International finance guru builds 100 homes for Yolanda survivors
Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) - July 25, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – An international finance guru is here on a mission: to build over 100 homes for survivors of  Super TyphoonYolanda in the fourth-class municipality of Lemery in Iloilo.

The hilly town, one of the areas devastated by Yolanda in 2013, did not get top priority in government and international relief and rehabilitation assistance, compared to its neighboring coastal towns.

Greg Secker, a “prophet of profit” in the lucrative world of online foreign exchange trading in the United Kingdom and founder of the Greg Secker Foundation, saw the plight of thousands Filipinos in the province still in need of help.

The concrete houses being built by the foundation are showcase homes that can put to shame houses being built by the middle-class in rural Iloilo.

Each house will have a lot area of over 80 square meters and a floor area of more than 40 square meters, with tiled comfort rooms and stainless steel sinks.

The designated beneficiary families who will live in the houses are also landscaping the foundation’s village lawns.

“You can’t teach people who are starving, right?... You got to make them stable first. That’s the whole point of (building the homes for) the village. And when they’re stable, then we can give them a real shot,” said 40-year-old Secker.

Secker’s Filipino housekeeper in his estate in Surrey, England owns the 3.8-hectare tract of property where the houses are being built.

Lemery native Rosario Sanico donated the land for what will be the Greg Secker Foundation Village.

Secker thought that if they really wanted to make a difference in the lives of the people of Lemery, they must have livelihood skills.

He poured in investments in the municipality to stimulate small businesses.

Last Sunday, Secker and his partners in the foundation broke ground for a two-story building that will serve as a multi-purpose livelihood training center for residents.

Aside from a technical skills training center, Secker said the foundation would establish a “business incubation” service to guide and teach residents on how to start a business.

The foundation will also provide seed capital to entrepreneurs the training center will produce.

“We intend to build a livelihood training center where some of you can set up companies and make money,” Secker told a gathering of residents during his visit to Lemery.

Secker said the foundation has partnered with the Central Philippine University to get technical-vocational trainers as well as with skills training experts abroad to bolster courses to be offered by the center.

The big dreams, Secker admitted, mean the foundation is in for the long haul in Lemery.

“The training and the entrepreneurial skills development will take longer,” he said.

“It’s going to be a continuous investment of time,” Secker said, who brushed off the additional strain on the foundation’s financial resources.

Lemery thanks Sanico

Apart from her donation of the land for the village, the people of Lemery thanked Sanico for bringing the plight of her hometown to Secker.

Sanico is not just a housekeeper to Secker’s family, but “the de facto mother” of his three children, including him.

“She looks after my children and me. I’m her fourth child,” Secker told Lemery folk in a visit to the town on July 17.

He said that he was witness to the anguish suffered by Sanico on Nov. 8, 2013, when she learned about the devastation wrought by Yolanda in Lemery.

The typhoon also left Sanico’s two brothers, Normal and Genaro, homeless and without a livelihood.

Sanico was frustrated that several months after Yolanda, Lemery was not getting its share of relief and rehabilitation assistance.

Hearing of Sanico’s worry for her two brothers, Secker took charge in a big way.

Secker said the yearning to help was also felt by his eldest son whose birthday falls on Nov. 8, the day Yolanda hit the Visayas.

His son, pitying his “mother,” made a birthday wish – to go to the Philippines and help.

Secker then declared that he would build homes not just for Sanico’s brothers but for the many others who lost their homes and means of livelihood in Lemery.

He himself flew to the Philippines with Sanico to lead the preparatory and planning activities for building houses for Yolanda survivors.

The foundation’s projects are expected to be completed in March next year.

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