People helpful by nature: Newmarket volunteer (January 8, 2014)

Written by Susie Kockerscheidt

Published by York Region on Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Marianne Maertens has seen the destruction of nature.                            

The Newmarket resident was part of the Samaritan’s Purse Canada’s emergency response team that helped with recovery efforts after the tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2004, the Pakistan earthquake in 2005, the Yogyakarta, Indonesia earthquake in 2006, the flooding of the Zambezi River in 2007 and the Haiti earthquake in 2010. But nothing could prepare her for what she saw in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan hit Nov. 8, killing about 6,000 people.                            

Noting how an estimated 4.1 million people were displaced, the 36-year-old said when she arrived Nov. 21, she could feel the absolute devastation and sense of loss as people wandered around, overwhelmed by the situation.                            

“It was very emotional because you’re out hearing and seeing the limits of human suffering, but also feeling inspired because you’re hearing the overwhelming stories of sacrifice,” said Ms Maertens, who took two weeks from her job as a water resources specialist at Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority to help.                            

She landed in Cebu City and was among a small team responsible for water sanitation and health and hygiene in the islands of Kinatarkan, Hilantagaan and Bantayan, which is divided into three municipalities, Bantayan, Madridejos and Santa Fe.                            

There, Ms Maertens participated in assessments and the distribution of emergency response items, including hygiene kits of soap, a toothbrush, comb and other items.                            

Sharing her experience talking with people and hearing their remarkable stories, she said they inspire her to do everything she can to help those affected in the typhoon-ravaged parts of the Philippines.                            

“You can’t help but feel motivated by the drive and energy of these leaders at the community level,” she said, referring to local volunteers who have suffered losses themselves, but still continue to help.                            

Drawing similarities to how neighbours were helping each other during last month’s ice storm that hit the Greater Toronto Area, Ms Maertens added “it’s part of our being to help those around us if we can.”

For more information and to make a donation, visit the Samaritan’s Purse website.

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