November 20, 2013

LETTER: An Open Letter to the Community on Typhoon Haiyan

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To the Editor:

It has been more than 11 days since Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, which is more than enough time for the memory of the incident to leave the 24-hours news cycle and the minds of most Cornellians. Unfortunately, for millions of others here in the Philippines, memories of the incident will be forever seared into their minds and hearts.

The latest figures from the Philippines’ Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) estimate that more than 13 million people were affected by Typhoon Haiyan, with more than four million people displaced, and more than one million damaged homes.  The scope of the damage is unprecedented and shocking, but to most, the statistics are nothing more than numbers on a page.

I am currently in Manila interning for the International Labour Organization Country Office for the Philippines, and even though Manila was spared much of the disaster, I have seen the damage Haiyan has brought upon this country. The frequent sightings of the C-130s that have brought in thousands of survivors from Tacloban City, the appearances of tent cities on local schools grounds and the cancellation of many of Manila’s highly popular Christmas and New Year’s Eve spectaculars, are continuously grim reminders of the current situation. While, I will be leaving in a few weeks to return to my home, family and community, millions of others have now become refugees in their own country.

So, for the thousands of Cornellians that are complaining about the first snowfall of the season, please be thankful this Thanksgiving that you at least still have a home and a family. For this holiday season, instead of asking for that new PS4 or a trip to the Bahamas, I plead that you instead donate some of that money to one of the many relief organizations operating here in the Philippines. The international community response has been immensely supportive, but we could always do better.

I understand that there are things happening on campus to raise funds and I commend these efforts, but for a school with as many motivated individuals as ours, we should not need to wait for someone to stop us on our way to class before making that donation. Take the initiative yourself when you are bored in class or at work and go that extra step.

However, don’t just make a donation and then forget about the whole ordeal a little while later. I ask that you also take the time to appreciate everything that you have this Thanksgiving and coming holiday season. Truly appreciate and be thankful for your opportunities and what you have in life, because after witnessing the destruction wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, I know that I will be hugging my parents just a little bit tighter each time.

Danny Qiao ’15