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What are the Strong and Eco Friendly Resettlement Homes Built by The Tzu Chi Foundation? Part 1

Updated on May 5, 2017
grand old lady profile image

Mona writes about home safety and construction. This time it's about the ground of one's house - which may become, over time, a sinkhole.

Factory in Taiwan Where Volunteers Build Homes for Tacloban

Tzu Chi volunteers building resettlement homes in Taiwan factory, to be shipped to Tacloban, Philippines.
Tzu Chi volunteers building resettlement homes in Taiwan factory, to be shipped to Tacloban, Philippines. | Source

We can’t ignore natural disasters anymore. Definitely this would be true if you were a member of the Tzu Chi Foundation, which specializes on providing homes and aid to disaster areas. So far, their work has reached 80 countries that experienced disasters, whether natural or man-made.

Cover of Enrich Magazine, where this column was featured

Cover of Enrich Magazine where this article was featured.
Cover of Enrich Magazine where this article was featured. | Source

Three successive disasters within two months

In the Philippines, we had three natural disasters successively in just 60 days. The first one was an armed conflict in Zamboanga (Sept. 2013) where 20,000 homes were burned. The second disaster was a 7.1 earthquake in Bohol Island (Oct. 2013) which destroyed homes, bridges and roads. Shortly after, we had typhoon Yolanda, the biggest natural calamity in the history of the Philippines.

How bad was Yolanda? It was categorized as an F5 typhoon by the USA Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center. If you saw the movie “Twister” you would know this is something that is extremely catastrophic and rare.

The winds covered over 500 km, traveling at a speed of 300 km per hour. The blowing of the wind extended to an area of over 1,000 km. Some 80 percent of structure was damaged, and 3.4 million families were affected.

I'm listed among columnists, right column bottom

Staff page of Enrich Magazine
Staff page of Enrich Magazine | Source

Tzu Chi volunteers survey disaster area

I learned all this from volunteers of the Tzu Chi Foundation, and through their publication, Yolanda in Focus. Tzu Chi volunteers were in Ormoc and Tacloban very early in the typhoon’s aftermath.

First, they had to reconnoiter the area. There was no water or electricity. The volunteers camped in a schoolhouse where mosquitoes were plentiful. When it rained it soaked through the roof and flooded the area where the volunteers slept. The smell of death was prevalent and survivors of the disaster were shocked and in a state of deep depression.

After assessing the area a plan was made. First, a clinic and food station were set up. They distributed food, supplies, water and money. Next, they cleared up the area to open the streets. The survivors themselves, after being fed and given new hope and strength, were enlisted to assist in the clearing. They were given P500/day, which they were told was not payment but a donation.

My column

My column, Home Safety First
My column, Home Safety First | Source

Dharma Cheng Yen: "Only build a house you are willing to live in"

After this, they had to build temporary homes. Tzu Chi’s Dharma Master Cheng Yen told her people, “Only build a house that you yourself are willing to live in.” The result was temporary housing that would last for five years (with the understanding that by then, the family’s permanent home would already be rebuilt). However, Tzu Chi has one house that has, in a previous disaster in another country, lasted for 10 years.

After the house is no longer needed, it is taken down to be used in another country that may also be experiencing its own natural or man-made disaster. In this way, the houses themselves are recycled.

The houses are safe and as per Tzu Chi’s requirements, eco friendly. We learned this when we visited their factory in Taichung, Taiwan, where the components of the houses are built.

Resettlement House good for five years (by then, it is expected their permanent home will be finished)

Some homes have 1 or 2 bedrooms. Kitchen has firewall. Special interlocking floors allow soil beneath to breathe. Tzu Chi also built schools.
Some homes have 1 or 2 bedrooms. Kitchen has firewall. Special interlocking floors allow soil beneath to breathe. Tzu Chi also built schools. | Source

Nothing is wasted

The houses are either 19.83 square meters, or 26.45 square meters in size. A larger family will have the larger house. There is a family area, kitchen, either two or three bedrooms (depending on the size), and a bathroom.

The houses are built with a steel frame and aluminum window frames (to prevent corrosion). The kitchen wall is fire-proof, and the rest of the walls are made of polypropylene boards that are imported from the US. These walls have good insulation and can absorb the sound of rain. About 1,000 screws are used.

The floor is made from tiles with a special shape so that they click into each other like pieces of a puzzle. Lisa Yu, a Tzu Chi volunteer, said that the material of the flooring is different from cement.

To explain, Lisa said that if you lay cement in your arm, your skin will be damaged. The same happens to the earth beneath cement. The tiles that Tzu Chi uses are made of material that allows the ground beneath it to breathe and to stay healthy. There is also a PVC pipe at the edge of the rooftop to catch rainwater so that it can be recycled. Nothing is wasted.

Media visitors

(L-R) Tzu Chi volunteer and celebrity Ju.D Lao, TV host and newscaster Mitzi Borromeo and People Managing Editor, Philippine STAR contributor Paolo dela Cruz
(L-R) Tzu Chi volunteer and celebrity Ju.D Lao, TV host and newscaster Mitzi Borromeo and People Managing Editor, Philippine STAR contributor Paolo dela Cruz | Source

Of course, disasters don’t just take out homes. Sometimes they also take out larger establishments. For part 2 of this article, go to to see how Tzu Chi helps equip those in disaster zones with the means to help ensure their future survival.

(Charity) Tzu Chi Help Haiyan Victims Rebuild Life

Comprehensive help

Above, you will see the comprehensive help that Tzu Chi gave to Tacloban storm victims. All volunteers paid for their own airfare, daily expenses and lodgings so that donated funds would go directly to the people of Tacloban.

