While she has stopped watching the news about Typhoon Haiyan because it is heartbreaking, a Filipino woman living in Williams Lake is hoping fellow Filipinos and other Canadians will reach into their pockets to help the Philippines.
“When you see our map it is some cities scattered and surrounded by bodies of water,” Marita Santos said. “We are one of the countries located in the Ring of Fire and have on average, 23 cyclones a year, but not all of them are destructive.”
On Monday Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada reported that thousands of lives are feared to have been lost, with a large number of injuries and destruction of property because of the Typhoon Haiyan.
“Approximately 9.5 million people are reportedly affected, and although needs assessments are ongoing, humanitarian needs will be substantial,” the FATDC website noted.
Santos works at Tim Hortons as a supervisor in the afternoons and evenings, and works mornings as a bookkeeper at the Alliance Church in Williams Lake.
Speaking from her office at the church Tuesday morning, Santos said she is also a fellow with the Centre for Disaster Preparedness Foundation in the Philippines, where she worked as a program director for almost 20 years.
“I really want to go back home but I am waiting for the right time,” Santos said.
When Santos worked at the centre she travelled to all of the islands in her home country, facilitating disaster preparedness training.
She hasn’t heard specifically who has been lost to the typhoon but said she is certain she has personally met many of the victims through the training.
“I have a lot of friends there,” she said.
Her sister Cis Doctolero presently works for the centre as a finance manager.
When Santos spoke with her on Monday evening, her sister told her a nearby community was totally washed out.
Wiping tears from her eyes, Santos said it’s hard to be living in the comfort of Canada while watching the devastation in the Philippines.
“I’ve stopped watching the news because I’m always crying,” she said. “It’s hard because I am living in one of the safest places from natural disasters on the earth.”
Santos always saves her tips from Tim Hortons throughout the year to send back home and will be trying even harder over the next few months.
Describing herself as a Christian, Santos said she asks God why she is living safely in Canada every day.
Still interested in ongoing development in the Philippines, Santos has been financing her nieces and nephews to pursue university studies.
One niece is studying to be a pharmacist, one is a math teacher, a nephew is studying marine engineering and another niece is studying to be an accountant.
“I am here by myself without family working to help family back home,” Santos explained. “I want to help give them wings to become productive citizens, not to be bystanders.”
Donations can be made to the Centre for Disaster Preparedness Foundation that will go directly to affected communities, however, Santos said she cannot give out charitable donation receipts.
The organization trains citizens to empower them, she added.
“I work with United Nations, and World Vision is one of my clients, and Save the Children,” she added.
Santos estimated there are presently 100 Filipinos living in Williams Lake.
She just returned from holidays and hasn’t been able to connect with other Filipinos in Williams Lake to see who has lost family and friends directly.