Student groups rally to support Philippines after devastation by Typhoon Haiyan

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Ariel D. Hayat/Staff

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Wayne Jopanda’s mom calls him from the Philippines every night at midnight, as soon as she gets home from her late shift at work. But on Friday night, the call did not come. Not at first.

“She called me at 2 a.m. this time, which was very odd,” said Jopanda, a UC Berkeley senior double-majoring in ethnic studies and political science. “And suddenly, she’s just telling me about this typhoon.”

Early Friday morning, Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the eastern side of the Philippines. By Friday night, many of the islands’ provinces were left without power, roads were destroyed and roofs were ripped off buildings by the powerful winds.

The storm’s toll became clearer as it passed. Thousands are dead, tens of thousands displaced and hundreds of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed. The death toll continues to climb.

On campus, as in the rest of the world, the response has been immediate. Several student groups initiated fundraising drives for relief efforts in the Philippines, and campus officials, faculty and staff have taken action as well.

Seven Filipino student organizations came together over the weekend to strategize how to raise money to support the cause. The collaborative coalition, called Act4thePhilippines, will exchange ribbons for donations until Nov. 26 and will hold a moment of silence and candlelight vigil next week.

Act4thePhilippines organizer and CalSERVE Senator Sean Tan said that the candlelight vigil will be a time to stand in solidarity with the victims of the typhoon. He also plans to introduce a bill to the ASUC Senate in support of efforts to raise money for the country beyond the end of the Act4thePhilippines drive.

“(We are) talking about what our long-term commitment to the Philippines will look like, so after these two weeks, our organizations will talk about what this long-term commitment will look like,” Tan said.

The gravity of the typhoon’s effects also prompted response from Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who sent out a campuswide email earlier this week expressing concern for members of the campus community who may have been affected, highlighting the global presence that UC Berkeley holds.

“We are also reminded that our campus is a global community that includes students, faculty, staff, scholars, alumni and friends with ties to the Philippines,” Dirks said in the email. “We will also be ready to support efforts by faculty, student and/or staff associations with an interest in supporting aid and relief activities. Together, we will do all we can to help those in need.”

Jopanda and other Filipino students, who make up 2.3 percent of UC Berkeley’s student population, have found comfort in talking to one another about a shared experience to which not everyone can relate.

“It took me a while to take in the severity of the situation,” Jopanda said. “All the pictures of families looking for fathers, grandparents, daughters, children — and it really hit me. I have been in constant connection with family, just to make sure everyone is OK.”

In addition to Act4thePhilippines, staff and residents at International House have organized events to raise funds and support relief efforts. They will hold their own moment of silence Friday on the steps of I-House as well as a benefit concert Dec. 4.

Aya Fabros, a graduate student and resident of I-House, said she was excited to hear how many students expressed a desire to support relief efforts.

“I will certainly be joining this,” Fabros said. “I think survivors would be heartened to hear about the many initiatives big and small that they are sparking.”

Jose Hernandez covers campus life. Contact him at [email protected].