Tzu Chi has worked in disaster help in 78 countries, including the USA where they worked in tandem with Red Cross. (Film below)

USTC360 No151 Disaster, in the Heart of America


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    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      2 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Vellur,

      Thank you for your kind feelings towards the people of Tacloban. The situation is better, but there is still much to do. Tzu Chi remains committed not just to the Philippines but to aid it extends to some 78 other countries, including the United States. I think that's pretty amazing. And they have rebuilt Catholic churches, mosques, and all types of religious buildings that were damaged by natural disasters. The are pretty amazing. Stay safe, and I look forward to reading more of your articles:)

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      2 years ago from Dubai

      Tzu Chi Foundation making houses that are eco-friendly to help people affected by natural disasters is great. Three natural disasters in succession must have been terrible for the people of Phillippines. I hope by now all of them have found permanent houses.

    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you for visiting Mel Carriere, and I'm glad yo enjoy reading about the resilience of our people. We owe so much to organizations like the Tzu Chi Foundation which has given us a hand up in getting lives back together again. Resilience and good people are an unbeatable team:)

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      3 years ago from San Diego California

      I like to read articles about your amazing and resilient people overcoming obstacles. Thanks for sharing this information with us. Great hub!

    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      3 years ago from Philippines

      Suzanne Day, what wonderful suggestions you have. Actually, aside from these temporary homes, Tzu Chi is donating funds per family to get started in building their permanent homes. These temporary homes can last a majority of 10 years, so they wouldn't do as a permanent home. But the financial donation per family is very large and they can buy materials and build their own permanent homes with these funds. I also love the breathable concrete very much:).

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 

      3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      OMG so much disaster, I hope your home becomes more peaceful after all this. I like the look of the resettlement homes, especially the breathable concrete and the rainwater guttering. When you have finished with them, maybe they could be donated to people who cannot afford to ever buy a real home? Voted useful and thank you for a most insightful hub.

    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      3 years ago from Philippines

      Hello csmiravite-blogs, thank you for visiting. It's true, Tzu Chi is so much more effective in its disaster response than our own local governments, and these houses look very good compared to the ones the government set up. Tzu Chi has done so much for Yolanda victims, they even rebuilt a Catholic church. I think a lot of it is because people who are volunteers, and the leadership of Tzu Chi are not corrupt. Even my trip to Taiwan was paid for by volunteers, so that the funds allotted for the Yolanda victims wouldn't be touched. It is an amazing organization.

    • csmiravite-blogs profile image

      Consolacion Miravite 

      3 years ago from Philippines

      This looks better that the ones I saw in the newspapers a few months ago. They were constructed by the LGU's and were made of coco lumber, sawali, and plywood. They were lambasted in the papers: and I did not hear about them anymore. I wonder why our local bright boys can't come up with a similar model like this one. We have Moldex houses from way back. Its construction could have been used for the Yolanda victims.

    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      3 years ago from Philippines

      TravMaj, yes, I feel exactly as you do:). There are so many good people in this world.

    • travmaj profile image


      3 years ago from australia

      This is so interesting and most informative, thank you for bringing it to our attention. I'm so impressed by the Tzu Chi Foundation. What amazing work the volunteers are doing. It really is a heart warming story and so good to know that help is available in many of these disasters. Food, water, houses - such a remarkable story and much needed help in these disaster areas. Thanks Mona.

    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      3 years ago from Philippines

      FlourishAnyway, you know, just spending three days with Tzu Chi, I realized the volunteers seem to have their mind set on one disaster after another. What impresses me is they don't get depressed by this mindset. While we were there, these gas pipes exploded from the ground in a city in Taiwan. So volunteers were going from house to house to distribute goods. Still, they had saved $20 million for Tacloban, one year after the devastation. And then one would look at her cell phone and talk of another disaster area. You really need even just a strong mind to volunteer for this type of work. I think it helps that they are Buddhist, and they believe that doing this type of work will help them in the afterlife.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      I'm glad to see people picking up and rebuilding their lives with this type of assistance. They have to be in such utter shock and facing devastating psychological effects after these tragedies but the human spirit is strong, especially when people pull together. It is good to see positive solutions like this.

    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      3 years ago from Philippines

      Ms. Dora, thank you for your kind words about my articles. It's really the publication, overall Enrich likes articles that make this a better world. Tzu Chi is an amazing Foundation, and they are not in any way corrupt, which is why I love them so much. Billybuc, thank you for your kind wishes for the people of Tacloban. A lot of good people brought attention to this crisis, especially my idol, Anderson Cooper. He stayed for one week, and slept on the ground of the airport every night that he was there because everything was destroyed at the time. To think that he's the son of Gloria Vanderbilt, yet he does this, is so impressive. Ericdierker, yes, it is an amazing example of human goodness. The volunteers of Tzu Chi are very wealthy and used to comfort, but on their first week in Tacloban they stayed in a school, full of mosquitoes and it rained at night flooding the school. Since they couldn't sleep, they just sat on their beds to avoid the flood on the ground. People are amazing:).

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Mona, this article gives good information about the resettlement homes and the Tzu Chi Foundation. What a great help to humanity, and what a great asset your magazine articles are! Keep up the good work.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very interesting and worthwhile project. Thank you for the information and best wishes to all there, that they may find some peace and stability in their lives.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I sure am glad you wrote this up as I would not have known of it otherwise. This is an amazing example of human goodness. Thank you.


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