Monthly Archives: November 2013

This is Vincent from the fishing village of Boad. Although he doesn’t speak any English he had the most wonderful and friendly personality. My encounter with Vincet was amazing.

When I was in the village earlier today, despite having his entire home destroyed and just finished repairing his fishing boat, he offered me the three binga shells he had just caught.

I knew the moment I encountered him and heard about the gift he wanted to provide me that he would be a perfect recipient for our solar lights.

Now Vincent can use the lights at night to attract fish and pull in his nets in the dark.
Fisherman are the perfect recipient for out lights and the results are immediate! Look at that amazing smile!
#WOLhaiyan #givelights

Many fisherman have left their homes in complete ruins to focus on fixing their damaged fishing boats.

Repairing their fishing boats as soon as possible will allow them to begin making funds again for rebuilding, replacing lost items, repairs and food.

I will be traveling back to this village again tonight to deliver more solar lights. When I told a few fisherman that @watts_of_love would be providing them lights they were so excited!
#WOLhaiyan #givelights

Today, I delivered one of the @watts_of_love lights to the birthing center in downtown Bantayan where Antinia Buday has been a mid-wife for 39 years.

Before the Super Typoon it cost 2100 pesos to use the center. Since the typoon the mayor removed any and all fees. Durning the typhoon the birthing center remained open. Two babies were delivered durning the super typhoon.

Antinia has often had to deliver children during the night whenever the generator wasn’t working. You can see by her smile how happy she was to receive her new solar light. #WOLhaiyan #givelights

It is very common to see people sift through the remains of their homes looking for even the smallest of items. A fork, a cup or even a plastic chair, anything to begin rebuilding.

Often, the victims just look and stare at the tangled mess and destruction for long periods of time. Sometimes they just walk away empty handed. The feelings of “how to begin” are are overwhelming and palpable. #WOLhaiyan #givelights

It has sometimes been very difficult photograph some of the people here on the Bantayan island. As a photographer it is my job to show their stories in pictures and add a few words. I know neither is sufficient. Many of the people are very traumatized and do everything to NOT show their pain and loss.

Arlyn Zapa lived here with her parents and four bothers and sisters. They all ran out of their nipa hut durning the Typoon to take coverage in a “stronger” nipa hut with five other families.

I asked her when they knew they should leave their hut? She replied “when the roof and bedroom flew into the air.” She tried desperately to keep from crying.

I can not imagine how terrified all of these people must have felt fearing for their lives and then returning to find everything they own destroyed.

I sincerely wish we had more solar lights to distribute. #WOLhaiyan #givelights

Despite that this boys entire fishing village was washed away by Typoon Haiyan, he was so happy to be playing with his tire and push stick toy.

The village he lives in is called Boad. In visayan (his native language) Boad means, wave!

Despite the complete devastation, I constantly see faces of joy all around me. The people are truly amazing and so giving!

Almost everywhere I go everyone yells out…”hey Joe!” With a dash of humor, Filipinos think everyone from American is named Joe. I love it!

#WOLhaiyan, #givelights

As the sun begins to set, darkness will cover Bantanyan Island again tonight.

Although you can occasionally hear the the hum of a generator off in the distance, Myrna Paacifico and her three boys (pictured here standing where their home once stood.) have a new solar light to allow them to move around and function in the darkness.

When I told Myrana, some of the stories I have heard from other recipients and how they were using the lights to rebuild, she covered her face to hide her emotions.
I also told her how some people are using the lights to make items, at night to make money. She smiled and nodded her head to say “yes, yes, yes!” Almost everyone I speak to says they can not rebuild whatever little home they had until they have money. Prior to the Typoon, many of these families struggled everyday just to survive, now that their homes are destroyed they have the additional burden of finding more money to rebuild.

As I drove away I could see all of Myrana’s friends and neighbors gather around to see the new family light.

Although I loved my time sharing and talking with Myrana, I only wish everyone could have received a solar light tonight. #WOLhaiyan #givelihhts

Tonight Leorito Menlengit is able to begin rebuilding his destroyed home even into the night with his new solar lights we provided him.

Thankfully his wife and 3 month old child were not hurt during Typhoon Yolanda. Their home was completely blown away and every tree around them has been knocked down. The fallen tree behind him was enormous! I can’t imaging the force to rip down almost every tree within miles.

Leorito was so thankful to have his new lights. Like every Filipino person I have met so far he could not stop thanking us for coming to help him and his family. #WOLhaiyan, #givelights

She told me this was her house. When I asked her if she was living here she said “where else would I go?” #WOLhaiyan #givelights

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating today.

