CARE volunteers donate various tools to trade school

April 24, 2018

(Press Release) — The Northern Marianas Trades Institute’s Construction Trades Program recently received a sizeable donation of various tools. 

The large load of carpentry tools along with two used pickup trucks were donated by CARE CNMI and were received earlier this week.  The carpentry tools were used by Mennonite Disaster Service which comprised of volunteers from the U.S. mainland who came in as part of the post-Soudelor recovery efforts and are now transitioning back home.

CARE’s donation is welcome news to NMTI as it helps the Construction Trades Program in its effort at providing trainees with equipment students needed to succeed in their career endeavors.  As NMTI touts a “learning by doing” approach, running trades classes is somewhat different from a regular academic stand point in that it is a bit more expensive to conduct, according to trades chair Brian Torres.

Northern Marianas Trades Institute is grateful to CARE volunteers for donating carpentry and other tools. NMTI photo

When Agnes McPhetres, NMTI’s CEO heard about the arrival of the donation, she immediately said, “We are truly blessed to have groups that care about the well being of our community.  CARE’s contribution is testament that there are many of our people out there that truly believe that we are an institution worth investing in.  My colleagues cannot thank CARE enough as their donation helps alleviate some of the current need for tools.”

McPhetres wished the Mennonites farewell and thanked them for coming to the CNMI’s aid during a time of devastation. 

CARE director Maxine Laszlo is excited that the tools will ultimately help build a larger local workforce of construction laborers.

“The major challenge most families faced after Soudelor was finding an affordable, reliable contractor to do repairs on their homes. Even families who had funds and wanted to rebuild their homes did not have access to labor or often experienced contractor fraud. By continuing to invest in training our local workforce, we will be better prepared as a community to respond to our needs after disaster.”

CARE thanks volunteers and partners

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa | Posted on April 23, 2018

THE Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts or CARE hosted a thank-you party on Saturday to acknowledge individuals and organizations that helped restore the houses of over 200 families on Saipan affected by Typhoon Soudelor in Aug. 2015.

CARE president Alex Sablan and executive director Maxine Laszlo handed plaques of appreciation to the Mennonite Disaster Service and its 350 volunteers, Imperial Pacific International, the American Red Cross-NMI Chapter and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for their assistance “in making the recovery and rebuilding project a success.”

The Mennonite Disaster Service is a volunteer network of Anabaptist churches that “respond in Christian love to those affected by disasters” in Canada and the United States.

Mennonite regional director John Eshleman said it was bitter-sweet knowing their participation has ended. They will leave Saipan with a heavy heart because they have come to love the island and the people. They are also proud to be part of a very significant project.

One of the volunteers, Freeman Hershberer from Ohio, worked for three weeks to rebuild 56 homes for 56 families.

He has been a volunteer for 20 years, but it’s his first time to do  volunteer work on Saipan.

 “I didn’t know much of Saipan until I came here. This island is very lovely and I like it here and the people,” Hershberer said.

Larry Rempel and his wife Victoria from southern California worked on four houses, repaired three and rebuilt a brand new one.

The volunteers said they are sad to leave their “family” and their fellow volunteers.

“We’ve grown attached to each other as we’ve  worked every day and we’ve become a family. It was three weeks well spent. I feel humbled by this experience and we are happy to be able to help a lot of families,” Larry Rempel said.

Victoria Rempel said she was pleased to experience a different culture. “We are happy that we took this challenge and decided to come to Saipan. The houses we helped build are solid ones and can sustain another typhoon,” she added.

Alex Sablan said CARE is also grateful to the governor’s office, the Legislature, former CARE executive director Jenny Hegland, local volunteers Glen Hunter, Laurie Ogumoro, Nola Hix and other individuals who helped one way or another.

Sablan said they are on their last phase of rebuilding homes that are expected to be completed by the end of May.

There are currently less than 10 families waiting for the completion of their houses.

Maxine Laszlo said she has learned is that no one can do it alone —  team-work and help from others are needed so that “things will work out the way they should.”

The other CARE board members are Steve Jang, Rip Stephanson and Ty Pauling.

