Craig Loverin is greeted by wife Katelyn upon his return from the Philippines where he was serving as a member of the military's Disaster Assistance Relief Team.
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During the past month Craig Loverin has witnessed the devastating power of nature.
He has also experienced the endurance of the human spirit.
Loverin, a Warrant Officer with the Canadian Armed Forces and the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, spent 34 days working as a liaison officer between the Canadian military’s Disaster Assistance Relief Team and the local governments as part of rebuilding efforts following the tragic landfall of Typhoon Haiyan in November.
“It was devastating. It was literally like someone stepping on your house and crushing it to the ground” Loverin said upon his return home at the Thunder Bay International Airport on Friday.
“But the people there, even though they were slapped by the worst typhoon in the world, were still smiling. It was probably the worst conditions they could have possibly been in but they’d smile at you and continue building their house and it was really heartwarming to see.”
Loverin was stationed on the island of Panay, which became the focal point of the Canadian DART’s relief efforts.
The devastation from the typhoon, which was the deadliest in the nation’s history and one of the most powerful ever, has been seen throughout the world.
More than 6,000 people were killed in the Philippines alone with exponentially more left homeless.
Loverin, who has also served terms in Afghanistan, said watching the response of the country’s children provides a sense of hope.
“I think a lot of people see the devastation and how people are struggling but you look at the kids and the situation they’re in,” Loverin said.
“I went to a couple of schools and it was at the point where we were in reconstruction and they were still going to class every single day, but their school happened to be crushed or the roof was gone and they were carrying on with life.”
He said the reconstruction was centred around rebuilding the schools to keep the children busy to give parents some extra time to rebuild the homes and get on track to restoring normalcy and creating routine. He added progress is being made, and that the locals are at the point where they are able to “stand on their own two feet.”
The effort marked the first time liaison officers were used by Canadian forces in a disaster relief situation. Loverin, who describes himself as half-Filipino, was one of 15 selected for the task.
He was responsible for acting as a go-between for the international response and the municipal governments to help ensure smooth lines of communication.
He thinks the initiative was extremely successful.
“A lot of the time we were the first people on the scene and the first exposure they had to a foreign government helping them,” he said.
“Just being half-Filipino to them was enough. It meant a lot to them, especially because they didn’t realize there were Filipinos in the Canadian army.”
While he was there primarily in a relief capacity, the experience provided him with a valuable opportunity to discover some of his roots.
“It was an eye-opener for me. I learned a lot about the culture itself, more than what I had been taught when I was a kid,” Loverin said. “It was definitely a learning experience.”
Loverin will be immediately travelling again, as he is being whisked away to Minneapolis by wife Katelyn, who was warmly awaiting his arrival, for the final Minnesota Vikings game of the National Football League season.
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