Desperate for aid

Several area residents and a local Filipino-American group are raising money to help relatives and friends following Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines on Friday.

Dr. Niza Licuanan, associate professor of sociology at Kent State University at Trumbull, said while she does not have any immediate family in the Philippines, she does have close friends she has been staying in contact with there by social media.

”They have survived the typhoon, but it has been very hard for them. They are having to survive on a day-to-day basis with lack of food, water and shelter,” Licuanan said.

Licuanan said those in the major cities have suffered the most loss and had hard times getting to remote areas that are safer.

Officials estimate that 10,000 or more people were killed by the storm, one of the most powerful to hit the islands.

”It has been eerie at times. When the typhoon first passed over, there was a four- to five-hour blackout and you could not reach anyone by social media,” Licuanan said.

When the power was restored, Licuanan said she started receiving text messages from friends.

”It was a relief when some had access to power and could reach people,” she said.

The area still was recovering from an October earthquake, she said.

The local Filipino-American group of Warren-Youngstown area is planning a fundraiser, to be announced later, but is taking donations now.

”There are many Filipino groups in the Cleveland and Pittsburgh areas who are mobilizing to help,” she said.

Alwyn Galela, a physical therapist from Cortland and president of the Youngstown-based Filipino-American Organization of Northeast Ohio, said Filipino-American groups are holding “roving” silent auctions at holiday parties across the northeast.

“We figured having silent auctions at the Christmas parties reach a bigger pool of people. It’s better to ask for items than it is for money,” Galela said.

Right now, many are still trying to reach loved ones, and Galela said FAONEO members wholeheartedly understand and want to offer their prayers and hope to their homeland.

Galela said a prayer service is being planned for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Boardman United Methodist Church for those in the Philippines. Donations will be accepted at the event.

“We here in Youngstown and surrounding areas can do a lot to help people in the Philippines get through this difficult time,” Galela said. ”The government, especially local government, is paralyzed because everything has been affected from, transportation to local officials. We can provide help through prayers.”

FAONEO Corresponding Secretary Cora Becker said she was recently informed her family members in the Philippines are alive. Though she wasn’t able to directly contact her siblings from Tacloban, a city on Leyte island left in ruins, her niece reached a relative who resides on a nearby island.

“There’s no real communication from there. We were worried here, but we found out through my niece that my relatives are OK,” Becker said.

“They had water up to the ceiling on the first floor, but they were able to escape to the second floor. They’re still too afraid to go outside because of looters carrying guns.”

Many Trumbull County residents said their hearts are aching for the people stuck in shock and depression. Their only hope is that personal donations directly reach those who survive.

Belen Hanes of Andover, formerly of Kinsman, said her Facebook page has been bombarded with images of a paradise quickly turned into a wreckage where her many friends await help, and she insists everyone give through churches and local organizations.

“The people there need sacks of rice and turf for makeshift shelters,” she said. “What’s going on now is that the help from the government isn’t reaching the people directly or right away, and they need food and water to survive”

“I’m doing it for humanitarian reasons. These people are hurting so much,” Hanes said.