Filipino community calls for help to aid Typhoon Vamco survivors

A family was forced to seek refuge on their roof following a flash flood caused by typhoon Vamco. - Photo: Reuters.

Members of the Cayman Bayanihan Filipino Community are rallying together to help provide relief to tens of thousands of Filipinos who have been affected by Typhoon Vamco, referred to as Ulysses in the Philippines.

On 12 Nov., Vamco struck the Philippines with the strength of a Category 4 hurricane. It crippled the country’s capital city of Manila and inundated the rural areas with deadly flash floods and landslides.

Scores of people in the Philippines were left homeless in the wake of Typhoon Vamco. – Photo: Reuters

“There are many people who have had to flee to the shelters with nothing but the clothes on their backs,” said Michelle Asadon, the local Filipino community’s public relations officer. “Those who couldn’t make it to the shelters are on their roofs, to escape the water and mud that is [8 feet] in some places.”

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, say the 2020 Pacific typhoon season has been an above average one, albeit not as active as the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. So far, they have seen 22 named storms, 10 of which developed into typhoons.

“Now we are trying to help as many as we can, but we can’t help everybody,” said Asadon. “We are starting with the Filipinos who are working in Cayman with families back home, because we can verify that those people really are in need of help.”

So far, the Cayman Bayanihan Filipino Community has raised $3,000 from a garage sale, and a coin drive. Those funds will now be dispersed directly to people in the Philippines who have been verified by the group’s members.

“Right now, we really need the cash so we can help people get access to food, water, and medicine,” said Asadon.

She added that while her organisation is open to receiving items that could be resold as part of a future garage sale, it was not practical for them to accept donations that would have to be shipped to the Philippines. It is a message that the Cayman Islands Red Cross has consistently echoed.

In a recent statement advising the public of ‘Dos and Don’ts’ when assisting with recovery efforts after natural disasters, the Red Cross said unsolicited goods pouring into disaster areas have often caused a “second disaster”.

Recalling their own experience of Hurricane Ivan’s aftermath in 2004, Red Cross Deputy Director Carolina Ferreira said, “There were hours that were taken out of our day to clear goods from the airport that had arrived and we had no idea what we were getting. Our vehicles, like many others, had all been damaged by the storm so we had to figure out a way to get to Owen Roberts International Airport.”

She remembered volunteers having to load everything up in transports and get it to the Red Cross headquarters, only to offload it all, followed by trying to find space to store it.

“Then came the sorting, and that part was always mind-blowing: winter coats, dirty underwear, and we even got one box of all left shoes,” Ferreira said. “And the most disheartening part was knowing that we had people in real need that we couldn’t get to as fast because our people had been diverted to deal with clearing out these donations which would ultimately end up in the landfill.”

Asadon is working on getting donations from the larger community as her group tries to find different means of raising money.

“We have sent out letters to various companies and people, to solicit funds,” she said. “We really need as much as we can get right now.”

A garage sale is being planned for 7am on Sunday. For more information on how to donate, call Dion Sese (917-6482), Ferdie Ramiento (325-1282), Rachel Gepolla (917-9564) or Michelle Asadon (516-0941).

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