Although I will not have turkey or stuffing today for the first time in 40 plus years, I am more thankful then I have ever been in my life.

It’s funny how none of the “traditions” of thanksgiving really could ever make me feel as thankful as I do at this moment and when I took this picture!

This is some of “uncle Kevin’s gang” that followed me around all day yesterday. How great are these smiles and their “Mr. Hansom” poses?” TOTALY classic.

Today, I feel so thankful to have had the opportunity to sever all of the people that I have come in contact with and these small boys! When they were all holding my hands, wrists, waist and fingers, it reminded me that love is best demonstrated by a simple gesture, sincere heart and nothing expected in return.

Although I was in that village to server these young boys, they gave me more then I could have ever given them! I sincerely hope to have the opportunity to visit them again before I leave, and feel their small little embraces again.

I miss my own son very, very much right now. “Dad loves you so much little buddy and I can’t wait to see you when I get home! I am so proud to be your dad!” Happy Thanksgiving.

Please leave a comment and tell me what you are thankful for after reading this post?

Here is a map of Bantanya Island at the typhoon crisis center set up by the mayor. In the last two days we have delivered several new solar lights to three of the local villages. Patao, Sillion and today Hiltongan island.

This morning after visiting with the mayor we took a hour boat ride to the island of Hiltongan.

The entire island was so devastated, however, thankfully they only lost one person. Amazing considering the amount of devastation. Many of the people we spoke to were very sad and suffering from trama.
Many of the islanders have worked their entire lives to gain a few possession and a small home and have lost everything. #WOLhaiyan, #givelights

This is Pastor Doodes. I refer to him as “Pastor Dude.” And yes, Pastor Dude ABIDES!

Similar to “The Dude” from the movie Big Lebowski, pastor Doodes is a man of few words. When he does speak, his words are sincere, powerful, eloquent and kind.

Pastor often speaks VERY softly and I think he is self-conscious about his English so, I often miss much of what he is saying. Despite only hearing half of what Pastor says, he is an amazing man to observe. He is so passionate about serving others and caring for those around him. Pastor is always the first to help, last to eat (other need to be fed before him) always carries the largest boxes and is very patient when I am running around delaying the crew while taking pictures.

Perhaps when you lead by example like he does, you don’t need to hear all the words. #WOLhaiyan, #givelights

This is my new friend Katherine Jean. She followed me around all day as I photographed many destroyed homes and buildings.

I photographed her tonight with my iPhone as she studied if front of the one Kerosene lamp her family owns.

She was SO patient with me tonight as I photographed this “before” solar light lamp image. You can see what she looks like with her new solar light if you go to @watts_of_love.

Thank you for being so wonderful to me Katherine Jean! It was a honor to meet you and be in your presence today. I sincerely hope we meet again some day! #WOLhaiyan, #givelights

Even though most of Bantayan is in complete darkness, two cordinatos from
Operation Blessing are preparing medicines in the pitch dark with a Watts
of Love solar lantern.

Rosa Secreto and June Harvey Flores know that
without these lights, they would not be able to extend their disaster
relief efforts well into the night in order to help those affected by Super
Typhoon Haiyan in the morning.

When tragedy strikes, it waits for no one.
With light, we can begin moving forward to build a better tomorrow,
starting with a brighter tonight.

#WOLhaiyan #WOLyolanda #givelights
#lightalife #philippines

Although there are areas of Bantanya Island that had electricity before the Typhoon, currently, the entire island is now without power.

Most reports say that the many of the outlying villages we visited will be without power for six to nine months.

The longest I went without power in the states was two days. I was so annoyed and put out that the power company was so incompetent. “How could getting my power on take so long?” I am now so embarrassed by my own thoughts.

Light really is life and provides us who have access to it so many things that we take for granted.

I know for some it is really hard to truly understand what life would be like with out electricity, however, today when you turn on a room light, open a cold running fridge or power up you phone, take a moment and be thankful.

I sincerely hope I don’t sound like I am preaching, however, when you see people burst into tears when you provide them a solar light it has a profound effect on how you see life.

Currently, we are taking a dinner break after our all day medical mission. Tonight we will be traveling into a village that was devastated and delivering solar lights to people that have no clue we are coming. Into the darkness we bring light. #WOLhaiyan, #givelights

Before I left for the Philippines my father purchased 40 pair of reading glasses for me to distribute. He actually even got a manager from Walgreens to discount them when he informed him where they were going.

My father has always been a force when he puts is mind to something. I have learned many, many things from him and I hope to be as good a dad to my son as he was to me. Love you Dad and hope you like the smile in the image!

