Time to open our hearts and pocketbooks for the Philippines

Once again, a disaster has wreaked havoc in the world, and those of us cocooned in relative safety and comfort must step up and assist in any way we can.

On the morning of Nov. 8, Typhoon Haiyan brought widespread flooding, landslides and destruction to the Philippines, destroying thousands of homes as it tracked across the Visayas region of central Philippines on its path through the country, according to the Canadian Red Cross.

The storm hit with wind speeds of 300 km/h. Strong winds and heavy rain have also battered the island of Bohol, which was devastated by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake three weeks ago. More than 270,000 people in the area are already living under tarpaulins and in makeshift shelters, and the extreme weather threatens to intensify the humanitarian emergency. The death toll, at last report, stood at more than 4,000.

We are blessed to live in a country where disasters of such magnitude are virtually unimaginable. But with that kind of ‘security’ comes a responsibility to reach out when disaster strikes elsewhere. It really hits home when you see a report on TV showing groups of people who have lost everything standing on the side of the road with signs pleading for clean water and food.

The particular report I watched showed group after group of devastated citizens. And the most painful part was that the aid trucks had to bypass these groups to get to others who were in even more dire need. Can you imagine having watched your home be destroyed, losing members of your family, being hungry and thirsty and watching help drive past you? Granted, aid workers are doing their best and getting to the worst-hit areas. But the images were heartbreaking nonetheless. I couldn’t help but think of children and what they must have been thinking, perhaps not really understanding that aid was going to those in worse shape.

We can be thankful for those frontline workers who are right there now doing all they can to distribute supplies, food, shelter and aid to the people. And on our end, there are many, many ways to help. From the Canadian Red Cross to World Vision to the Salvation Army, there are lots of places to donate money that in many cases will be matched by the federal government.

I couldn’t help but also think how events like this can wield such a profound ‘wake-up’ call to the richer nations of the world. Particularly at this time of year, when the shopping centres are already starting to be overrun with people seeking gifts for people who don’t really need a thing.

Maybe we could all do with a bit of reevaluating. Instead of shelling out hundreds on each other, why not decrease that and send some of that economic ‘good will’ to our neighbours around the world who truly need our help? Such as the people who have endured so much in the Philippines.

It’s great to see local initiatives that have been organized in the wake of the disaster, such as the Filipino Cook Off Fundraiser for Typhoon Haiyan Victims, which runs Nov. 23 at The Hub from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Folks are invited to drop by and enjoy ‘sumptuous Filipino cuisine and the warmth of our company’ reads the poster. What a fantastic way that we here in Red Deer can not only financially help out with the cause, but also support our neighbours right here in this City who may have family and friends in the Philippines.

There is no greater joy than in giving. And what better time to become reacquainted with the happiness that flows from it. I think that’s something we all know deep down inside, but often we get swept up in a overly commercialized culture that insists we need more and more.

We don’t. But there are multitudes around the world that do need our help. And that’s something to keep in focus this holiday season as well.

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