By Lauren Ingeno
Members of the George Washington University Philippine Cultural Society are doing their part to provide relief for the millions left homeless, displaced and desperate after one of the most powerful storms on record ripped through the Philippines.
The student organization has been collecting monetary donations for the Catholic Relief Services, a nonprofit that assists disadvantaged people overseas, regardless of religion, race or nationality. They will be tabling in front of the Marvin Center's main elevators again this week. The funds raised will provide water, shelter kits, household living supplies and hygiene items for victims affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
Additionally, the group is hosting a fundraiser at Cone E. Island, 2000 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, from noon to midnight on Wednesday. Twenty percent of sales from the ice cream shop will be donated to typhoon relief efforts. The Philippine Cultural Society is also planning to hold a candlelight vigil for typhoon victims at University Yard this Friday at 6 p.m.
While the Philippine Cultural Society is planning future fundraising events to aid the Philippines, its members wanted to take immediate action, said the society’s public relations officer Krisha Paz, a senior in the GW School of Business.
“We immediately tried to find trusted charities that we could donate to,” Ms. Paz said. “It’s an effort that is more small scale and easier to execute in a short amount of time.”
Finding secure, trusted charities can be a challenge for those who want to donate, she said. And as aid workers battle heavy rains, blocked roads and other infrastructure barriers, providing relief for those in critical need of supplies, food and medical care has proved difficult.
“It is a difficult, stressful situation to see and deal with. The numbers are very, very shocking,” Ms. Paz said.
As of Thursday, the United Nations predicted that 11 million people are believed to have been affected and some 673,000 displaced.
But the Philippine Cultural Society is confident that the GW community can make a difference.
After just two days of collecting in the Marvin Center, the organization has already received “overwhelming support,” Ms. Paz said, and she has “no doubt that it will help out tremendously.” The student group chose the Catholic Relief Services specifically because it is a trusted charitable organization, she added.
Most of the students involved in the Philippine Cultural Society have family members who are living in the Philippines. All but one member has made contact with relatives and heard that they are safe, Ms. Paz said.
Eight Filipino citizens are currently enrolled at GW. The GW International Services Office is responsible for providing visa, immigration and support services to three of those students. The others are likely in the U.S. as dependents of their parents or spouses, said J. Greg Leonard, director of the International Services Office.
“We have contacted all the students and recent graduates from the Philippines for whom we have responsibility, and can report that they and their families are safe and well,” Mr. Leonard said. “All of their families live in Manila or surrounding suburbs, which did not suffer nearly as much damage as many other parts of the country.”
There are currently no GW students studying abroad in the Philippines, according to Donna Scarboro, associate provost for international programs.
A partner of the university that shares a common namesake— the USS George Washington—arrived in the Philippines on Thursday to provide direct emergency support to victims, including medical and water supplies.
The aircraft carrier, which is home to more than 5,500 members of the U.S. Navy and stationed in the home port of Yokosuka, Japan, has a developing relationship with the GW Veterans Accelerate Learning Opportunities and Rewards (GW VALOR) program. Just last week, students, faculty and staff from around the university helped put together 500 care packages to send to the ship.
The ship brings with it 21 helicopters, which can be used to ferry goods to hard-to-reach areas where people have not yet received aid, according to USA TODAY.
Last Thursday, members of the Philippine Cultural Society plan joined leaders from various organizations around the District of Columbia to discuss relief efforts at the Embassy of the Philippines. On Sunday the society helped host a typhoon-relief day of dance workshops at the University of Maryland-College Park.
Ms. Paz said she would like to remind the GW community that a small amount of support can have a big impact.
“The mantra on social media has been, ‘The Filipino spirit is stronger than any typhoon.’ And yes, of course they’re strong, but they need help more than ever right now. No one deserves to experience a disaster like this,” she said. “It’s going to take some time. But a little bit of relief can go a long way.”
Visit the Philippine Cultural Society’s Facebook page for more information about the organization’s relief efforts.