04/03/2014, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Cebu: a "Francis Village" for the Typhoon Yolanda survivors

Called Pope Francis Gawad Kalinga, the settlement's 45 new houses will be assigned according to criteria of fairness. Held on Monday, the groundbreaking ceremony began with a Mass celebrated by Jesuit priests.

Manila (AsiaNews/CBCP) - A new settlement is under construction in Cebu. It will house survivors of last November's Typhoon Yolanda and will be named after the Argentinian pope.For people still living in shelters or makeshift housing five months after the devastating natural disaster, this is a real "sign of hope".

Funded by the Xavier School and the Educational Research and Development Assistance (ERDA) Group, the new village in Cebu held its groundbreaking ceremony (pictured) on Monday.

Named Pope Francis Gawad Kalinga (GK) in honour of the pontiff, after the first Jesuit pope who is a staunch promoter of faith lived "through concrete acts", the village will become  the home of typhoon survivors from different parts of northern Cebu.

Each beneficiary will be selected based on criteria of justice and equity. Members of the new  community will also receive training.

The village will have 45 houses, each costing 150,000 pesos (just over US$ 3,300), 30 sponsored by the Xavier School and the other 15 by ERDA.

The ceremony began with a Mass celebrated by some Jesuit fathers.

The Xavier School got involved with the emergency from the start, through aid work and raising funds from Filipino and foreign donors.

In June, the school will also launch a volunteer programme in cooperation with other institutions, including the Ateneo de Manila University, with participants lending a hand to build small houses in the areas devastated by the typhoon.

Haiyan/Yolanda hit Visayan Islands (central Philippines) on 8 November 2013, affecting at least 11 million people. The price of getting back to normal has been estimated at US$ 8 billion.

Some have put the death toll at more than 5,000 people, but President Aquino warned against overestimating the figure after early reports claimed that as many as 10,000 had died. According to the president, the total number of casualties does not exceed 2,500.

Overall, the area's size, its many islands and their inaccessibility have hampered aid delivery. Almost 11 million people in 574 municipalities and cities suffered some damage and losses.

As part of the aid effort on behalf of survivors, the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) launched its own fundraising campaign.

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