LUC responds to Typhoon Haiyan

Posted on: November 20th, 2013

By Elizabeth Romanski
The Phoenix

Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philipines on Nov. 8 and has been recorded as the most powerful tropical cyclone to ever make landfall, according to NASA. The Philipines government has reported the death toll at 3,637 as of Nov. 16. Photo Courtesy of Simon Davis/ Flikr

Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philipines on Nov. 8 and has been recorded as the most powerful tropical cyclone to ever make landfall, according to NASA. The Philipines government has reported the death toll at 3,637 as of Nov. 16.
Photo Courtesy of Simon Davis/ Flikr

In the aftermath of crippling Typhoon Haiyan, students and organizations have begun collaborating with Loyola Responds to create immediate relief and fundraising projects to help victims in the Philippines.

Shortly after the typhoon hit the central Philippines on Nov. 8, Loyola reconvened Loyola Responds. According to Director of Campus Ministry Lisa Reiter, the organization is a standing committee of faculty and staff members as well as one student representative from USGA designed to organize university efforts when there are humanitarian crises or disasters. In the past, Loyola Responds has aided relief efforts for Hurricane Sandyand the 2012 earthquake in Japan.

“Loyola Responds is an umbrella group at Loyola … to help coordinate and publicize fundraising efforts, volunteer activities and education,” Reiter said.

Led by Reiter, Loyola Responds has 10 committee members from across university departments, including student representative and USGA Senator Dana D’Onofrio, 20, a junior political science major.

Reiter’s first step in mobilizing relief efforts was to email all Loyola students a “care and concern” letter, letting those who have been directly impacted by the typhoon know what financial, academic and mental health resources are available to them. The email also encouraged students to contact her if they wanted to get involved with kick-starting campus relief efforts.

According to Reiter, more than 50 faculty and staff members have raised more than $2,000 to send to Ateneo de Davao University — a Jesuit University in the Philippines that is helping with relief efforts. In addition, about a dozen students and several student organizations quickly reached out to Reiter and Loyola Responds with ideas to help.

“A lot of my extended family is in the Philippines, north of the destruction,” said Alwin De Gala, 18, a freshman English major. “Knowing what life could be like before the typhoon and after, I felt compelled to help somehow.”

De Gala, a member of the response team, said his family lives in the Luzon region of the Philippines and only experienced heavy rain. According to The Weather Channel, Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines’ middle region of Visayas, south of Luzon, resulting in mass devastation and a climbing reported death toll of more than 3,600 people.

Among the students and organizations involved with the relief effort — and the group with the largest voice —  is Loyola’s Filipino student organization Kapwa. Literally translated, the Filipino word means brotherhood.

“We, as an organization, emphasize reaching out to all students, not only those who identify as Filipino,” said Mercedes Herrera, 22, a senior psychology major and co-president of the organization.

Herrera said Kapwa acts as a connection between the Philippines and Loyola. The organization looks to keep students informed about what is going on in the country, while also providing members with a welcoming environment and education about the Filipino culture and heritage.

While her family was not directly affected by the typhoon, Herrera said it has still left its mark.

“I have been to the Philippines every three or four years since I was a kid,” Herrera said. “I know how the people are and how the area is. I have always admired the spirit from the Philippines. Now, this has happened and their spirit has dimmed a little.”

When the typhoon hit, Herrera said their close-knit student group immediately went into action, reaching out to the Rizal Center — a Filipino community center in Chicago — to provide donations and volunteer time to pack relief boxes to ship to the Philippines.

On Friday, Nov. 15, Kapwa, along with other students and organizations, met with Reiter to begin brainstorming campuswide fundraising events. While the groups have not finalized event dates, fundraising ideas include: penny wars (a common fundraising technique in which two or more groups compete to see who can collect the most change or cash for a cause), a benefit concert and a food and toy collection. Reiter said students should begin checking the Loyola Responds Web page for updated information on exact dates for the fundraising events and other relief projects.

Students wishing to donate money can go directly through the American Red Cross or Catholic Relief Services — both Web links are listed on the Loyola Responds Web page — because it is faster than first sending the money to Loyola.

Both Herrera and De Gala encourage their fellow Ramblers to reach out in any way they can, be it through monetary or item donations or by joining the student response team in conjunction with Loyola Responds.

“This is not an [exclusively] Filipino issue; it is a human issue. We are a Jesuit university dedicated to service and helping,” De Gala said. “We should do something. We should help out, regardless if we have personal ties.”

Anyone interested in joining Loyola Responds can email For more information on how to donate and upcoming campus fundraising events, please visit


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