CARE gets $425K from Imperial Pacific

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa | 16 Feb 2018

IMPERIAL Pacific International has chosen the Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts or CARE to be a recipient of the casino investor’s community benefit funds.

IPI on Thursday presented a check for $425,000 to CARE executive director Maxine Lazlo and board chairman Alex Sablan.

The $425,000 is a portion of the $20 million committed by the company to fund several community programs to include but not be limited to education, scholarship, infrastructure, healthcare and employee retirement benefits.

This commitment is mandated in IPI’s amended casino license agreement with the CNMI government.

The first $10 million was paid by IPI in January and the remaining $10 million will be paid in June.

CARE earlier reported that it still needs over $400,000 to complete the rebuilding and repair of the homes of 46 families whose houses were destroyed or damaged by Typhoon Soudelor in Aug. 2015.

Gov. Ralph Torres, in a statement, commended CARE and IPI for their hard work in ensuring that people’s lives will be better and back to normal.

“The work that CARE has done to bring many of our community members back to normalcy has not gone unnoticed. When folks in our community were hurting, CARE’s initiative to do what needed to be done bridged gaps between government, the private sector, and nonprofits. It is only fitting that we do our part to ensure that we help CARE find the funding to rebuild homes and create resiliency within our community. And with the additional funding provided by the IPI community-benefit fund, CARE will be able to close the portfolio and fulfill their mission of long-term recovery.”

The governor added, “I want to thank and commend past CARE executive director Jenny Hegland, CARE executive director Maxine Laszlo, CARE chairman Alex Sablan, the board and their team for the work they have done and the work ahead to assist the 46 families in their rebuilding process. I also want to thank [IPI executive] Mr. Ed Chen and IPI for their commitment to funding essential programs that directly benefit our community.”

In a separate statement, CARE executive director Maxine Laszlo said:

“We’re excited about being able to use these funds in the way they’ve always been intended — to help us with all aspects needed to complete our repair and rebuild program from Typhoon Soudelor. These funds were the final piece needed to ensure we can help the remaining families who have open cases with the American Red Cross disaster case management program (after these families are vetted through a process that takes a holistic approach to understanding families needs and why they have unmet needs from Soudelor). Without these funds, our program would have had to close its doors without helping the remaining families. Because of this support from IPI’s community-benefit fund as well as the continued dedication of the CNMI government to seeing that all families recover, especially from the honorable Gov. Ralph Torres, we will now be able to use all our leveraged resources from other partner agencies to help our remaining families get into stronger homes that will protect them in future disasters.”

CARE: Still 46 families in its care

By Kimberly Bautista | Posted on Jan 25 2018

The non-profit organization that took up recovery efforts in the CNMI in the aftermath of Typhoon Soudelor in 2015 still has 46 families under its care that require assistance.

If funding is not secured by early February, it is highly possible that assistance to these families would run out, according to the group, the Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts, during its third annual impact meeting yesterday at the Office of the Governor.

As of January 2018, there are currently 46 families still awaiting assistance from CARE and it would take over $400,000 to serve them all, according to CARE board of directors chair Alex Sablan.

“There are still 46 families who need their homes either repaired or rebuilt and we’re about $480,000 away from that completion,” he said.

The funding has to be secured by Jan. 30 to keep the CARE volunteers working and to keep resources flowing in. If a source of funding is not secured, CARE volunteers would have to cease with the recovery efforts and possibly turn down requests by families.

“We need the money by the end of January in order to justify [helping these 46 families]. …When we try to leverage resources from [the Federal Emergency Management Agency], through the Mennonites Disaster Services, we have to have a plan in place. That plan requires there to have resources on the ground to actually keep them working. We will not have the resources after Jan. 30 so we need to have that money in before then,” said Sablan.

In talking about the progress that CARE has made in getting the island back to full recovery since Typhoon Soudelor, Sablan said the local government is currently working to provide CARE with the resources it needs as early as February so that recovery efforts would not be put on hold.

“We’ve been working with the governor and the Legislature. It looks like in the next few weeks…in early February… we should be able to get the complete dollars,” he said.

According to Sablan, once the group receives the $480,000 they need, CARE would be able to complete recovery efforts.

