FEMA official lauds local community spirit


The spirit showed by those involved in the recovery efforts in the community following Typhoon Soudelor has evoked the admiration of one Federal Emergency Management Agency official.

Communities in the U.S. mainland rocked by calamities could learn a thing or two from the recovery efforts on Saipan, said FEMA emergency management specialist Zina Manalo, who is originally from Guam.

“If anybody from the mainland wants to see how it works come here because this is what we call a community pulling each other together,” she recounted telling FEMA management when asked how the Soudelor recovery effort was going after returning home to Washington, D.C. for the Christmas holidays.

Manalo, who was also involved in recovery efforts after Katrina and Sandy in the mainland, said that bouncing back from a disaster like Soudelor is a long and arduous process and she’s glad that the challenges the typhoon brought only made the island community stronger.

“It’s going to be a bumpy road, but with everything that I’ve seen since I came to this island six months ago, you guys have really come a long way. With strong leaders and strong government to support our CNMI citizens and those who are living here, it takes a lot for us to all come together and work as one and just putting everything aside to help each other,” she said.

Manalo also lauded the efforts of Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts and its director, Jenny Hegland, and encouraged them to continue all their hard work in helping the community get back on its feet.

“Sometimes we also think we’re not making progress but it takes little steps to getting to that goal that Jenny and CARE has to make everything happen,” she said.

Acting governor Arnold I. Palacios, who like Manalo spoke during Tuesday’s CARE annual meeting at the Governor’s Office conference room, said that Saipan being a small and close-knit community made it easier for its residents to coalesce and be there for each other after Soudelor struck in August 2015.

“The value of being in a small community is having a sense of caring for each other. We hope to continue that work,” he said.

Hegland said the organization’s success is a testament to the cooperation and help they’ve received from everyone.

“Our success is in the strength of our network. Businesses that give and volunteers have done that. Please keep caring and keep paying attention as the further we get away from the typhoon, the sooner we forget about the disaster,” she said.

CARE’s 2016 Impact Report listed the following partners: American Red Cross, FEMA, TSL Foundation, Imperial Pacific International, Ltd., Tournament of Champions, World Renew, Lady Diann Torres Foundation, Joeten Daidai Foundation, Bridge Capital, LLC, World Resort Saipan, and Mennonite Disaster Service. They donated more than $20,000 for long-term recovery in the wake of Soudelor.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com

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