A typhoon hit the Philippines, but few have told the story of the aftermath — until now.

Do you remember the typhoon that hit the Philippines in November 2013? It struck the island, killing more than 6,000 people and leaving more than 4 million homeless. But the country has been left largely off the radar in global news since then. Why? Because the country isn't America?

This photo series shows what one aid worker has seen since the typhoon hit and how children are struggling to survive in a country heavily affected by the natural disaster.


Meet Michelle Wang, shown above. Wang is a psychologist specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who recently returned from a two-week trip to the Philippines to train psychology students and conduct fieldwork in communities that are still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan.

Below are her own words in which she explains what the photos mean.

"This is not an unusual or uncommon sight. During my trip, I would often find former residents squatting in piles of debris, trying to sift through and find items that might still be useful or valuable. Everyone on the streets seemed focused on the practical situation at hand, which was to re-build their lives. At least in public, no one seemed to be shedding tears.

"The absolute destruction is shocking. There's just no other way to say it. Even when I was still on the plane, especially from the plane, it was insane. Just stretches of land with no structure but one single boat. Such desolation.

"Because there were so many bodies to bury so quickly, the graves are very shallow. So dogs have dug up some of the bodies and children have reported seeing dogs with body parts in their mouths. The smell of death still lingers in the breeze. It will catch you in your tracks, you don't even want to wonder what it is or where it's coming from."

"These two children ran out to greet me when they saw I had a camera. They were eating breakfast and the boy was showing me that what he was eating was tasty. From what I saw, this type of housing — with actual doors and even a lock — indicates relatively good conditions compared to the rest of the coastal villages. Most of the temporary living quarters are not tall enough to fit a stool or hang clothes.

"Many of the survivors were all talking about relief and the humiliation of standing in line every morning waiting for food. They'd rather have nets to fish.

"They were all telling me that the cameras are now gone, and they're not getting the coverage they used to be.In terms of the psychological phase, many of the typhoon's survivors are in the disillusionment phase: 'Where is the help we were promised? We're hearing about all of these money coming in, but it's not trickling down to us.'

"When PTSD develops, this disillusionment phase is very vulnerable. You could see it in the survivors' posture and the way they walk. Heartbreaking, how the body betrays the mind.

"The antidote to disillusionment is empowerment."

"This is the school in Candahug. It is one of the few buildings still standing and the village seems grateful for this. When I asked the children if they enjoy being back in school, they yelled emphatically without any hesitation that they loved it because they got to play and be around their friends.

"I spoke to some parents in Tacloban city who actually discouraged their children from returning to school, saying they felt anxious and scared about sending them back after only two months post-typhoon. Many relatives are still very scared and protective. There's a desire to shelter their children from the outside world, which is itself a symptom of trauma. So every day these children are home, absorbing their parent's fear and anxiety."

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

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Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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