Empathy aplenty in the Valley for disaster victims
Though he is sending money contributed by fellow Marietta Bible College students to help with typhoon relief in his native Philippines, Donel Rodriguez longs to do more.
“If I could have just the funds to go back right now, I would really do it, just to provide comfort,” the 29-year-old said Wednesday.
Typhoon Haiyan struck the Pacific nation on Nov. 8, killing more than 4,000 people and leaving 1,600 missing and 600,000 homeless, according to the Associated Press. Most of the casualties occurred on the islands of Leyte and Samara, but the northern part of Cebu island, where Rodriguez is from, was also hit.
Rodriguez said his grandfather died from a broken leg sustained in the typhoon because there was no way to get medicine to him.
Most of Rodriguez’s family lives in the central part of Cebu, and people in that region, including his father, and the southern part of the island have swung into action to help those in the north.
“A day after the typhoon, he headed … to the north right away to give some relief,” Rodriguez said.
His father described difficult travel conditions, with trees blocking roads and livestock roaming free.
Rodriguez is sending the money given him by “my classmates from different parts of the globe” to his home church, which will purchase food and water to take to people in devastated areas. The Bible college is also offering support to affiliated churches in the region, including one pastored by a graduate whose building was destroyed.
A group of Belpre Elementary School students was so moved by coverage they saw of the devastation that they wanted to do something to help.
“The (typhoon) was hard enough, plus their homes are gone, people were shooting each other to steal stuff; it’s just crazy,” said sixth-grader Jackson Plummer.
After brainstorming possible fundraisers with sixth-grade world history teacher Robin White, the students settled on allowing children to donate $1 for the rule-breaking privilege of wearing a hat in school. Students received approval for the activity on Nov. 14 and made posters and went to other classes to explain the activity that day.
“They actually turned it around in about 24 hours,” White said.
A day later, the event collected about $480.
“We were just like, ‘whoa,'” sixth-grader Karley Bell said. “It’s just blown us away.”
White said he appreciated his students’ compassion and hoped they would remember going forward that they can make a difference.
“A lot of times they think that they’re just kids, and they can’t do much,” he said.
The money the students collected was given to the Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
“It’s just an awesome thing for the kids to see what’s happening even across the country and the world … to know that they want to help,” said Sheri Schwartz, executive director of the chapter.
The chapter is accepting donations for relief efforts to the Philippines, as well as the tornadoes that struck several Midwestern states, including parts of Ohio, on Sunday. People can drop off or mail checks to the chapter house at 401 Fourth St. and write “typhoon” or “tornado” in the memo line.
“That’ll go directly to the incident,” Schwartz said.
The Salvation Army in Marietta is also accepting donations for that organization’s relief efforts, which include distributing food and medical supplies and counseling.
“We’re everywhere,” said Maj. Karen Garrett, with the local office, located at 136 Front St. “Whatever they send in, as long as they designate it in their memo line, we’ll make sure it gets to the right place.”