CARE executive director Maxine Laszlo said that they, along with their partners, are finding ways to get the resources they need in order to complete CARE’s mission.

“Right now, we are really well-positioned. Many of our representatives, our local government supporters, the Governor’s Office, everyone still truly cares about these families. It’s just a matter of when we will be able to find the resources,” she said.

Laszlo is new CARE director

By Kimberly Bautista | Posted on Jan 11 2018

The Commonwealth Advocates of Recovery Efforts group welcomes their new director after the departure of former director Jenny Hegland.

Hegland was CARE CNMI’s former director and helped kick start the recovery efforts on the island after the devastation of Typhoon Soudelor.

Hegland left her position as director to pursue other opportunities in the mainland in late December 2017 and she will be greatly missed by the many individuals she assisted during their time of need, and especially by the CARE family.

On Jan. 2, 2018, former Americorps Vista resource development coordinator for CARE, Maxine Laszlo, assumed Hegland’s position.

From the very beginning of the establishment of CARE, Laszlo stood by Hegland’s side and their efforts together, along with many others, aided in the restoration of the Commonwealth after Soudelor.

After Hegland gave up her position, the CARE board of directors allowed for an open application and Laszlo was selected as the new director.

According to CARE board president Alex Sablan, the board of directors have full confidence in Laszlo’s leadership to carry out the mission of CARE and complete the remaining homes of the remaining CARE families.

As of right now, Laszlo is holding off on public comments until the CARE annual meeting on Jan. 24.

CNMI marks second anniversary of Soudelor

By Kimberly A. Bautista | Posted on Aug 02 2017

Two years since the devastation of Typhoon Soudelor, parts of Saipan is still working on getting back to its feet, with some still waiting for repairs to their homes.

However, much has been done to restore the island. In remembrance of the damage brought by the typhoon, a proclamation was signed yesterday by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to commemorate how resilient the island is, how far it has come, and how the community came together during the recovery process.

Typhoon Soudelor left over 700 individuals homeless, many individuals lost their belongings, and many homes were left damaged and unfit for human inhabitation. Fortunately, no lives were lost.

To aid Saipan’s recovery, the Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Effort was established solely to aid in the rebuilding and renovating of the many homes damaged by Soudelor. CARE was determined to not only rebuild homes, but to ensure that the homes are resilient to other possible threats.

Yesterday’s proclamation signing also honored the recovery efforts led by CARE and its many volunteers. The signing was held at a house in Koblerville that the group recently rebuilt from the ground up.

Although there are still 177 individuals that are awaiting assistance in rebuilding their homes, the community should take a step back and reap the fruits of two years of labor, the proclamation stated.

Torres thanked the many individuals and agencies who sprung into action after Soudelor devastated the island.

According to Federal Emergency Management Agency emergency management specialist Nahru Harper, she first witnessed the disaster in slideshows and videos. However, upon coming to the island, Harper realized that there was more to the slides and the videos.

According to Harper, it was a blessing to be given the opportunity to come to the island and personally meet people who were devastated by the typhoon. Harper also mentioned how great it was to see how much FEMA had been a part of such a huge recovery.

“Even to be able to come later and see the work that has been done two years ago is very much a blessing…we watched the films, now we know we’re doing good works out here…” said Harper. “It isn’t about the money, it’s about the people.”

A memory that stood out for CARE director Jenny Hegland was how devastated and shocked she felt to see the damage done to the island after the typhoon.

Hegland feels she owes a lot to social media, which she credits with playing a big role in getting individuals and agencies involved in the recovery phase of the island and it also got her to be a part of the mission.

According to Hegland, despite being a part of many different projects, she is proudest with her involvement in the long-term recovery of Saipan.

“I have been involved in a lot of things in my life that I am proud of, but I have never been as proud of anything as I am the work that we have done here to help families…,” she said.

Many other individuals shared that Soudelor brought the entire community together to help one another and that is the most important take away from the disaster.

More assistance needed for Soudelor victims in CNMI

More assistance needed for Soudelor victims in CNMI

From Dateline Pacific, 5:03 am on 18 July 2017

Nearly 50 families are still in desperate need of assistance nearly two years after Typhoon Soudelor ravaged the Northern Marianas island of Saipan.

