November 10, 2013

Filipino Students at Cornell Hope to Aid Philippines After Typhoon Haiyan

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One of the most powerful storms ever recorded — Typhoon Haiyan — hit the Philippines Friday with gusts of up to 235 miles per hour, leaving up to 10,000 dead and destroying thousands of homes. Expressing concern about the storm’s damage, students in the Filipino community at Cornell say they will be directing fundraising efforts toward storm relief.

The typhoon’s aftermath was “apocalyptic,” CNN said, reporting that in the coastal city of Tacloban — one of the worst-hit in the country — no building appeared to have escaped damage.

Vernice Arahan ’14, vice president of external affairs for the Cornell Filipino Association, said that, at first, she was very worried about her family because she did not know where the typhoon was hitting. She said she immediately contacted her father in the Philippines to make sure that her family was alright.

Although her relatives are fine, she said she is still worried about the population there, as the typhoon’s impact has been devastating.

“The typhoon that hit the Philippines has flattened down multiple towns, multiple communities and took out a lot of the adult population leaving a lot of children alone. I am afraid it’s still hitting,” Arahan said.

The Philippines has been struck by several major typhoons within the past two years, including Tropical Storm Khanun in 2012 and Tropical Storm Washi in 2011. Although the country’s government has made preparations for future natural disasters, the area hit by Haiyan has been seriously damaged, according to Arahan.

Hannah Carandeng ’14, another member of the Cornell Filipino Association, said that, prior to Haiyan striking, the government adopted measures — such as storing most relief goods in the north, where the typhoon was not going to hit as badly — to prevent or at least limit the damage caused by the storm.

However, officials could do nothing to protect the rural area that was most seriously hit, according to Carandeng. The damage caused by the typhoon in this area was compounded by the instability of most of the buildings there, she said.

“In the countryside, there is very little chance to prevent such a catastrophe. The roofs of the houses there consist of sheets of iron that are not even taped to the building,” she said, adding that rural areas also face the challenge of efficiently communicating information in the storm’s aftermath.

Arahan said she thinks that, although a disaster cannot be prevented, more measures to prepare the population are absolutely needed. Some of the most damaged communities were the more impoverished areas of the country, which were underprepared when the storm hit, she said.

“I think that the most important response is the reactive one rather than the proactive one, but I believe that there is more outreach that can be done to the communities who lack the means to be as prepared as possible when such a catastrophe happens,” she said.

Both Arahan and Carandeng said that they were very glad to learn that there were already many organizations — including the Philippines Red Cross, UNICEF and other relief associations — that are working on collecting donations and volunteers.

Up until now, the Cornell Filipino Association mainly supported philanthropic organizations — partnering with Advancement for Rural Kids and the Ricefield Collective — that promote an improved livelihood in the country, especially for children.

Now, however, the CFA is planning on moving its philanthropic efforts towards relief, said Nina Valenzuela ’16, the philanthropy chair of the CFA. She said most of the funds raised by the organization will be used to purchase relief goods.

“Most of the money collected through our upcoming events will probably be used to support those organizations that are now working towards helping the Philippines to recover,” she said.