Jane Huber is creative director at Oxfam America.
Most people who lived in my father’s hometown in the 1930s wouldn’t eat squirrel; it was unfamiliar to them as food. But poor folks who had migrated up from “down South” were happy to make a meal of it. So, as a boy, he traipsed door-to-door where transplanted southerners lived to sell off the squirrels he had trapped. My dad, his sister, and my grandparents lived in the back of his father’s shop in a mid-Atlantic coastal town during the Depression. Most of what they ate was food they picked, bartered, caught, shot, or trapped.
It is little surprise that all my childhood—well into my adult years—I trusted in my father’s abilities to provide. I believed in the transformative power of hard work and resourcefulness. And it’s true that my dad rarely met an obstacle that he could not overcome.
To this day, I resist the idea that there is anything that cannot be remedied by hard work. In this—though my childhood was far easier than my dad’s—I am his daughter. So, as the first-person accounts of Typhoon Haiyan’s destruction have come in over the past month, I’ve read them with a practiced eye. I know to look beneath the images of devastation for the strong women and men who can and will recover.
This afternoon, I read a transcript from a colleague who has been collecting first-person accounts on the island of Leyte. Before Haiyan, Leyte was home to a thriving fishing community—not so dissimilar from the small coastal town where my dad grew up. Now, there are no boats visible along the coastline of Leyte; Haiyan destroyed every wooden fishing boat. Many local families are now homeless, but it was the loss of those boats that took my breath away. Narciso Pahayahay, 38, is a fisherman who has already rebuilt a shack for his family, but he can’t start earning money again. Read the rest of this entry »