Althea’s home went dark as the typhoon approached, but by the afternoon, electricity was restored.
“‘Yay, everything is normal,’” said the HireSmart Virtual Employee, who lives in Cebu in the Philippines.
No, not normal — far from it. As night approached, so did a monster.
At 7 p.m., “the drama started.” Typhoon Rai (also known as Super Typhoon Odette) began to howl.
“I haven’t experienced (a tornado or cyclone), but it sounded like it,” said Althea.
“You hear alarms of the cars, because they’re hit by a tree, hit by a roof.”
The raging storm shattered the windows in Althea’s home while she, her husband, and two daughters, who were 8 and 5 at the time, huddled under the stairs in their row house. Althea tried to calm her daughters, though she felt frantic herself.
“My daughter was really terrified,” she said. “She was crying all the time, and I didn’t know how to calm her because I was not calm myself.”
The storm lasted all night. Althea said the worst winds came at two-hour intervals.
“We were just waiting for when our roof will be blown away, literally waiting,” she said.
At 5:30 a.m., the storm had passed. Luckily, Althea and her family survived without injury, and her home’s roof didn’t fly away. Others weren’t so lucky.
“When we open our door at around 5:30 a.m., it’s hard to imagine what I saw,” she said. “I really thought, ‘I’ll be seeing that on TV, on the news.’ You would see a car on top of another car. And all the roofs are gone. Trees are uprooted. All electricity is out. It was that destructive.”
Althea admits she hadn’t been too concerned about the approaching typhoon.
“In Cebu, we have a couple of typhoons in a year, but nothing that strong,” she said “So our mentality was like, ‘Oh, there’s a storm coming. It’s OK. There will probably be a blackout maximum of three days.’ We were not prepared for a super typhoon.”
She hadn’t expected the storm’s fury or the subsequent 29 days without electricity.
“We didn’t have electricity, no potable water,” said Althea. “It’s so hard to get gasoline. My husband went to a gasoline station at three in the morning and returned home at 11 a.m. without being able to get gasoline. The line is so long. So, you cannot travel.”
“I was really worried that I would not have any work to go back to,” she said. “I was not able to communicate with HireSmart or my client as the land lines and internet were out and cellphones had no signal as cellular towers were damaged.”
In the U.S., Anne Lackey, who owns HireSmart Virtual Employees with her husband Mark, had been frantically trying to make sure Althea was OK.
“Anne was really worried because I was one of the last agents who were able to contact HireSmart,” said Althea.
But when the connection was made, Anne and Mark delivered a considerable sum of money to the typhoon victim to help her family. Althea’s property management client also paid her in advance a full month’s salary, even though she was only able to work three days during that time.
“That money went a long way,” said Althea, who said she used HireSmart’s gift to replace the shattered windows in their home. “I never experienced that in any of the companies I’ve worked. I didn’t expect I’d be able to have work by the time I went back, but both HireSmart and my clients are very understanding. They totally understood where we are coming from.”
Althea said working at HireSmart has been great for her family, allowing her to care for her children.
“When I learned I was pregnant, I told myself I would not be working away from my child,” she said. “So, it helps a lot because I’m able to raise my kids while earning.”
She said HireSmart is the place to be.
“I’m just thankful for what this company did to help us,” said Althea. “My heart is full being part of this team.”