The typhoon, which struck in early November, devastated many families and ravaged the country – and Karl gave up his usual holiday to Spain in order to lend a hand.
“I’ve just been on family holidays to Spain and Portugal, but I’ve never done anything like this. I just thought I had the time. You just can’t comprehend the things happening out there. I was helping with the harvest, ploughing with a Carabao buffalo and working on a house damaged in the rains.”
Having contacted Rotary, Karl was put in touch with club members in Midtown Butuan City, 90 minutes from the capital Manila. They paired him up with a family of farmers in the jungle. Without water or electricity – and struggling with the harvest – the family desperately needed help to plough their land and repair their home.
With the demand for rice at very high levels, Karl and the family used a carabao (water buffalo) in place of a mechanical plough and undertook some very labour-instensive manual farming work. Edwardo Buque and his son Edison, 11, also received help from Karl to rebuild their home, which had been severely damaged in the strong winds.
Karl said: “It was the best holiday I’ve had in my life. The people there were very humbling and it makes you realise how lucky we are in the UK.
“It’s a beautiful country but obviously notorious for its typhoons. I stayed in a mountainous area but the region still felt the full whack of the typhoon. The fields were sodden and houses wrecked in the wind.”
Butuan was not as badly affected by Typhoon Haiyan as some other areas, but high rainfall caused extreme flooding and damage to properties and land. As rice crops here have survived the storms, there is growing urgency to ensure the rice harvest is brought in to feed the rest of the country’s population. However, as Karl discovered, many families are struggling to keep up with demand due to damaged equipment.
Father-of-two Karl now aims to raise funds for Rotary to pay for food and supplies for people of Butuan. As well as his self-funded working holiday, he has raised $450 from a raffle in his local pub. Karl has also earned the honour of being asked to join the International Rotary Club thanks to his charitable efforts.