Local Filipino organization strives to help home nation

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

 

Donations and aid

• Filipino-American Association of Clark County and Vicinity spaghetti dinner fundraiser, 6 p.m. Friday, 8917 S.E. Stark St., Portland.

American Red Cross

Archdiocese of Seattle

Forward Edge International

In the wake of the deadly super typhoon that decimated parts of the Philippines late last week, local Filipinos and service organizations are providing outreach, as they monitor the scope of a situation that is slowly coming into focus.

Lourdes Mashinski, a board member for the Filipino-American Association of Clark County and Vicinity, said the local Filipino community is watching what's happening in their home country through social media. Her organization and others are uniting to raise money for typhoon relief. Among Clark County's tightly knit Filipino community, many people have ties to the provinces most affected, particularly those residing in the archipelago nation's central islands.

According to the United Nations, more than 10 million people have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan, among the strongest storms ever recorded. Phone service and electricity in the Philippines are down in the hardest-hit areas as aid efforts start in earnest.

"Of course, it's sad to see what's happening right now," Mashinski said. "All we can do, because we're so far away, is get together and try to do something about it."

She is one of 2,917 Asian Pacific Americans from the Philippines who live in Clark County, according to U.S. Census figures. Her organization is staying busy observing the tragedy and ensuring family and friends of local residents are safe.

On Friday, the Filipino-American Association of Clark County and Vicinity will hold a spaghetti dinner at 8917 S.E. Stark St. in Portland to collect donations for relief efforts. Organizers will accept towels, toiletries, canned food, socks, blankets and other items.

The fundraiser was originally planned to gather goods to aid the nation following two earthquakes that shook the islands last month. It was expanded after Typhoon Haiyan made landfall Friday.

Officials fear thousands are dead. Tacloban, the capital city of the Philippine province Leyte, was flattened by sustained winds clocking in at between 130 and 190 mph. The death toll is expected to rise in the weeks ahead.

From their homes in Clark County, members of the Filipino-American Association of Clark County and Vicinity have used Facebook to watch the unfolding drama. In particular, they're following a former member of the University of the Philippines Concert Chorus with ties to the area. The chorus member visited Vancouver with the choir in 2010, staying with a host family. She's now searching for family members in Tacloban.

Worrying about friends, relatives

Vancouver attorney Enrico Tadeo, chairman of the Council of Filipino American Associations of Oregon and Southwest Washington, called the damage and search efforts unprecedented.

"I know folks who are still waiting for news about their relatives," he said. "There are a lot of people in the Manila region, (with) their family or parents in the Leyte region, and they haven't heard from them."

Damage to homes and infrastructure may end up costing billions of dollars to repair, according to official estimates. Roughly 330,000 people have been left homeless following the storm. About 1,200 makeshift evacuation centers have been constructed to house them.

Amber Heckelman is an environmental science graduate student at Washington State University Vancouver. She's closely watching the storm's aftermath both for her research work and because she has family members in the Philippines.

Her research focuses on restoring food security and sovereignty to the Philippine people, working primarily with a network of farmers who have embraced traditional farming practices.

Her grandmother and cousins still live in the Leyte region. They're OK, she said, but communication has been heavily restricted.

"I know they still have access to food and water," she said, of what information she has about her family's situation. "Social media has been really helpful, at least in communicating with my cousins, because phone lines are down."

For her, the disaster hits close to home. She remembers flying into Tacloban's Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport, which was leveled by the storm.

For now, Heckelman is bracing for more news and dedicating herself to aid efforts. There are a number available locally.

In addition to Friday's spaghetti dinner, sponsored by the Filipino-American Association of Clark County and Vicinity, the American Red Cross is accepting donations online at www.redcross.org/charitable-donations, or at its Vancouver office, 3114 E. Fourth Plain Blvd.

More ways to help

In the coming weeks, the local chapter of the American Red Cross plans to hold more fundraisers, said Paula Negele, of the Red Cross' Oregon Trail Chapter in Portland.

The Archdiocese of Seattle is also asking people to donate to typhoon relief. Those efforts are being spearheaded by Catholic Relief Services. People can make donations through the archdiocese's website, www.seattlearchdiocese.org.

Forward Edge International, a Vancouver-based charity, is seeking people interested in participating in a relief team it will send to the Philippines.

But with the focus shifting toward how to help the thousands left displaced, the federal government is warning people to know their charities to avoid scams.

The National Cybersecurity and Integration Center and the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team on Tuesday warned of potential email scams and phishing attempts. They suggest people avoid unsolicited Web links in emails and review the Federal Trade Commission's charity checklist.