KANANGA, LEYTE — The house is made of plywood; its walls made of woven bamboo, with metal sheets for a roof. The house is on stilts, fastened to a concrete base. There are flowers and plants ringing the outer walls; a large vegetable garden is only a few steps away.

Inside the house, there is a small living space. A television set is placed on a shelf along with other knick-knacks and children’s school medals. There are two rooms: one for the husband and wife, another for their five children.

This is where Mary Jane Suco and her family are living now, nearly a year after super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) destroyed their old home, just next door. “The wind was like a tornado, buffering the house from all sides,” Mary Jane recounts. “We escaped to our neighbor’s house. We were huddled there with seven other families overnight.”

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“I am willing to do whatever it takes.”

Shirley Elladora and Felisa Amistoso are both friends and neighbors. They live in Sitio Samar in the village of Agujo, Daanbantayan in northern Cebu. Their homes are near fish pens and a creek — it floods constantly, especially when it rains hard.

Both their homes were destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan ravaged northern Cebu in November 2013. After the storm, they salvaged wood, metal sheets and tarps to build small shacks on land that is owned by another person. They are in danger of being evicted.

But Shirley and Felisa aren’t easily discouraged. They are epitomes of the modern woman: driven, motivated, focused, goal-oriented, and put their families first. They have big dreams and high hopes, but they believe in working for it instead of simply being handed to them.

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Helen Tabaranza used to look like your typical construction worker, wearing a hard hat, work boots, blue jeans and mud-stained shirt. But she’s more than that.

Helen Tabaranza is a wonder woman — the only woman — supervising, at the most 40 men and women, at the Habitat for Humanity housing site in Dolores, Ormoc. Helen acquired her certification as a carpenter and mason from the government’s Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). Not only that, she is also a teacher, passing on the knowledge that she acquired to those under her. She is also a wife and a mother to three beautiful children.

Helen Tabaranza is a homemaker AND a homebuilder — because with her own hands, she built the house they are living in today.

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Drenched in sweat, Christopher Ilustrisimo sat down with us one afternoon after finishing his work at the Habitat for Humanity relocation site in Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island, Cebu. He says he was hard at work – hammering and hauling hard limestone as filling for the floors of some 240 new houses meant to be turned over soon to survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Christopher, along with his family, is one of the survivors.

With a wife, two daughters and a grandchild living in a canvas tent next to the remains of their old house in the village of Talisay in Sta. Fe, their home was destroyed during Haiyan when a coconut tree fell on it. “It’s hot in the tent,” he says.

“We can’t stay inside the temporary home during the day. We sometimes sleep in my other daughter’s house in the nighttime because it gets very humid.”

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To say they’re a ‘power couple’ would be an understatement. Their youth certainly works to their advantage - he’s a celebrity and she’s an entertainer in her own right; both are entrepreneurs and bloggers. Despite their busy schedules and commitments, the married father and mother to 17-year-old Ralph, 12-year-old Isabella, and to their 2-year-old teacup Pomeranian dog, Max,, the couple still finds time to do something worthwhile to their spare time.

So, what do Chuckie and Yen Dreyfus do in their ‘spare time’? VOLUNTEER.

As Habitat for Humanity Philippines celebrates International Volunteer Day (IVD) this year, it chooses to highlight this unique couple who still choose to give ample amount of time to do Habitat volunteer work - a selfless pursuit to provide homes and happiness to Filipino families in need.

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