Present in the Philippines since 1985, Handicap International operates development and risk reduction programs in several areas of the country. The contingency plans and evacuation procedures implemented as part of risk reduction operations help alleviate the impact of natural disasters. Handicap International has deployed emergency teams during previous typhoons in the Philippines and benefits from extensive experience in the field.
More details about Handicap International's ongoing response to Typhoon Haiyan.
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Follow Handicap International updates on Twitter at @HI_UnitedStates as well as insights from Jessica Cox at @Jess_Feet