Ln Lurie of Troy was vacationing on the remote resort island of Boracay in the Philippines, when Typhoon Haiyan hit on Nov. 8. Protected from the storm by mountains on the western side of the island, Lurie, 31, initially told her mom, “It wasn’t that bad.”
She would soon learn just how mistaken she was.
At her father’s urging, Lurie traveled to Cebu Province in the far north where disaster workers say towns suffered severe damage. She decided to stay in the Philippines a month longer than planned to assist with relief efforts. Laurie has been sharing her insights into the devastation and aftermath of the typhoon with the Dayton Daily News via email and text messages.
“I’m staying here for a while,” Lurie wrote. “Giving food relief to hungry and scared people…It was like an episode of the Walking Dead. Swarms of people followed us with arms stretched out. They were really polite though.”
Career-wise, Lurie had been looking for a change.
She moved to Troy at age eight with her parents Leib and Barbara Lurie. She served as field commander for the Troy High School Marching Band. Following her graduation from Troy High in 2000, she left Ohio for the Berklee College of Music in Boston, followed by a decade working as a sound designer in the video game industry.
Lurie has been touring the world for several months and had recently spent time in Central and South America as well as Vietnam.
“(I) used to work in the video game industry and I wanted to do something that actually helped the world, not polluted it with more crap…disaster relief seemed like a good idea, but I never had an opportunity, until now,” Lurie wrote.
Initially, she was volunteering in a relief shelter in Cebu City for about 10 hours a day.
“The shelter, which is in the capital building, is filled with hundreds of volunteers a day, mostly from schools, colleges, etc. Everyone is smiling and works four to five hours a day with no complaints. They are smiling because they are helping,” she wrote.
Most of the volunteers work multiple shifts.
“A lot of the people volunteering are doing it as a distraction, because they are students from places that were hit. They haven’t heard from their families and are praying and distracting themselves to not think the worst,” she wrote.
The jobs are basic: filling plastic bags with canned food, water or rice. The plastic bags go into big sacks and then they are loaded onto trucks for distribution.
“So, all the jobs are super repetitive and/or labor intensive,” Lurie wrote. “I’ve been volunteering for three days and it’s endless. Hundreds of these sacks are loaded up and hauled away to other places in the Philippines…I always leave feeling good and accomplished. “
Fighting off a cold/flu on Nov. 12, Lurie returned to her hotel room to rest.
On Wednesday, November 13, Luries sent an update from Bongo.
“On the drive up we saw houses ripped apart, kids on the street begging with signs for food and water. Thirteen thousand houses gone, 639 families displaced in this district only,” Lurie said.
During her travels, Lurie saw make-shift huts of corrugated steel, wood, and furniture remnants going up to replace bamboo bungalows, the kind that didn’t stand a fighting chance “against the big-bag-wolf, let alone a typhoon.”
“It’s like when kids play fort with couch cushions, but this is with the remains of their once-house,” Lurie said. “Any kind of plastic they could muster up is also thrown on. No tarps here. No one can afford them.”
Water is the biggest concern.
“If I didn’t say it before, water is the biggest concern, getting fresh drinking water. The locals could drink the tap water and not get seriously ill, but not anymore as a lot of places have shut it off because lines are compromised or the tank is,” Lurie said. “That’s why all our care packages have liters of bottled water in them.”
On Sunday, Lurie was back in Cebu to do laundry, retrieve her passport and run other errands.
“Not sure where I’m headed off next, but I hope it involves rebuilding/repairing work,” she said.
And, for the first time since before the typhoon, Lurie got a telephone call through to her parents on Sunday.
“She was really tired, not feeling great,” said her mother, who was thankful just to hear her daughter’s voice. “She’s on the other side of the world and this horrible catastrophe hit, but she’s really okay. I know she’s frustrated that she can’t do more.”