Normally, Salvador Cariaga spends his time working with poor Filipinos to improve their lot in life.
But after Typhoon Haiyan devastated large swathes of the Philippines, Cariga's organization is struggling to find its footing while it tries to help those who were affected by the storm.
Cariaga, an Oklahoma Christian University graduate, is the director of Shepherd's Hill International, an organization that works with impoverished Filipinos. Cariaga will be in Oklahoma City today to raise money for disaster relief efforts in the Philippines.
Cariaga's group operates Arapal Christian Camp, which offers seminars and other training on raising livestock and organic gardening. The camp includes plantations that teach people to grow coconuts, lemongrass, papayas and other crops.
Shepherd's Hill has close ties to the university. Former OC President Mike O'Neal is the chairman of the organization's board of trustees.
The camp is on the island of Cebu, in the central Philippines. The eye of Typhoon Haiyan passed over the island earlier this month.
At the time, Cariaga was in the United States, monitoring the weather. When the situation began to look dire, he called staffers at the camp and told them to take shelter. More than 200 people took shelter in a basement of one of the buildings in the camp, Cariaga said. The roof of the building was torn off, but none of the people inside were hurt.
But the villages near the camp weren't so lucky, he said. Many of the buildings at the camp are made of concrete and steel, he said, but many of the homes nearby were made of bamboo or grass. Many people in those homes died, he said.
“When something like that hits, it just causes total collapse,” he said.
Typically, Shepherd's Hill doesn't offer many handouts, Cariaga said. The group prefers to teach people a trade, he said. That encourages self-sufficiency rather than providing short-term help.
But after a disaster of this scale, the group has had to begin helping people in any way it can, he said. In some cases, that means providing for short-term needs, like shelter and food, in a way the group doesn't typically do, he said.
“We have to shift gears,” he said.
• Salvador Cariaga will speak at 5 p.m. Sunday at North MacArthur Church of Christ, 9300 N MacArthur Blvd.
• For more information about the organization, go to www.