Filipino-Canadians across the Lower Mainland are rallying to raise money and relief aid for friends and family after the Philippines was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan last week.
Dante Sosmena says his mother’s house was largely destroyed when the storm made landfall, and now about 12 people are using it as shelter as they try to take stock of the true extent of the damage.
Sosmena lives in a basement apartment in North Vancouver with his wife, Charito, who says that despite their modest financial situation, their priority is helping their loved ones in the Philippines.
“We always say yes when it comes to our family back home.”“We don’t say no. It’s always ‘yes’ and then ‘don’t worry.’ We’ll figure it out, we can find a way,” she says.
'People are dying as we speak. Right now, people are dying.' - Luisa Marshall
The Sosmena’s however, are not alone. Many in the Filipino community are coming together to provide whatever financial or material aid possible.
Luisa Marshall is a Tina Turner impersonator who has performed at countless fundraisers for a variety of causes. But this, she says, is different.
“People are dying as we speak. Right now, people are dying,” Marshall says.
She’s organized a benefit concert for the Red Cross in Surrey on Thursday night, and an Indo-Canadian businessman has pledged to pay for the hall and 1,000 dinners during the show — at a cost of about $20,000.
Sukhi Bath, owner of Sukhi Bath Motors in Surrey, says that despite his sizeable donation, it’s only the beginning in a long process of rebuilding and recovery in the Philippines.
“This is nothing, actually. We need a lot more to help those people. You know, they’ve been hit three times already this year so far,” Bath says.
Typhoon Haiyan is only the most recent, and by far the most devastating, in a string of powerful tropical storms that have plagued the Philippines this year.
“I think everybody can get together as a whole community to be on this, it’s not only us — the Filipino community,” says Marshall.
“We are able to do this — we need your help. We need everybody’s help.”
The Sosmena’s say they are grateful for the $5 million in aid that the federal government has promised in the wake of the disaster, but are hopeful that Canadians in general will contribute to the recovery effort.
“If they have some extra, just give a little bit. A dollar would make a big difference… If you can, give more. It’s going to be appreciated,” says Charito.
The federal government is pledging to match Canadians donations, but officials caution it's important to make sure any donations are going to reputable organizations.
The Philippine Consulate General in Vancouver has already issued a warning about group posed as a charity for disaster relief outside SkyTrain stations and malls last week.
Recommended aid agencies
Below is a list of recommendations from the B.C. regional office the Canadian Red Cross for Canadians who would like to donate to the relief effort.
If you would like to know how you can assist in the aid effort visit redcross.ca or call 1-800-418-1111
If you are searching for loved ones in the Philippines:
- Email the Red Cross at email@example.com
- Email the Filipino Red Cross at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Use the hashtag #tracingPH to direct your questions on Twitter
- Call the local Red Cross office at 604-709-6600
The Canadian Red Cross would also like to remind the public that the Filipino Red Cross is using social media as much as possible to coordinate their efforts. You can follow their feed @philredcross or use the hashtag #tracingPH if you are looking for friends or family.
The public can also drop off donations at any Sears retail location across Canada starting Nov. 12 or by phone at 1-800-26-SEARS starting Nov. 13. In-store donations of $1-$10 can be made by cash or credit card and a receipt will be provided.