Lifting Up Oguis

The Village of Oguis

Written by Sam White on November 1, 2022

Research and story by Jiwon You.

The small village of Oguis, located in Catanduanes, Philippines, is home to about 500 people. However, the people of Oguis are extremely poor and do not have safe, sturdy homes to live in. To add to the challenges they face in creating safe shelters, the 2020 typhoons had a catastrophic impact on these families’ lives.

From powerful landslides to severe flooding, the typhoons devastated already dire living situations for the families of Oguis. While the concrete buildings were able to resist the power of the typhoons, 55 shanties made of thatch and metal roofs did not survive.

Note: We acknowledge the poor quality of some of the photos included in this story. Due to limited resources and camera quality that is accessible on the grounds, it is not always possible to capture high-quality photos.

The resilient people of Oguis have since worked hard to rebuild their village infrastructure. However, with scarce resources, the homes that they managed to build were fragile and vulnerable, giving the families very little protection.

The average income of a Filipino family is about $5,000 a year and these families spend a little over $4,000 on needed expenses. The bottom 10% of the population barely survives on just over $1500 annually. The dream of a safe home is not a reality for these families.

World Housing learned of the devastated community and began working with a group of caring friends who wanted to help the families of another friend who grew up in Oguis. This group of 7 philanthropists had rallied together to help repair the Oguis village in 2021 but did not have the resources to raise all the necessary funds needed for the project.

‘Super 7’ Group who started Lifting Up Oguis

This group of dedicated individuals is referred to as the ‘Super 7’ and they do essential work for the community through a greater charity called Lifting Up Oguis. The founder of the organization, Hermie Jamer, grew up in the destitute village of Oguis and plays a fundamental role in organizing the logistical aspect of the on-the-ground projects in the Philippines.

Another key player in the Super 7 is Joan Karsten, the designated Canadian liaison. When Joan heard of the typhoons that struck Oguis, she was especially affected because of her connection to Hermie, who is a dear friend. Devastated by the news, Joan immediately raised funds to support the impacted community. Joan is responsible for bringing together the Super 7 as well as coordinating and developing the group’s projects.

The Super 7 would not be able to accomplish nearly as much as they have without joining forces with a group of five key professionals who all grew up in Oguis. Together they make up the ‘Magnificent 12’. After the initial typhoon, the Magnificent 12 worked together to help restore the community after significant loss and destruction of their homes and livelihoods.

Lifting Up Oguis had attained a considerable amount of progress within a short period, but they were committed to supporting the community through aspects such as housing, education, access to clean water, as well as food and clothing. The aim was to bring about long-term impact for these families, but they were limited in their resources and decided to reach out to World Housing for help.

To help contribute to the goal of rebuilding Oguis, World Housing partnered with the Lifting Up Oguis group in their mission to restore the wreckage, rebuilding the very framework of homes and community spaces in the village.

World Housing immediately provided funds to start rebuilding the community. They hired a local Filipino engineer who designed sturdy concrete homes and supervised construction. Each home is a 12’ x 15’ concrete building with a kitchen and living area, washroom and toilet on a septic system, and a beach home will be connected to the local electrical systems and to water.

By the end of this year, we anticipate completing the construction of 18 homes plus two duplexes as well as the installation of 37 solar street lights. These streetlights will provide an improved sense of safety in the village.

With the help of our generous donors, World Housing has contributed over $100,000 in order to see the successful completion of these homes and help transform the lives of the families who have been living without the security of a safe home.

But our work with the Oguis community doesn’t stop there. Looking forward, World Housing’s plan for 2023 in our partnership with Lifting Up Oguis is to fund more homes as well as restoring the Sport Court, an important community gathering space that was destroyed by the typhoons.

World Housing was able to support several families in the community –– one in particular is the Tapar family. One of the family members, Mente Tapar, had a partially built house when our team met them. Mente would build it a little at a time, whenever he could afford a few cement blocks. His brother Rey and his family lived in a frail shanty next door. World Housing made the most out of the space and built a sturdy duplex home for the Tapar family.

The Tapar Family duplex was funded by Sidra Subzwari, who generously dedicated her birthday to raising funds for a home. With the $10,000 that she raised with the help of her family and friends, World Housing was able to provide homes to multiple families who could join together in a duplex. Sidra joined World Housing as an Ambassador in early 2022 and continues to support our mission through her successful real estate business. Thank you Sidra!

We would like to thank all the World Housing donors who have funded homes to date. As part of World Housing’s mission statement, our emphasis is not only on providing homes for families in need, but also on community development. In setting up and restoring social spaces and infrastructure, we help families in the community come together.

Our monetary goal to fund these future projects is to raise an additional $150,000. With help from our donor community, World Housing will continue our pursuit of equipping the families of Oguis with much needed resources that will bring them a newfound sense of safety, security, and stability in their lives.

If you’d like to make a Donation to Lifting Up Oguis, please click the link here.