x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Abu Dhabi man’s rescue plan for Philippine orphanage he helped to build

An Abu Dhabi resident is raising money to rebuild an orphanage destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Teacher Ali Manek is returning to the Philippines next week to try to rebuild the orphanage he helped build in 2006 after a landslide. The original building was destroyed last month by Super Typhoon Haiyan. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Teacher Ali Manek is returning to the Philippines next week to try to rebuild the orphanage he helped build in 2006 after a landslide. The original building was destroyed last month by Super Typhoon Haiyan. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

ABU DHABI // Ali Manek watched on in horror as Typhoon Haiyan cut a trail of devastation across the Philippines last month.

The Abu Dhabi resident had responded to help the country when mudslides hit Southern Leyte Province in 2006.

And now its people were suffering again.

Mr Manek wondered what was the fate of the orphanage he built in St Bernard after the mudslides killed hundreds and left 93 as orphans in the region.

Back in 2006, they lost everything, but the world did not come to their aid. Earthquakes in Indonesia and Pakistan left the international community fatigued and the response was less than adequate.

“When I heard about this, there was very little attention paid to these people,” said the 29-year-old English teacher with Abu Dhabi Education Council.

“The village only had 3,000 people and a very small amount of survivors.

“And it is the same situation now,” said Mr Manek, who lost his brother to leukaemia.

Finally, he managed to get an update on the orphans this month.

They all survived, but their home he built for Dh257,000 was destroyed. Now Mr Manek, from Canada, is on a mission to raise Dh220,000 in time for his December 12 departure to the Philippines to deliver aid and rebuild the orphanage.

“These people and orphans lost everything once. Now they have lost it all again,” said Mr Manek, who has been in the UAE for five years.

Typhoon Haiyan, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, killed more than 5,000 people and left about four million displaced.

The powerful storm also wiped out 90 per cent of Tacloban city – the capital of Leyte Province.

It was the most powerful typhoon to have ever hit the Philippines.

But Mr Manek is determined to do whatever he can to help.

“After an orphan loses their parents, they should not be left alone – people should help them,” he said.

After losing his 10-year-old brother when he was three, Mr Manek knew how traumatic such an event could have on a child’s life.

“He passed away on his 10th birthday after seven years of suffering from leukaemia,” he said.

“Going through the pain made me realise children needed support when going through something so horrific. I want to go back there again. It is important to keep [the orphans] hopeful that there are people out there that can help them through this.”

Although Mr Manek has only been able to raise about a sixth of that amount, he is hopeful of reaching the target.

If not, a last resort would lead some orphans to leave their “brothers and sisters” to go to another centre.

It would be far easier for Mr Manek to donate through an organisation from the comfort of his own home in Abu Dhabi, but the fear it would not reach the people who needed it the most made him determined to go himself.

“My goal is to use what I can for the orphanage and help supply stores and businesses with products to sell to rebuild the economy,” he said. “And also to provide psychological help, even if it is just to provide people with an outlet to tell their story.”

Mr Manek, founder of The World is Our Village charity, has so far provided aid to 11 countries.

He established the charity after spending many years as an aid volunteer. Since 2005, he has built five different orphanages, 11 schools, and refugee camps.

Those wishing to donate to the charity can by visiting www.theworldisourvillage.org or www.facebook.com/ourvillage

osalem@thenational.ae