Students coordinate Philippine relief fund

BY SARAH ALLISON
STAFF WRITER 

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines have been left devastated. Two weeks have passed since the super typhoon hit, and over 5,000 people have died. Many more are homeless, injured and in need.

A group of Franciscan University of Steubenville students have been running a fundraiser to aid those in the Philippines. The money that they raise will be split between One Million Lights, an organization that distributes solar-powered lights, and the Santuario de San Antonio Parish, a church in the Philippines that has been involved with relief efforts for years.

“I’m overwhelmed by the response,” said Javier Gomez, a graduate student from the Philippines and one of the people who began the effort. “The word’s going out there and people are responding very generously.”

Gomez, along with Monica Recto, sophomore, and “Sunshine” George, senior, asked friends to help man the tables and collect donations.

“It’s really heartwarming to be able to help from far away,” said Recto, who is also from the Philippines. She said that she felt helpless when she heard news of the typhoon. George first thought of starting a fundraiser when she read an article about the typhoon’s aftermath. She dismissed the idea until her spiritual advisor suggested it to her some time later.

“When he said that, my jaw dropped and I thought, ‘This is the Holy Spirit,'” said George.

She quickly went from the Student Life Office to Student Government, who wrote a bill saying that they would match every donation made by a student.

Meanwhile, Gomez said he also felt that he needed to do something. “I grew up (in the Philippines), so it’s my home,” he said.

He contacted Recto and they began to work on a fundraiser. They chose organizations that they had worked with in the past and were familiar with, making it quicker and easier to direct the funds to where they needed to go.

Recto and her friends have worked with One Million Lights for several years, while Santuario de San Antonio is Gomez’s parish. He had helped them with relief efforts even before coming to Franciscan University.

“Since 2006 or 2007 maybe, we’ve been doing relief efforts every year,” said Gomez, adding that there is an average of three to five typhoons a year. “What is new about (Typhoon Haiyan) was it was exceptionally strong.”

Gomez visited Switchboard for tables. Minutes after he left, George arrived to ask the same question, and the people at Switchboard sent her to meet Gomez and Recto. They decided to pool their efforts.

“It was all coming together because we had all done our part,” said George.

On Wednesday, two days after George began working on the fundraiser, Student Government passed the bill.

“God really planned it,” she said. “We just took that leap of faith and said yes to God, and he put it all together. It came together within two to three days.”

Gomez added a few words of caution. “It’s really easy to give money and then forget about it. The road to recovery is something that takes place over a long period of time.”

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