Gemmer and Analyn Esperas lost their only child, 6-year-old Annammer, when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013.
The deadliest typhoon on record in the country, Typhoon Haiyan destroyed more than 1.1 million homes and left more than 10,000 dead, injured 28,000 and displaced 4.1 million.
Tony San Gabriel, area manager for self reliance in the Philippines, said after Typhoon Haiyan — in which 42 Latter-day Saints died — the Church immediately set programs in place to provide relief and to help members rebuild, restore and retool.
“We thought, ‘How do you teach self-reliance to a people who were ravaged by a perfect storm?’”
They began by helping the more than 3,000 members who lost homes in the disaster rebuild.
Working with the local Self Reliance Center and with the Perpetual Education Fund, local members entered a Church-sponsored vocational program training them as carpenters. The Church also helped them obtain basic tools. Each trainee built his or her own house — about 12 feet by 12 feet in dimension — and nine more homes. Then they received a trade certificate that helped them qualify for the some of the 250,000 construction jobs available in the area.
“We married the opportunity for livelihood and the need for shelter,” said Brother San Gabriel.
Gemmer Esperas is one who benefited from the program.
In the days after his daughter’s death, Brother Esperas gathered scraps of corrugated sheet metal and constructed a shelter. But the gaps in the metal did not protect the couple from the wind or the rain. They could not sleep.
Then Joy Operio, a counselor in the bishopric of their ward, found them. “Go to the Church for shelter,” he told them. That night they slept for the first time since losing their daughter.
In the safety of the Church building, Brother Esperas learned of the Church construction program. He built his own home, other homes and received a construction certificate.
“Because of the gospel I learn at Church, I have the courage that someday my daughter and my wife and I will be together,” he said. “That is the reason we continue.”
— Sarah Jane Weaver