Even though this woman’s home was destroyed, she looks like she won the lottery after we gave her a simple pair of eyeglasses. She is doing the “Mr. beautiful pose” Everyone laughed!

I always hated my glasses growing up as a kid, however, seeing her reaction made me realize how much I take for granted in life. It was obvious to me that this women who just lost everything has better vision in life then me. #WOLhaiyan, #givelights

Today we began our mission work on Bantanya Island.

There is so much devastation all around us!

The three doctors with us examined and treated about 250 people. The people were all so thankful and kept thanking us for coming. Their gratitude is overwhelming.

We are working with a local church who’s building was completely destroyed. Lucky there is another church right next to it that is allowing us to use it as a staging and medical area. You can see the tented area to the left where the old church once stood.

Like last time in the Philippines, several of the young children have adopted me and will not leave my side. Seriously, I have about 15 kids that follow me everywhere. They are constantly laughing and giggling out loud when they call out my name…”Uncle Kevin or Americano!” So, cute!

One of the greatest things about these children is that 4 to 5 of them holds one of my fingers on each of my hands every place we go! It makes it really hard to take picture but, I LOVE IT! I #wol #wolhaiyan #wolyolanda #charity #

Here on #BantayanIsland in the Philippines. As the sun rises, roosters begin to call out and hammers can be heard in the distant and neighboring homes. The island is awake and feverishly rebuilding. This is my view from the balcony, where I slept under the stars and moon. Actually, I shouldn’t call it sleep. It waa more like passing out. We used the light from @watts_of_love to move about last night once we arrived. Everyone from Operation Blessing, our local partner, is very nice and really dedicated to helping others.

Now how great is that for the name of our boat to take us to Bantayan island. I can’t wait to arrive on the island. It’s been a long trip and I am almost there. #WOLhaiyan #givelights

On the road to Bantayan island.

I have experienced traffic in so many major cities, New York, London, Rome, Paris, Rio, Czech Republic, Mexico City and Toronto to name a few, however, nothing compares to the driving in Manila and most of the Philippines.

Although it really needs to experienced to understand it, I would best describe it as a classically trained symphony playing hard core punk rock while casually nibbling on Beluga caviar and chugging Strychnine.

When there are only two lanes, (each one in the opposite direction) they drive like there five! When there are four lanes… it’s like a free-for-all!

Cars, motorcycle, trucks, people, water-buffaloes, jeepneys,and side-car motor bikes speed in and out of the narrowest of margins. They truly thread the needle with every pass while politely beeping their horn as they pass. Beep, beep! I guess it akin to tipping your hat to a fellow traveler as you leave them in your dust.

Despite the incredibly aggressive driving patterns, I see no signs of American road rage. They are all moving very fast but, all seem to play well together at high speeds and with lightning quick moves.

I guess like any fine tuned instrument the more you play it the better the sound. Beep, beep!

#WOLhaiyan, #givelights.

I have never been a Hollywood stunt driver, however, after driving all around Cebu to find a generator with Deryl, (pictures here) I now know completely what it must be like.

Deryl drives at TOP speeds at all times as he shifts gears, and peeps his horn at everyone while dodging bikes, motorcycles, trucks, jeepney’s, people and a even a donkey is an experience that goes beyond description.
Oh, and did I mention he is constantly communicating on one of this three cellphones!

Deryl was amazing and just my kind of guy! He is that rare “can do anything” type of person that we needed on our team today.

I can’t wait to meet his Dad who is a pastor on Bantayan island. #WOLhaiyan, #givelights.

In many adventure movies there is always the clueless rookie that always packs way too much.

The moment before this rookie enters into the adventure a wise and seasoned hero rips opens the rookies bag and tosses half the stuff out to lighten his load and perhaps safe his life. I am that rookie durning our #Haiyan relief effort.

My fellow relief workers have one small backpack for all their personal items!

Since I am too embarrassed to show my big personal bag, camera bag, pack pack and HUGE duffel bag full of solar lights, I decided to show you the two personal items that will mean the most for me for the next seven days since I am now leaving much behind before we leave today.

Let me introduce you to men’s micro biotic underwear. I learned about these beauties from the amazing documentary photographer @benlowy in an interview with Mark Seliger and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Ben wore a pair of these when he was covering the Syrian conflict.

Ladies, if you are looking for the perfect gift to give your man for Christmas this is it.
Include the addendum with the gift that they need to change their underwear every day IF possible, however if they are “forced” to wear the same pair of underwear for several days straight, these are what they want to be packing.

