Goshen News, Goshen, IN

November 17, 2013

Local agencies respond with aid

By SHEILA SELMAN sheila.selman@goshennews.com
Goshen News

---- — GOSHEN — Aid is desperately needed in the Philippines after Super Typhoon Haiyan wiped out much of the central islands last week. Several local agencies are helping fund that relief and are asking the public to continue giving.

Some of those local agencies include: Mennonite Central Committee, which has partnered with Church World Service, headquartered in Elkhart; the American Red Cross; and Feed the Hungry, part of LeSea Ministries, South Bend.

Tom Hampson, vice president of development for Church World Service, said CWS is appreciative of the initial $30,000 Mennonite Central Committee has given to provide food and non-food items to the Philippines. MCC officials said that in the beginning assistance will be focused on Suigao del Norte and Dinagat Island (both in Mindanao), Bohol and Samar (both in Visayas). MCC officials said this is where their partners have access.

“Of course it’s an enormous human tragedy,” Hampson said. “The needs are considerable.”

To put it in perspective, the Philippines is actually a country made up of about 7,000 islands. The capital, Manila, is to the north. Then there are the central islands, with the city of Cebu in the middle. And finally in the southern islands is another large city, Davao.

It’s the central islands that saw the most destruction, including the city of Tacloban, the capital of the island of Leyte.

Church World Service is working in a coalition, ACT Alliance, already in the Philippines, which is assisting about 200,000 people in a variety of ways. They are providing emergency food to about 259,000, plastic sheeting for shelter, water, sanitation and repairs.

Food — rice, canned goods, dried beans — are all items that are in the Philippines are being assembled and passed out.

Assembly is being done by another partner, the National Council of Churches of the Philippines.

In the longer term, CWS staff from its Asia programs will be providing technical assistance to those partner agencies.

This all costs money.

The donation response has been really great, Hampson said. It’s hard to measure as of yet and their best barometer has been online giving — and online giving “has been really fantastic,” he said. CWS is closing in around $70,000 already. The average gift is $120.

“People are reaching deep in their pockets,” Hampson said.

Like most of the local relief agencies, CWS is not shipping materials from the United States. Materials are being purchased from Asia, Australia and other countries near the Philippines.

“What we need is cash,” Hampson said.

The cash usually comes right after a disaster and then as the media spotlight turns away, less money flows in. Yet the needs are still there, he said.

“The images are very dramatic,” Hampson said. “I lived in the Philippines for a while. One of the things that’s hard to capture is the Philippines are 7,000 islands. Because of the intensity, the damage is really enormous over a large area. It’s affecting about 4 to 5 million people. We’ll be learning a lot more about the extent of the damage over the next couple of weeks.

“Having been in the fishing communities, they’re not built to stand 200 mph winds.”

He added, “One of the challenges is that people respond when they see that. ... but the recovery process, which takes months and years, doesn’t get much coverage. CWS and our partners are involved in this in the long haul.”

Hampson pointed out that CWS is still very active in Haiti three years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck that island nation. More than 100,000 people were killed in that quake. He added that there is still a considerable amount of work to be done there.

CWS has staff on the ground in the Philippines. Manila is the main point of contact with CWS, so communications is not a problem. They are able to make contact with people and Hampson believes some staff is in Tacloban.

That staffer will help coordinate CWS response there.

To donate, go online to www.cwsglobal.org/haiyan.

Feed The Children

Feed the Children, headquartered in Oklahoma City, with a warehouse in Elkhart, has had an office in the Philippines for 25 years.

“Our programs that we run there impact about 200,000 children throughout the year,” said Mark Opgrande, public relations manager for the organization. “What we are doing right now, we have about three relief teams from headquarters in the Philippines and they have a mobile kitchen. So they are serving hot food — targeting about 3,000 people a day. Right now we’re also trying to find out what kinds of items they need. A lot of it’s going to be shelter.”

So Feed the Children staffers are purchasing tents from nearby countries and shipping them in.

Opgrande said if people want to help, the best thing to do is to donate money by going through Feed the Children’s website feedthechildren.org/typhoon.

Feed the Children has workers in 31 provinces, including the central area where the super typhoon struck.

Opgrande said Feed the Children operates a child development center, where families are fed, on Bantayan Island. Staff are trying to get to it. What they do know is that all the facilities on the island were wiped out.

Feed the Children workers will go to areas where the organization has a center and then work out from there “feeding all the people we can,” he said.

To donate, go online or phone 800-627-4556.

Feed The Hungry

Another local agency that is providing relief is Feed the Hungry, part of LeSea Ministries in South Bend.

The ministry set a goal of raising enough money to feed 1 million people.

The donations amount to: For every $40 donated, 1,000 meals were provided; $100, 2,500 meals; $200, 5,000 meals and $1,000, 25,000 meals.

To donate go online to www.feedthehungry.org.

American Red Cross

Fran Dutton is the international caseworker and office coordinator for the Elkhart County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross has hundreds of offices in the Philippines along with 1,000 staffers and more than 500,000 active volunteers.

At home, the Red Cross is helping people find their family in the Philippines and raise donations.

“I did have a woman come in looking for help on finding information about her family,” Dutton said.

She’s hoping word gets out to other families that the Red Cross can help reconnect them with their families through the Restoring Family Links program.

“If people are looking for a missing family member in the Philippines — many phone lines are down — they can contact their local Red Cross chapter,” she said. Those in Elkhart County can call 293-6519.

The person searching can go to Dutton’s office and she will initiate a search. Paperwork with all of the pertinent information about the family members will be filled out.

Dutton will then enter that information into the Restoring Family Links case work system. She will transmit that information to the national Red Cross headquarters in Washington.

The national headquarters then transmits that information to the Philippines.

If a family member has checked in at a Red Cross station in the Philippines, the Red Cross will have a record of it, Dutton said.

“The Red Cross has deployed five disaster specialists and they are on the ground now,” she said. “They are dealing with communications by satellite system and disaster assessment. One of the major things is right now the American Red Cross has committed an initial $6 million response for this typhoon. As donations come in we expect to provide more.”

To donate online, go to http://www.redcross.org/ or call 1-800-REDCROSS.

Inside Goshen resident reflects on his time in Philippines. A7