No mother would ever want to keep her kids waiting, especially when they’re cold, tired, and hungry.

But five years ago, this possibility loomed large for Lorna Ortillo Dela Peña, a senior citizen, single parent, and loving mother who also serves as the leader of a women’s group.

Tacloban, which bore the brunt of the storm, was the site where most relief goods and donations for typhoon victims were delivered. Since roads to and from Tacloban were blocked, Lorna prompted to travel by ferry – days after typhoon Yolanda destroyed her family’s hometown, Marabut in Western Samar.

While in the eastern Visayas capital, she was able to get a few packs of rice and canned goods, all for her family’s consumption.

However, as she was about to board the ferry home, she was refused passage despite having already paid her fare. As told by the ferry operator, someone else took her seat and she would have to be left behind. It was a clear case of discrimination and Lorna didn’t care for any of that nonsense.

As a veteran of community training programs, Lorna asserted her rights, stood her ground, and put her lessons to good use. As a result, she was able to take the ferry home in no time.

To this day, Lorna still remembers the day when she was almost left behind by the ferry ride in Tacloban. And like most Yolanda survivors, she refused to let that incident hold her back.

Nowadays, as president of the Marabut Women’s Federation, Lorna has helped steer the organization to take the lead in promoting and strengthening the role of women in the community’s affairs. In relation to this, the federation partnered with the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) in organizing the first women-led Solar Scholars Training Program held in Marabut last October, a few days before typhoon Yolanda’s fifth anniversary.

This was the first solar scholars training facilitated by all women who were former graduates of the program. Participants reflected on how gender roles on access, management, and decision-making on energy at the household level have shifted after typhoon Yolanda struck. Opportunities for women to engage in productive work grew and gender stereotypes were challenged. Through empowerment, women have proven that they too – can build and fix houses, as well as provide light and power to the community.

Lorna inspired the participants as she shared to them her expertise and skills in assembling a basic solar power set-up, proving that age and gender are not barriers to learning new things and serving the community.