The NGO Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts, or CARE, has already raised $US2.4 million to assist 745 residents all over Saipan.

But CARE Executive Director Jenny Hegland says more is needed.

TRANSCRIPT

JENNY HEGLAND:  We still need to raise $650,000 to be able to repair those homes and the scope of work is varied. Some of those homes are a major repair where we need six to eight thousand dollars, some of those are total rebuilds in which we need about $25,000 for the building material and then the labour is donated and that is how we are able to build the house for that budget. The total rebuilds we are doing, they are modest homes, they are about 600 square feet. We are trying to build semi-concrete as much as we can but those homes take a lot longer because we have to rely on the only one contractor on island who is willing and able to work with us right now because the volunteers don't have heavy equipment and able to do foundations and excavations and things like that. A lot of these homes, they went down to the slab or every single thing was gone. We are really rebuilding from the ground up. The families will contribute what they receive from FEMA, [Federal Emergency Management Agency], but FEMA funding is nowhere near enough to make families whole and to actually rebuild a house and that is where our role comes in is we are filling in that gap.  

KORO VAKA'UTA:  What kind of situation are these families living in in the meantime? It's been nearly a couple of years since Soudelor so how are they living at the moment?

JH:  It really varies. Some families are still living in tents on their own properties or in makeshift shacks. Some are living with other family members in overcrowded conditions. Some are living in portions of their homes. Of course some are staying with friends. It really does vary. That comes down to individual choice. We have unfortunately had several circumstances where the family leaves their property things get stolen or vandalises. Here on island people are very connected to their land and not often do they want to leave their land if there is any way they can stay there.

KV:  There must be health issues around that as well if they are in that kind of makeshift situation?

JH:  We know that social determinants of health like the environment in which individuals live has the greatest impact on their overall health. Certainly when we see individuals with chronic medical conditions for example, being without walls and a roof around them, that is not ideal. However the island community is very resilient. People are used to outdoor living spaces and different kinds of standards than might be the norm than on the US mainland or other more developed places. I would say that yes it is not ideal and certainly especially if people have pre-existing health conditions it is not helping especially in terms of comfort and things. Actually I don't have any data on that but anecdotally one thing I can say too is that something that impacts people's general well-being is having hope that their life is going to be able to be restored after a devastating disaster like this. 

CARE asks for $650K

CARE asks for $650K

By Erwin Encinares | Posted on Jul 13 2017 

Nearly two years after Typhoon Soudelor hit the CNMI in August 2015, a total of 48 families comprising 177 individuals are still waiting for help to rebuild their homes.

In order to do that, the group that has taken the lead in the rebuilding efforts, the Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts, would need $650,000.

CARE executive director Jenny Hegland told the House of Representatives last Tuesday that the group has already assisted 745 residents all over Saipan that needed either building materials or labor but the group still needs $650,000 for the rest.

Since its creation back in 2015, CARE has raised $2.4 million to help families rebuild their homes.

Partnering with the American Red Cross, CARE has identified 48 families that are deemed to have “major needs of repair.”

“Without funding from the [Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation], we have nowhere else because we have done our search of resources already,” said Janet Santos, American Red Cross-NMI Chapter supervisor for disaster case management.

According to Hegland, if CARE is able to raise the $650,000, it could leverage the funding to secure $2.1 million in additional funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The $2.1 million would be used to finance the airfare of the Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers, among others, who have been helping with the rebuilding efforts.

“[The lawmakers] responded extremely positively because their comments indicated that they really saw the value in their constituents,” said Hegland. “They really understand the importance of resilient housing in our community.”

Rep. Ed Propst (Ind-Saipan) was thankful to the organization for assisting.

“The $650,000 [CARE] is asking for is a small price to pay, especially if you look at it percentage-wise,” he said, adding that the body would find the means to “find the funding for it.”

“We have the Mennonites out here, federal government support, and different private organizations that have contributed. We have to do our share,” said Propst, adding that it was merely a matter of finding the funding to support the group.

