11/21/2013 04:14 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST

GTA woman's monthly support helped family survive Haiyan

A fateful decision to seek work abroad allowed a Thornhill, Ont., woman to help pay for the construction of a family home in the Philippines, where dozens would later gather and survive the onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan.

Romelyn Saneo left a government job and her family behind in the Philippines several years ago to work as a caregiver.

She did so because it would mean a better life for her family and her parents.

"It's worth it, it changes our life," Saneo told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Thursday, when explaining the back story of the journey that brought her to Canada.

Each month, she sends $700 back home to her family.

"It has a big value in the Philippines," said Saneo, who notes that monthly transfer allows her family to buy food and medicine and save the rest.

Over time, her family used the funds she sent them to build a concrete, two-storey house in the fishing village where they live in Bantigue, a cluster of tiny islands in the Philippines.

The home her family built was finished in March.

And when Haiyan hit this month, Saneo’s family had a place where they could stay safe.

In fact, some 100 people gathered inside the second storey of the home, which was strong enough to withstand the winds and waves.

Saneo said that villagers stayed with her family in the home for three days. Many of them have been left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

From Canada, Saneo is trying to do what she can to help them, reaching out to others to donate clothing for Filipino survivors who are in need.