For Cynthia Cheng, the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan to communities throughout the Philippines, touched close to home, as it is her home. “I have four kids back home, where the typhoon was. I am thankful they weren’t affected that much. They are already adults,” says Cheng who moved here to Tumbler Ridge from Iloilo, Philippines four years ago.
She has been in contact with her family back home and says, “They’ve been worried and crying because they see all these people. They saw the place where the storm went through. They said, ‘It’s just like from a movie, mom. It’s unreal.’ They see people hungry in the streets, sitting down asking for food and homeless. They just put up a tarp, a big one, with two by two wood and then tied it up so they have a shelter.”
The typhoon, which saw a five-metre wall of water devastate the coastal city of Guiwan, also washed out Cheng’s home city of Iloilo, population of about 418,710.
“It happened so fast,” says Cheng. “Everyone was warned, but they never thought it would bring that much damage. In the history of the world, I think that’s the biggest one.”
There have been more than 2,300 lives lost so far from the typhoon, and the Canadian government along with sending five million dollars in aid, have also dispatched The Canadian military’s Disaster Assistance Response Team.
All over the world, the response has been tremendous, and this is mirrored right here in Tumbler Ridge. “I posted on Facebook, some of our friends are helping the Carmelite Retreat House where there are missionaries helping. They will be accompanied by soldiers too, I think, to distribute everything they have right now, sacks of rice, canned goods,” says Cheng. She continues, “I’m very happy to have lots of response. People are texting me, they said, ‘I have lots of clothes here, where can I drop them off? What help do you still need?’ I said, if they have blankets, towels, canned goods, and flip flops, in the Philippines we wear flip flops cause it’s hot weather over there.”
Cheng explains that she knows money is a different matter, but that donating money right now is the most helpful thing to do. She says, “Lots of people are helping with clothes, it’s a very big help. I thought, if everything sent is clothes, then people will need more food to live. So, I’m hoping if people will hear us about monetary donations, just try to understand, instead of sending all clothes we should send money for them to buy food. It would be more helpful if we had some money to buy some food and medicine. I know lots of people are getting sick because of the incident.”
She explains all of the money will be sent to Iloilo to her home. “Then we will take a picture of the receipt that it was sent, and when the people over there, the missionaries receive the money, they will take pictures too, and they will take pictures of every item bought from the money,” says Cheng.
Cheng says she is sending money so people can buy sacks of rice. One 50 kg sack of rice for her community costs about $60 Canadian. “Rice is a staple food of our country. If we could send rice, that would be a big help. I will just buy a 50 kilo sack, so it will still fill up the tummy. Maybe I will send about five sacks, that will be from me. My friend May will be sending rice too,” explains Cheng.
Other assistance being offered from town is from folks at Walter Energy, who have pledged to shoulder the cost of shipping the boxes. Cheng explains that to ship a box is free if there is no destination address, however, to get a box to a specific address costs about $80 per box. Already, they have collected five big boxes of clothes.
“Because God spared us from the calamity, we need to give back. I’m very thankful for everything, for the response, giving clothes and everything,” expresses Cheng.
“It’s not the money, it’s the concern that makes us feel so blessed to be here in this community.”
The Lion’s Club is hosting an Old Fashion Skate with Santa on Dec. 1 from six to nine p.m. The organizers are asking everyone to bring donations for the Philippines Relief Fund.