Helping the victims of Typhoon Haiyan from Minnesota

Mark AnthonyWhat would you do if you learned that someone you know is in trouble and you are miles away? Would you still be concerned? Would you still help? My answer is yes! When you want to help someone you do not think twice about reaching out, and the distance does not matter. The spark of volunteerism in you will push your plans forward; taking the initiative to help someone in need comes naturally when there is a stimulus.

In November 2013, the Philippines was hit by super typhoon Haiyan. Infrastructures were down, dreams and hopes were seemingly washed away and lives were stolen from many people. All these things happened in my country while I was miles away, but the spirit of volunteerism was still in me. As a Filipino, I was concerned how to help my fellow countrymen rise up from the muddy waters and make their dreams a reality. I believed that no dreams had ended; some may have been suspended, but hope still remained.

When this disaster happened, many of the people I know here in the United States asked me how my family was doing and if my home was affected by the typhoon. I would always say that my family was doing well but yes, they were affected – and by family I meant my fellow Filipinos. With this, I started thinking of ways to help my countrymen. I felt responsible and I knew I had to do something to reach out. Since I am the President of the Filipino-American Student Association at Minnesota State University – Mankato, we figured we could organize something to help the victims of the typhoon. With the guidance of Cita Maignes, my adviser in the organization, we connected with the administration of the university. President Richard Davenport gave us the “go” signal to communicate with the vice president for university advancement, Mr. Kent Clark, and with God’s grace The MSU Cares Foundation was born. This foundation is geared towards assisting those affected by future natural disasters, and the first donations to the organization will go directly to the Philippines.

In order to spread the word about our organization, we conducted a “Philippine International Café” to introduce students to Filipino culture and help them learn about our initiative. My adviser was interviewed for both print and television media which helped a great deal in spreading the word on how to help our fellow Filipinos who were affected by the typhoon. After the international café, I met with the International Student Association and informed them about the foundation and the possible things that we could do as an international community. Our plan involved my adviser and three women from Minnesota traveling to the Philippines at their expense to deliver the funds to the chosen areas. Our team’s focus is educational development: we have chosen severely damaged public schools that will receive school supplies from the money we fund raise.

The Filipino-American Student Association scheduled a benefit dinner on January 18th where we had a silent auction. We prepared Filipino food and performances such as pandanggo sa ilaw, tinikling and singing, in addition to video and powerpoint presentations, and a presentation from the Nepali Student Association. The event was a success and we raised almost $2,000.

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On February 12th, my adviser and the three women left for the Philippines. They reported to us that three public schools were given $750 each to repair their roofs and 1350 elementary school students were given school supplies. The total funding that our group was able to accumulate through the help of the university, the people of Mankato, and the international community was more than $3,500 plus school supplies that were delivered directly to those in need.

From this great event, I have seen how people from different races can come together to help another part of the world. I have seen children and adults come together to donate everything from pennies to dollars for the Philippines. I have seen how the international community engaged to help the Philippines. I have seen concern in everyone’s eyes and witnessed a manifestation of how people help one another.  I am now able to say that the world is full of people who are willing to help, and all we have to do is voice our needs; it is about recognizing the need of others.

This was not my lone initiative; this was the work of many and I recognize every helping hand that has been extended to us. From miles away I never thought that we would be able to help the Philippines, but we believed in our cause and yes we made it happen. We have given hope to many school children who have just started dreaming of a better life. Caritas Christi Urget Nos (the Love of Christ compels us)!

Mark Anthony Baliuag, Philippines, Minnesota State University Mankato


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