Enjoy the tip and thanks @benlowy. #WOLhaiyan #givelights

Before our 3hr bus and 2hr boat ride to Bantayan island tomorrow, we went to several malls to find a generator, wifi connector and sleeping bags.

After visiting a second mall searching for supplies I commented on how crowed the stores were in Cebu. “Filipinos love to go to the malls. We don’t have many trees and it is always air conditioned in the malls.” Said one of my companion relief works.

Feels strange seeing more lights illuminating a Christmas tree decorating a mall then many of local people currently have on Bantayan Island.

I still don’t know what to expect tomorrow, however, it is close to Christmas and I have been traveling for days with a huge bag of goodies. I also have a little more gray in my facial hair and hate to admit it but, I have actually put on a little weight recently. Hey, wait a minute…I just noticed I also have on a red shirt!

Could it be I am being groomed for a larger roll then I originally thought or intended?

Being from Chicago, I have never experienced a tropical Christmas before, however, I can’t wait to distribute these presents to those in need. #WOLhaiyan #givelights

Pastor Doods and I begin our journey to Cebu. Another flight! Ugh!

Something tells me here is where the adventure really begins!

I have learned that love looks like something!

Love is not just an invisible idea, thought or feeling. Love really can LOOK like something.

The picture above is what love looks like for me right now!

Thank you to everyone that donated to make delivering these solar lights to the people deceased by Super Typoon #Haiyan.

I finally arrived in Manila last night. Today I fly to Cebu then travel by bus and finally by boat to Bantayan island. This was one of the first islands hit by #Haiyan.

Once I arrive we will begin distributing solar light from @watts_of_love.

Trust me when I tell you that the lives of the families that receive the lights will be changed forever! There are reports that some towns and villages with be with out any light for more then six months.

Some of the people receiving these lights have never had power source other then dangerous and expensive burning kerosene.

Although I hope I can post while delivering the lights, I am usurer if I will get a signal. If you are interested you can follow my journey on @watts_of_love and here.

Thank you again for helping to change the lives of so many.

And now something completely different and new.

My bag and the solar lights from @watts_of_love have all finally arrived in Manila. It’s great to be back!

Although I have been traveling for 43 hours straight, I love that because of my iPhone I can always be creative, connect with people and learn something new. No longer is my creative time restricted. I can be creative whenever, and wherever.

On my flight to Manila I decided to learn how to use a two new apps. This image was created in #repix and @iColorama.

Off to meet my local contact and figure out what’s next now that I am finally here. Let the journey begin. #WOLhaiyan

Two addition options have just been presented me if my new flight gets cancelled.

Option 1. Stand up paddle board. I might be a little tired and sunburn after I paddled several thousand nautical miles!

Option 2. The two person White Swan foot paddle boat. Much more stylish while traveling then option 1, but would definitely add some additional travel time. Plus, I always saw myself more like the ugly duckling type of guy.

Fingers crossed as I head to my gate and hope to depart soon. #WOLhaiyan

Stuck in Guam.

After waiting 5 hours in a dismal terminal, I got bumped from my flight to Manila. The next flight on my airlines was at least 24 hrs later and no seats left.

In all my years of production I have learned that you never give up and a problem is only an opportunity waiting to be discovered.

I contacted a Filipino travel agent and got the last flight out on a different airlines in 8 hours.

Here’s where it might get bad for some…I Took a taxi to a plush vacation resort to grab something to eat, connect to free wifi then “borrowed” a pool towel and took a quick dip in this little fountain of youth. Dried my clothes in a turbo powered bathroom hand dryer and now back to the airport.

I owe you big time Outrigger Resort!

Refreshed, recharged and ready to get to the Philippines. #WOLhaiyan, #givelights

Hey it’s @kevinkuster posting. Sorry I haven’t been able to feature the last few days. Currently, I am stuck in the airport in Guam. Have to kill another 7 hours on my way to the Philippines.

Delivering lights with @watts_of_love to people that were hit by Typoon #haiyan. Thanks for all the support from our amazing #jj community so far.

Theme: Bridges
Tag: #jj_forum_0728.
Photographer: @eyeonthebay.

Completely fantastic image by @eyeonthebay. A truly iconic bridge merged with a cool photo technique. Perfect! Please give @eyeonthebay some #jj love and new followers.

Thanks to @jj_editor_nanook13.

Keep scrolling #jj community.

“Buy a Beer and you get fee WiFi!” Yes it’s 5:13 a.m. in Guam but this is free Wifi! I have to kill a lot of time in the airport and have a limited international data plan.

Now that is what I call a deal.

My bartender…she’s just moved from Chicago to Guam!

Small world!