By Joanne Abshire

damage from Typhoon HaiyanFive years ago, when Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines I was working as a news reporter. I’ll never forget seeing the images, hearing stories of people injured, missing, and even worse, killed due to what was deemed the strongest tropical cyclone in history.  Working in the media, talking about disasters was common, but this one hit me hard.

As a Filipina-Canadian, I felt compelled to do more.  I asked around to see if there were any local community fundraisers but couldn’t find any. I thought about sending a “balikbayan box” (a cardboard box filled with goods overseas Filipinos would send back home to family), but I didn’t even know what was needed or who to send it to. Instead, I decided to donate money for the first time to the Canadian Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan appeal.  It wasn’t much, only $100, but it’s what I could afford at the time. I didn’t think about where the money went until I started working at the Canadian Red Cross. Looking back, the disaster was the reason why I wanted to join the movement.

Water is brought to communities impacted by Typhoon HaiyanAs part of the communications team, my job is to help raise awareness of Canadian humanitarian work internationally – responding to disasters like Typhoon Haiyan.  I’ve learned so much about the work our organization has done in partnership with the Philippine Red Cross.  We sent an Emergency Response Unit which included a field hospital and a team of medical professionals like Angelo Leo, a Psychosocial Support delegate, who spent weeks providing mental health support and playing with kids.

I also learned we handed over the hospital and continued recovery work.  The thing that struck me the most was learning about our capacity building within the Philippine Red Cross, helping train teams in disaster risk management, so volunteers would be ready for whatever mother nature delivers in their community. 

I didn’t know back then what a $100 donation could do – but I know now it goes a great distance.