From the supermarket worker who lost eight family members to the pre-school teacher whose children were left without a roof over their heads, the full extent of the impact of super typhoon Haiyan on Cayman’s Filipino community has been uncovered in a unique charity campaign.
Staff at Walkers Global say they wanted to do more than just send a donation to anonymous victims of the deadly storm.
So they set out to find and assist all of the Cayman Islands residents who had family impacted by the disaster.
The law firm, with the assistance of Filipino community leaders, tracked down 36 people who had either lost loved ones or had family homes and livelihoods destroyed in the storm.
Walker’s staff gave up an hour of their pay to raise just over US$11,000 for the cause – a relatively small sacrifice for white collar workers in one of the richest countries in the world. But the money raised will make a huge difference to the lives of struggling families in the Philippines, many of whom live in remote communities that have yet to see a penny of international aid.
Trinidad Salapate, a chef at Hurley’s supermarket, said the money would go some way to helping rebuild homes and boats on the small island of Nabidas – a community the size of Bodden Town that is home to her 10 brothers and sisters.
“Until now, they do not have a house, they live only in the tarpaulin. The water is polluted, they cannot go fishing. So far, they are only asking how they can make a small house and a small boat.
“After the storm, they are like a new born baby – they have nothing at all. They are hopeless. I really pray that I can find something to help them and I really thank God for the response of the Cayman people. They are so happy they cannot imagine that I could send an amount like that,” she said.
Grace Laxamana, whose family, including two young children, saw their home destroyed in Tacloban city, read a letter from her aunt describing the devastation at a charity event hosted by Walkers on Thursday.
“When we opened the window, it was such a disaster. All our city was in front of our gate. Trees all over the surroundings, the street in front of our house is full of dead people. It was a horrifying experience,” she read.
Michelle Asadon told how she and her husband Mario, who works at Deckers restaurant on West Bay Road, had faced an agonising wait in the wake of the storm to hear from their family. It took them four days to locate her mother-in-law in the province of Samar. She said her family was safe but needed money to repair their homes.
Leony Cabida, who works at Puritan laundry, said her family were living in tents supplied by the British army after squatting in their damaged homes for several weeks.
She said the money would go towards medication for her mother, as well as helping repair homes in the community.
The Walkers campaign was the brainchild of the firm’s global human resources executive Inga Masjule, who used to work in the Philippines. She
enlisted the help of Tess Fontanos, who works for Vigoro Nursery, which takes
care of the plants in the Walkers building, to locate locals impacted.
“When I first started this, I was told I would not be able to find one person in Cayman whose family had been affected, but it was not true, there were a lot of people,” she said.
“We have now helped 36 families directly and there are four more that have come through that we will be able to help.”
She said many of the families had already received money through Western Union transfers and some had sent photos and thank-you letters.
“It is a person-to-person initiative. We wanted to help real people, so we connected the families in the Philippines with the employees here,” she said.
Fontanos, who is from Baguio City, said she had tracked down families through
an on-island social networking site for Filipinos. She said she had been touched by some of the stories.
“They have very sad stories, like one who has eight members of the family who have died. It gets so emotional. They were very grateful for the support.”
She said the money would go a long way in the Philippines towards buying food, water and building supplies.