Many of you have heard about Typhoon Haiyan that impacted the Philippines this past weekend. What you may not have known is that GoAbroad’s Asia office is located in Tacloban. Today on GoAbroad we bring you a special feature outlining all that is happening to local communities in Tacloban and beyond, and how you can make a difference with relief efforts.
Yolanda, as it’s known in the Philippines, was three and a half times stronger than the infamous Hurricane Katrina. It struck Tacloban City early Friday morning. Communication was cut off, and the waiting began. The first twenty-four hours passed, then another twenty-four before word started trickling in. Friends heard from friends, and mothers and fathers from children.
Founder and CEO of GoAbroad, Troy Peden, and his wife Mylene stood on the balcony of the GoAbroad Philippines office, united in solidarity as they smiled for a photo to be shared with friends and family on Facebook. The GoAbroad family, which includes about 80 local employees, was also sending word. Satellite phones allowed for short calls that held precious information, including the words “we’re safe.”
The Aftermath: Office to Home
Haiyan caused significant devastation in Tacloban City and the surrounding areas in only a few short hours. Nearly eighty percent of structures were destroyed. The GoAbroad office is one of the strongest buildings in the area and was almost immediately turned into a refuge center, providing shelter and supplies. NBC has also set up their international correspondence station in the office and has been using the Peden family vehicle to shoot footage.
The vastness of the damage seems overwhelming even from the other side of the world, but there is good news: a relief campaign set up on FundMyTravel is already more than two hundred percent funded, and the GoAbroad team has just launched a Causes Campaign to further assist with bridging the gap in supplies and relief provisions.
Tears and Goosebumps
Yesterday morning our office received excellent news concerning the village of Cangumbang. From the GoAbroad Philippines office, forty minutes and three modes of public transportation later, you will arrive in a village which sits among palm trees and rice paddies. Over two dozen children will run from Nipa huts to greet you with smiles and hugs as you step down from a motorcycle built for five people. The typically shy people are overwhelmingly open to foreign faces in their village thanks to the work of Elsa Thomasma, a Content Manager for GoAbroad, who lives and works in Tacloban.
Thomasma originally volunteered with the organization Volunteer for the Visayans in 2009 and ended up returning three time before it officially became her home. After spending a volunteer placement building homes in 2011, a facilitator made a comment she couldn’t shake. The houses were amazing and important, but the real need was a central location, a site for the people to go to in a time of need; say a storm.
Coming To Life
The idea sat in the back of Elsa’s head for a few months before she realized the only thing to do was make it happen. She spent the next eighteen months in efforts to ultimately raise over $22,000 for the project. In February 2013, she returned once more, now as a Project Manager, to facilitate the building of what became the Cangumbang Community Center. The official opening of this community center was celebrated in August 2013.
The structure stands on thirteen foot tall concrete columns. The ceiling was speckled with the colorful handprints of village children pressed in paint the day it was opened. This single building saved the lives of hundreds of people last week. The storm ripped off the roof and waters swept around the pillars, but the structure held firm to protect its precious contents. Cangumbang is all but gone, every hut destroyed, but not a single life was lost.
A New Threat
The typhoon has passed, but now they face another problem, one that could be even more disastrous. Many people are left with nothing, including no food, no water, and nowhere to go. Standing water creates a breeding ground for diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, and malaria. They can’t get out and relief can’t get in. The U.S. has sent soldiers and ships, and planes are beginning to make their way through. The Philippines Red Cross has been dispersed and Salvation Army has established some relief sites as well.
How You Can Help?
One thing stronger than the storm is the resilience of the Filipino people. They are resourceful and always willing to work together. Added to that, GoAbroad’s twelve years in the city have deeply embedded our company within the community. We have a unique ability to provide personalized and targeted support, since our contacts know the residents and neighborhoods.
The best way for you to help right now is to give. As mentioned earlier in this post, GoAbroad has launched a Causes Campaign to help with relief efforts, and we encourage you to spread the word about this campaign to your own networks. Even a $10 donation adds up and sharing the campaign is priceless.
Donations made to the Causes Campaign will go through the GoAbroad Foundation, a non-profit organization that has been working in the area for over ten years. Funds will go directly to people in need. Our friends and colleagues, and many others in surrounding communities have been affected by this disaster and any support is greatly appreciated.
Operations As Usual
As you have likely noticed, the GoAbroad.com website is fully functional as usual. The U.S. team is running operations and communication from our global headquarters in Fort Collins, CO.
We appreciate all the messages that have been flowing in regarding our office and team, and will continue to keep you updated with information via Causes and GoAbroad’s social media communities. GoAbroad has been a leading resource in international education for fifteen years and we plan to be around for at least another fifteen.