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.