Sitting back, watching and reading the news about Typhoon Haiyan's victims in the Philippines left me speechless and numb, crying and praying, until one day the phone rang. "How's your family in the Philippines? Are they safe? We've been thinking about you."
From that phone call on, the phone continued to ring day and night, showing concern about my family. I'm glad that I have many friends here in America, especially in small communities that are concerned of me, my family, and my country. Such phone calls woke me up and I thought: "I must do something."
Certainly, we cannot deny or turn away from what's happening in the world, especially in Asia. Typhoon Haiyan, the worst storm disaster on planet earth that struck the Philippine island awakened the whole world. It saddened me what happened to my native land, the Philippines, especially the Visayan Island.
Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded in Philippine history, devastated many towns on Visayan Island, especially Tacloban City, which was once one of the most beautiful, progressive cities of the country, but now is a ghost town. Many neighboring communities of Tacloban City suffered damages and casualties also. In the midst of this tragedy, many countries especially the United States of America responded generously. Filipinos are thankful for the immediate aid from different countries. These gracious gestures keep the Filipino Spirit alive.
As a Filipino-American citizen, although my family in Luzon was safe, my thoughts and prayers are for my fellow Filipinos on Visayan island. Many of my fellow Bicolanos in Luzon Island organized relief operations and traveled to Tacloban and other nearby towns devastated by the typhoon.
Some of my friends, who live in USA and other parts of the world, are thankful that their families/relatives are safe. However, many of their relatives experienced heavy property damage, and a few of my friends do not yet know if their families are alive injured. We continue to pray for them.
In spite of my other projects in Reach for the Stars of collecting books and sending to Filipino children, I thought of doing some fundraising and appealing to people in the area for help for the typhoon victims. I've been giving some presentations and singing in some churches and they are very generous to help for the Philippine relief.
I was informed by a reliable source from the Philippines, who is also giving relief, that there are special needs that we can send to the victims. Some of the special and immediate needs are: medical kits, bar soaps, toothbrushes, toothpaste, canned goods, noodles, linen. We have people that donated clothes. We can use children's clothes.
Because of our location here in Pocahontas County, there is no nearby shipping company that will send our boxes of donated items for free. Reach for the Stars will utilize our shipment carrier in Chicago to transport any donated items. Monetary donation is also appreciated. We now have a few hundred dollars in allocated "Philippine Relief " donations that will be utilized to purchase "tsinelas" or flip-flop sandals and other needed items and supplies that those people might need.
We shipped boxes of clothes recently to the typhoon's victims. Shipment of the boxes of donated items will take four weeks to arrive.
I am scheduled to go to the Philippines in January 2014 to inspect, supervise, and work in the field where all RFTS "Reach for the Stars" projects are centered. First, I will visit Visayan Island. By the time these donated items arrived, RFTS team will help me distribute it personally to the typhoon victims. We will give the donations to those who need help most.
We all know that it will take time for the Filipinos to recover from this calamity, but with all the help, support and prayers from all over the world -government, organizations and private citizens -the Filipino people will get their strength back to get up and live normal and productive lives again.
I am appealing to all, please be generous to help my fellow Filipinos. Your donations can be sent to Reach for the Stars Foundation in care of:
518 Bissell St.
Laurens, IA 50554
Telephone: (712) 841-4911
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please contact me if you have any questions.
Thank you and God bless us all.
Flor Johnsen lives in Laurens. She has been an Iowa resident since 1984. She is the founder of the Reach for the Stars Foundation.