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Xavier University’s Pioneering Approach to Disaster-Resilient Communities: The Xavier Ecoville Story

Cagayan de Oro, Philippines – In the aftermath of the devastating Tropical Storm Sendong in 2011, which took hundreds of lives and left thousands homeless in Cagayan de Oro, a beacon of hope and innovation emerged through the efforts of Xavier University and its community. Engr. Dexter S. Lo, during the 2nd Socialized Housing Summit, shared the compelling journey of Xavier Ecoville, a project that not only provided shelter to the survivors but also laid the foundation for a sustainable and disaster-resilient community.


Engr. Lo, who played a pivotal role in this initiative, explained the grave reality that led to the creation of Xavier Ecoville. The project was born out of the urgent need to respond to the catastrophic impact of Sendong, which highlighted the city’s vulnerability to natural disasters. Through detailed maps and simulations created by Xavier University’s Engineering Resource Center, the critical areas affected by the flood were identified, underscoring the importance of disaster risk reduction and the need for resilient housing solutions.


Despite early warnings and the clear danger presented by residing near the Cagayan de Oro river, many were caught unprepared when Sendong struck, leading to significant loss of life and property. This tragedy spurred Xavier University, under the leadership of then-President Fr. Roberto Yap, SJ, and the board of trustees, to take decisive action. They launched the Xavier Ecoville Resettlement Project, utilizing 5 hectares of land donated for temporary shelters and another 5 for permanent homes for the flood survivors.


With an overwhelming outpour of support from various donors, the university managed to raise approximately 85 million pesos for the project. This fund not only facilitated the construction of homes but also ensured transparency and accountability, with regular updates provided to the public via the university’s website.


The construction of Xavier Ecoville was a collaborative effort, involving faculty and students from the university’s Engineering Resource Center, architects, international organizations, and even the Philippine Army. This partnership resulted in the creation of temporary bunkhouses and, eventually, permanent homes that housed over 500 families, transforming their lives and providing a new beginning away from the flood-prone areas.


However, Xavier Ecoville’s vision extended beyond merely providing shelter. It aimed to build a community that was not just safe but also sustainable and self-sufficient. This comprehensive approach included the development of social infrastructure such as the St. Francis Xavier Chapel, a community center, and a study center, among others. The project emphasized the importance of integrating technology, resources, and people – focusing on appropriate technology that meets the community’s needs, mobilizing resources through partnerships, and investing in people to foster a strong, resilient community spirit.


As Engr. Lo eloquently put it, Xavier Ecoville is not just about building houses but building a community. The project served as a model for disaster response and community development, showcasing how academic institutions, government, and the private sector can come together to address urgent social issues effectively. It highlighted the role of education, community engagement, and innovative thinking in creating solutions that not only address immediate needs but also ensure long-term sustainability and resilience against future disasters.


The success of Xavier Ecoville stands as a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and compassion in the face of adversity. It serves as a beacon of hope for other communities facing similar challenges, demonstrating that, with the right approach and commitment, it is possible to turn disaster into an opportunity for growth, development, and a better future for all.


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