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Bringing a ray of hope for families hit by devastation

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 19, 2013

  • HMS Daring's Lynx, above, surveys affected areas, including the devastation around the North Coast of Cebu (main picture, above right) Top: Shelter for Humanity tents amid the devastation. Teddies can transform a child's life

  • These youngsters in Bohol, have endured an earthquake and the worst-ever typhoon, but most still manage a smile Picture: ShelterBox

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It is just a simple knitted teddy bear sent as part of an aid consignment from the Westcountry – but to 18-month-old James it means everything as the world he knew lies in tatters around him.

The image captures the moment that hope and friendship stretched across the ocean to the Philippines, ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan which has claimed more than 4,400 lives – with the death toll expected to eventually exceed 10,000.

It marked the moment that the Westcountry made the difference between life and death to the people of the typhoon battered Philippines.

As the country begins to come to terms with the horror of the disaster, troops, medics and charities from our region have rushed to the rescue.

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The teddy bear, which is now giving James some comfort, was one of 75 knitted by Doris Spooner, aged 88, of Polyphant, near Launceston, and came in a package of aid delivered by Redruth-based disaster relief charity Shelter for Humanity along with tents and other emergency aid such as cooking and heating stoves, water purification equipment, emergency tool kits, solar lamps and hygiene packs.

Ms Spooner said the bear was a simple gift which she hoped would make a difference. She said: "I just wanted to do something for the little ones who have lost so much.

"At my age I can't do very much, but I have been knitting these toys for the children.

"I try to make the teddies all different and I make them out of bright colours and I make sure I give them a smile as well. I'm so glad that my efforts are making difference."

Tom Henderson, chief executive of Shelter for Humanity, said the toys could "transform" the life of a child who, since the typhoon struck, would have seen nothing but death and destruction.

"It is just wonderful what the toys do for children. It's heart warming to witness.

"It is Doris spreading her goodwill around the world."

Other teams have arrived in the Philippines from Helston-based ShelterBox which is also providing tents and emergency equipment to survivors.

Sue Nelson from Cornwall, who is on her first deployment with ShelterBox, described how people who had lost everything were overwhelmed by the response to the emergency. "My first tent went to Afellfe Echavia and her family," said Mrs Nelson.

"She said she could hardly believe that ShelterBox had come all this way to help her family and fellow villagers."

Dozens of Westcountry-based Royal Navy personnel on HMS Daring, including helicopter crews from RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, are also at the heart of the relief effort.

Members of the Royal Marines Band from Plymouth were also preparing to play their part in the mission.

Royal Marine Musician Sarah Tams, based at HMS Raleigh in Torpoint, said she was expecting to use extensive first aid and trauma management skills. The 28-year-old, who has deployed to Afghanistan in the past, added: "I think that all the first aid training I did in Afghanistan puts me in good stead for the humanitarian disaster.

"To prepare myself I try and think about the worst possible case scenario on a very large scale so perhaps I won't be as taken aback as I would have been if I see something that shocks me."

Meanwhile, Lynx helicopter crews on board, who are normally based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, are continuing to fly long sorties and scour remote islands where survivors of Typhoon Haiyan have pleaded for help by scrawling SOS messages in the sand and fields.

Flight Commander Joe Harper said: "We are due to launch again to examine other islands further north. It is good news for those areas that they have escaped the devastation seen elsewhere and it means we can concentrate on finding others who need assistance."

Dr Amy Hughes, from Plymouth, is leading a medical team from the Department for International Development (DFID).

A former emergency medicine and pre-hospital care clinician at Derriford hospital, Dr Hughes said their work was vital.

"The team we are deploying has a varied and diverse range of clinical skills, and have undergone specific training relevant to working in disasters."

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