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Haiyan ravages the Philippines, HPU students offer help

    By Pavel Stankov. November 18, 2013 - 8:59 am

Residents walk near vehicles and debris floating on a river after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated Tacloban city in central Philippines

Superstorm Haiyan made a landfall in the Central Philippine region of Visayas on Thursday and Friday, November 7-8, only three weeks after the devastating Bohol Earthquake shook the same area.

The typhoon, locally known as Yolanda, was called “Storm of the Century” by local media and is documented as the fourth strongest ever and the strongest to make a landfall since there have been measurements.

More than 3,600 are confirmed dead according to latest estimations. The hardest hit areas are some of the poorest in the Philippines – low-lying areas exposed to the Pacific on the islands of Samar and Leyte in the Eastern Visayas. More than 600,000 have lost their homes to the 15+ feet storm surge and some of the strongest winds on record – approaching 200 mph sustained speed according to cyclone researcher Jeff Masters.

“We’ve never seen one this strong and it affects such a vulnerable area in a coastline which is defenseless,” said meteorologist Tom Sater for BBC.

Many of the 9.5 million residents of the affected area have turned to looting in hopes of finding food and fresh water. More than a week after the storm aid is still tardy because of the substandard infrastructure and government corruption. Some of the hardest hit parts of Leyte were beyond the reach of medical personnel until November 15, amounting to an entire week of utter devastation.

The supertyphoon is the second deadliest in Philippine history after Thelma of 1991 and is a humanitarian disaster, which will take years to recover from.

Haiyan also forcefully brings into focus the discussion of climate change. Coincidentally, the 2013 UN Climate Change Conference opened in Warsaw, Poland, the wake of the catastrophe on November 11 and will continue until the 22nd. Philippine representative Yeb Saño declared his support to the starvation of his home region and announced he would stop eating “until a meaningful outcome is in sight.”

In solidarity more than 60 other panelists declared a similar “fast” ever since.

Hawaii’s active Filipino community and its supporters are not standing on the side. Last Wednesday former Governor Ben Cayetano announced his partnership with the AARP Foundation. The organization will match donations up to $500,000 hoping to raise a million and transfer 100% of the funds. To donate via AARP, visit www.AARP.org/disasterrelief. The Catholic Diocese of Hawaii has already sent money, and a number of private individuals are preparing financial aid and nonperishable food for the victims of the category 5 cyclone.

HPU students are also becoming active. Former Student Body President Collin Paran and Visayan born Maria Jalkestedt are organizing a fundraiser through a nonprofit Church-affiliated organization in the Philippines Jalkestedt has previously volunteered with.

Paran, whose mother is from Cebu in the Central Visayas, is harnessing resources of MuBeta Solutions, a start-up of which he is a part owner: “We just want to help and are willing to do programming and (donate) server space.”

Jalkestedt, who is now 21, shares some personal experiences that motivate her to donate time and passion organizing this upcoming charity: “When I was 12 years old, in the Northern Philippines, I experienced my first typhoon,” she said. “I remember not being able to sleep all night because of the strong winds and the dogs barking loudly throughout the storm.”

“When I woke up the next morning, half the city looked destroyed. The memory from that morning will never leave [me as I am still] seeing dead bodies floating on the river on the other side of the wall that separated our houses from the poorer parts.”

Motivated to make a difference that will impact the community where many of her relatives from Cebu live, Jalkestedt knows it will not be easy. Paran and her are nevertheless in talks with local businesses and other organizations and a fundraising event is scheduled for next Saturday at Ala Moana Beach Park.

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photos from slate.com