MATTHEWS – When someone mentions “Typhoon Haiyan,” thoughts likely turn to the countless images of devastation and destruction in the Philippines broadcasted over the past several weeks. But Lydia Walker wants to change that.
Walker works with Matthews-based organization Silent Images as the nonprofit’s creative director. She recently traveled to the Philippines as an ambassador for Silent Images while also working with international humanitarian organization, GOAL. During her time there, Walker traveled with GOAL volunteers on their missions, working as a videographer to capture untold stories of hope in the midst of devastation.
“Silent Images is a nonprofit that basically goes with other charities and nonprofits and humanitarian organizations (and works) to promote awareness, document (these stories) and get people to be proactive members of society,” Walker said.
Walker received a call with an offer to go to the Philippines with GOAL just a few days after returning to the U.S. from another trip to Haiti. She immediately knew she wanted to be a part of the trip to the Philippines and was on a plane the following Monday.
Walker knew from the get-go she didn’t want to focus on the devastation caused by the typhoon.
“I didn’t want to make videos of just showing off the tragedy – I wanted to make videos of what people are doing and get (more people) involved,” Walker said.
Walker was initially numb when she first arrived in the Philippines and saw the amount of destruction Typhoon Haiyan caused. There were freight ships with tons of cargo that had steamrolled entire towns, she said, and mountains that used to be lush, green and covered with crops and coconut trees were completely brown.
“I didn’t really know how to process it,” she said. “It was like the whole environment died. I was almost questioning whether or not it was really real. Like, ‘How could this have happened?’”
Walker quickly got to work, traveling with GOAL volunteers and videoing their distribution sites, where they handed out food, blankets and materials people could use to repair their homes. Filming their efforts was important, Walker said, because it will show those who view her videos steps they can take to help others in similar situations.
“Part of the way Silent Images meets needs is we try to make sure more people hear about what’s going on, so we have this great audience of people who are now aware of what needs to be done to help out these people,” she said. “We give (viewers) actionable steps in how to help with the problem.”
Perhaps Walker’s favorite thing about her assignment to the Philippines – and other previous assignments, as well – is the opportunity to meet people living there, build relationships with them, hear their stories and work to tell those stories to others.
One person Walker met during her trip was an 18-year-old girl named Lori Jane, who’d recently graduated high school. Lori Jane and her family were celebrating her dad’s birthday when the typhoon hit and turned their “beautiful, sturdy” home into something that resembled ruins of an ancient civilization, Walker said. But in the midst of the destruction, Lori Jane and her family held on to their joy.
“It was really tragic, her story, but it was so beautiful because she feels like she has a second chance to be a better daughter to her father,” Walker said, adding Lori Jane and her family are practicing Catholics. “She’s thankful the Lord allowed her to live, and now she can redeem her relationship with her father.”
Walker said Lori Jane hopes to go to college, and although the road is going to be rough, her family has the faith to see things through.
“They still have a lot of hope and know the Lord protected them once and will keep protecting them,” Walker said.
One of the biggest things Walker has learned from her time in the Philippines is how a person’s situations don’t create or take away the joy and hope he or she can have.
“The one thing I really learned about is joy, from the most loving, most appreciative, joyful people I’ve met in my life,” she said. “This is at their worst, the worst time possible, and they’re always smiling, always shaking your hand, the kids are always wanting to play with you … I’m blessed to be able to meet those folks and hear their stories.”
Find more information about Silent Images and view some of Walker’s documentary from the Philippines at www.silentimages.org.