Michael Maneja’s family is one of over 1,000 affected by Tropical Storm Urduja who received cash assistance from Tzu Chi Foundation. Michael used the money to buy kitchen equipment so that he can resume cooking and selling peanuts for a living.
Tropical Storm Urduja flooded many areas in Ormoc City, Leyte a few days before Christmas Day in 2017. It left thick mud inside houses and laid waste to some furniture and appliances. Victims were wrapped in gloom and helplessness as the holiday festivity approached.
To ease their worries, the affected families numbering to over 1,000 were given emergency cash assistance by Tzu Chi Foundation.
For his family of six members, Michael, 36, received Php5,000 cash aid from Tzu Chi. As soon as he got the money, he went to town to go shopping. Not for Noche Buena food but for equipment to resume his livelihood, which was put on hold because of the calamity.
On December 24, a few hours before Christmas Eve, Michael Maneja walked home, carrying a new gas stove on his shoulder and holding a gas tank in one hand.
“I had no idea how to pick up our lives and start over because the flooding was very sudden and we were taken by surprise,” recalls Michael. “Then Tzu Chi came and gave us cash assistance. I made sure to use it wisely.”
Michael began cooking and selling fried shelled peanuts 20 years ago. Today, it remains his steady source of income to support his wife and four children. Before Tropical Storm Urduja he cooked peanuts outdoors, using firewood and, sometimes, charcoal. However, on rainy days, his livelihood suffers.
“It was hard to cook especially when the wood or charcoal is wet. We have to dry it out under the sun first,” shares 32-year-old Mary Joy, Michael’s wife.
With the new cooking equipment, however, the family is able to cook inside their house even when it rains, thus producing more peanuts to sell.
However, life continued to throw challenges along the Maneja family’s way.
Late in 2017, Michael’s youngest, one-year-old Mark, was diagnosed with hernia. For his son’s consultations and laboratory needs, Michael pawned his motorcycle. Since then, he had been selling peanuts on foot.
He would wake up before dawn to cook, walk around the village to sell peanuts to his neighbors until he reached the tricycle terminal where he would get a ride to the town proper. There, he would offer the peanuts he made to passersby.
On February 24 and 25, Tzu Chi returned to Ormoc City to distribute another set of cash assistance for Urduja-affected families. Tzu Chi founder Master Cheng Yen acknowledged that in the face of such calamity, the initial aid Tzu Chi had extended was simply not enough to help the people get back on their feet.
Hence, Tzu Chi gave out additional Php3,000 for families with up to three members, Php4,000 for families with four to five members, and Php5,000 for families with more than five members. A total of 1,100 families benefitted from the distributions.
The cash gift came as a surprise to the victims, who thought Tzu Chi’s help has ended in December.
With the money, Michael is planning to pay his loan amounting to Php4,500 so he can get back the motorcycle that he pawned. Once he does, he will be able to reach more customers. This means additional income for Michael, and a better chance to save up for his son’s needed surgery, which costs around Php10,000.
“Tzu Chi had given us aid that is more than we could imagine receiving, that’s why I promise to use this assistance wisely so that they won’t have to worry about us anymore,” Michael ends.
You can extend help and bring hope to disaster-affected families! Help Tzu Chi help others. Visit http://tzuchi.org.ph/how-to-help/donation/ for details.