162 families still awaiting Soudelor assistance

162 families still awaiting Soudelor assistance

By KIMBERLY A. BAUTISTA | Posted on Apr 07 2017

More than two years after Typhoon Soudelor devastated Saipan, 162 families are still waiting for assistance, according to the Commonwealth Advocates of Recovery, or CARE, the agency spearheading the CNMI’s recovery efforts.

CARE director Jenny Hegland reported on the organization’s progress at the Saipan Chamber of Commerce meeting on Wednesday at the Kanoa Resort.

According to Hegland, 381 families have received assistance since Typhoon Soudelor hit the CNMI in August 2015.

Of that number, 155 families got help in repairing and rebuilding their homes, but there are still 162 families who are still waiting for aid rebuild their houses.

“It may look like we’re pretty much recovered, but that is not true for all families,” said Hegland.

According to Hegland, CARE estimates that it will need $1.5 million to assist the remaining 162 families. Some $500,000 can be leveraged in labor costs through the agencies that provide CARE with skilled volunteer workers, she said.

CARE works with different agencies such as Mennonite Disaster Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get the volunteers needed to get the job done. It plans to pursue different strategies to acquire the remaining resources they would need, including asking the CNMI government for a second appropriation.

The organization also plans to pursue other federal grants and continues to seek financial support from local and international businesses as well as foundations.

CARE also welcomes partnerships with contractors and businesses on Saipan. According to Hegland, these businesses usually get their building materials in bulk. If the extra material is donated to CARE, this would definitely lower project costs for the organization.

According to Hegland, the organization will be using the same strategy to attain their funds as they did in the past. “Our strategy for acquiring the resources needed to help all the remaining families recover from Soudelor is a continuation of what has worked thus far, bringing more than $1.7 million in financial and in-kind support.”

Hegland said that the long-term recovery of the island depends on all partnerships that have been established, not just locally but internationally.

“It is public and private, local and federal, regional, national, and international. It relies on the capacity of each stakeholder while not overburdening any one sector disproportionally. Our community’s recovery models true partnership and demonstrates the power of local investment to leverage and multiply resources from the national and international community,” Hegland told Saipan Tribune.

NMI government appropriates $303K to help with Typhoon Soudelor long-term recovery efforts

NMI government appropriates $303K to help with Typhoon Soudelor long-term recovery efforts

(Press Release) — CARE CNMI would like to recognize the support of the CNMI Government in our island’s long-term recovery from Typhoon Soudelor.

Since Sept. 2015, CARE CNMI has worked to build a resilient community and to identify, facilitate, and deliver resources and long-term support to address the unmet needs of individuals and families impacted by disaster. After spending months clearing debris from homes, the organization shifted its focus in March 2015 to helping families repair their homes and rebuild safe and secure structures.

In August 2016, Gov. Ralph Torres pledged at Sou’ Fest that the CNMI government would support Typhoon Soudelor long-term recovery. The government’s way of supporting long-term recovery is to fund the CARE program which serves the general public interest.

To fulfill that promise, Governor Torres included $303,000 to CARE CNMI in the 2016 CNMI government budget. These funds were then approved by the CNMI Legislature to help families recover from Soudelor. The organization has now received this appropriation in addition to $95,000 from the governor and lieutenant governor’s offices in 2016 as well as housing provided by the government for our volunteer construction laborers from September to December 2016.

Over the next year, CARE will use these funds to continue to allocate resources to families in need of repair and rebuilding assistance, with priority going to those with individuals age 65+ or under 3, individuals with disabilities, and families below the poverty level. For more information on how CARE prioritizes families in need of assistance, please visit http://carecnmi.org/about/faq/.

Since after the typhoon, 365 families have received some form of assistance for their recovery from CARE. Within that population, 140 families have received building materials, labor, or a combination of these resources through the CARE Repair and Rebuild program to build stronger and safer homes. While there are 140 families who have benefited from our Repair and Rebuild Program, there are still 200 who have an immediate need for repair and rebuild work today.

To learn more about CARE’s operations and what the CARE network has done to help the community, view the 2016 CARE Impact Report at tinyurl.com/2016careimpactreport or visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/carecnmi/.