Typhoon Haiyan – Unity rallies around the Filipinos

With the many smiling, friendly Filipino faces around town making this tragedy seem a little closer to home than half a world away, it didn’t take long for the citizens of Unity to respond to the crisis in the Philippines caused by typhoon Haiyan Nov. 8. The typhoon killed thousands of people and has displaced millions.

Some of Unity’s Filipinos were spearheading drives to assist people in their homeland, but their efforts were supplemented by many other individuals and organizations stepping up to help out.

Clothing, bottled water, blankets and other physical goods were collected and are on their way to the affected areas.

at Unity Public School

Mary Ann Cojuangco, collecting money for the babies of her Philippine hometown, poses with Morag Riddell, UPS teacher who organized a coin drive at the school.

Mary Ann Cojuangco lost her uncle in the storm, and her hometown of Catalogan in Samar province was hit. Tacloban is the largest city wiped out by typhoon Haiyan and much of the relief efforts are focused there but Catalogan is a long way from Tacloban.

She was worried about the babies of the town. With no milk available, the babies were being given coffee and so Mary Ann started to ask people for money that she could send to her common law to buy milk and other necessities for the babies and children of her home community.

Unity Public School students collected enough coins to spell out the word Philippines across the gym floor.

Unity Public School students collected enough coins to spell out the word Philippines across the gym floor.

Unity Public School held a coin drive and collected enough money to spell out the word Philippines in large letters on the gym floor. The Unity Credit Union sent staff to the school to sort and roll the coins, Nov. 22. The total amount collected and donated by UPS students and staff was $1,072; $300 of this was given to Mary Ann for the babies.

Mary Ann and her friends also organized a garage sale at Parkview Place Nov. 30. Staff and students from St. Peter’s School collected and donated many garage sale items for the event, as well as giving the proceeds from their November sub lunch sale to “help the babies.” Garage sale donations came from Parkview staff and other community residents as well. They raised $1,205.

garage sale

The garage sale organized by Filipino residents for typhoon relief efforts had a little bit of everything – Christmas items, clothing, household goods, toys, etc.

Mary Ann was able to send $1,750 to Catalogan Dec. 2.

Myrma Balagdas is another Unity resident whose family was affected by typhoon Haiyan. She knew her family might be in trouble when she was unable to reach any of her family for the first week after the storm. “I was very worried,” she said.

Thankfully Myrma’s family is all right but seven members and their families lost their homes, seven homes. There is nothing left; everything is broken. These family members, including Myrma’s nieces, nephews, two brothers and a sister, have moved into two remaining homes of relatives – making 21 people living in one house and 17 in another.

They’ve been told it will be three to five months before power is restored, which Myrma says makes it very difficult to communicate. Sometimes they make a trip to another city to charge their cellphones. They are using candles and gas for light.

Water is not a problem in Roxas Capiz but obtaining enough food to feed everyone is difficult. Although the government provides relief rations, it is limited per household. With all the extra people in the two houses, the food handed out is not enough. Meanwhile food prices have doubled.

Myrma said people in Unity, “Canadians and Filipinos both” gave her money to send to her family. She has already sent that money to the family and it was much appreciated as they try to survive and rebuild their lives.

Besides sending money directly to affected family and neighbours of Unity residents, community members and organizations have been making donations to the Red Cross, specifically targeted for Philippine disaster relief.

Unity Composite High School students organized a hotdog and cupcake sale, generating close to $900, which they sent to the Philippines through the Red Cross. Student fundraising for relief efforts is continuing through the sale of Knitwit toques.

St. Peter’s Parish had a special collection. The Knights of Columbus are also raising money to help out. The UCW, United Church Women, made a donation and held a well-attended stew luncheon Nov. 29 with proceeds marked for Philippine relief. The regular long term care monthly fundraising barbecue at the Unity Health Centre, also well-attended, donated their Nov. 29 proceeds.

Other groups, organizations and businesses along with many individuals also have helped with money and item donations. These examples are only examples – to show how the long-time Canadian and newer Filipino communities of Unity have rallied to help.

Donations for the Red Cross, specifically directed to Philippine typhoon relief, are still being accepted at the Unity Credit Union, as well as Luseland Credit Union in Luseland and Innovation Credit Union in Wilkie. The Canadian government will match all such donations made before Dec. 9, and the credit unions will continue to collect donations until Dec. 13.

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