Pinoys abroad organize aid for typhoon victims

'We couldn’t just stand around and do nothing. I can't even begin to imagine what they're going through'

MANILA, Philippines – After watching images of the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda on TV and online, Lynza Gonzalez from Houston, Texas, worried about her sisters and brothers whom she has not heard from since Yolanda struck Friday, November 8.

“I’m hoping that they are still alive. I have been calling but nobody answers,” Gonzalez told KTRK-TV, Houston’s local ABC News affiliate. 

Gonzalez is desperate to travel back to the Philippines to find out the fate of her family, but in the meantime all she can do is seek comfort with the Houston Filipino community in organizing relief efforts.

Just a few weeks earlier, the community came together for a fundraiser to benefit victims of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit in October the same region ravaged by the strong winds and storm surges brought by Haiyan. With earthquake victims still trying to get back on their feet, another fundraiser is underway to benefit those affected by the storm.

Because of communication breakdown in Leyte and the Samar provinces, families in other parts of the Philippines and even outside the country were very worried about their loved ones in the affected provinces.

For many like Gonzalez, the waiting game has been agonizing. (READ: #YolandaPH person finder: Looking for friends, relatives, affected areas?). But this has not stopped Filipino communities from mobilizing relief campaigns for the typhoon victims.

Students, GK in US

At California State University, East Bay, 5 organizations comprised mostly of young 2nd and 3rd generation Filipino-Americans, are holding a donation drive for the typhoon victims.

“We couldn’t just stand around and do nothing,” said Janella Ravina, 21, president of the Pilipino American Student Association (PASA), one of the 5 organizations hosting the drive.

“I can’t even begin to imagine what they’re going through,” she added.

In San Diego, home to around 150,000 Filipinos, the US chapter of Gawad Kalinga already mobilized relief efforts. Gawad Kalinga is distributing food packs in coordination with the Philippine military to get the aid to victims the quickest way possible.

“There is no clean water anywhere. Water is going to be the key,” Tony Olaes, CEO of Gawad Kalinga USA, told NBC San Diego.

In Canada, Filipinos already started organizing relief efforts before they knew about the severity of the damage. “We had the whole community rallying on this,” Luisa Marshall, a Filipino-Canadian talk show host and entertainer told Vancouver newspaper The Province.

“I was crying last night because I watched the news. But what are you going to do?” she added.

Marshall organized fundraising efforts with other members of Vancouver’s Filipino community. “We cannot control what’s happening over there, but we can help on our end here.”

The damage and devastation left behind by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) was unprecedented. (READ: Aid official: Destruction like the aftermath of a tsunami

Pinoys in Spain 

Filipinos  in Pamplona, Spain, said they felt helpless at first – and then they decided to do something.

“When you’re far away and you see everything that’s happening in the Philippines flooding your Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds, the first thing you feel is helplessness. But then come the posts about relief efforts, and then you ask yourself, ‘what can I do from here?'” said Alex Gemperle, a student from the University of Navarra.

Alex and friend Selina Artadi are organizing a benefit party for Haiyan victims at a local bar, Valentinos, this Saturday, November 16. An entrance fee of 5 euros will be charged at the door and all proceeds will be forwarded to the Red Cross’ relief efforts in the Philippines.

They planned a party fundraiser at a house, but were surprised when they learned more people than anticipated were attending. Valentinos offered to host the fundraiser for free and help spread the word. Over 500 people have already been invited to attend the event

According to Gemperle, “The support of the community has been really touching.”

Click here for a running list of worldwide Filipino community typhoon aid events, fundraisers and other efforts. –

#BalikBayan is a project that aims to harness and engage Filipinos all over the world to collectively rediscover and redefine Filipino identity.

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