by Chris Canniff
Several student leaders at Boston College have begun an initiative to raise $10,000 to aid the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines November 7-8, leaving approximately 4,000 individuals dead and injuring roughly 18,000 others. UGBC Executive Vice President Matt Alonsozana, A&S ’14, immediately discussed the idea of fundraising with Gerome Paradela, president of the Philippine Society of Boston College and A&S ’14.
“We were really thinking, ‘Is there any possible way that we can support them, that we can take care of the victims, help rebuild?’ And so, a group of us – many of us are Filipino, and other student leaders – met and said, ‘Can we combine resources? All of us want to do something different, but let’s try to come together and make this a community-wide initiative,’” said Alonsozana.
From there, thanks to the help of James Gallo, A&S ’14, the Residence Hall Association also got involved with UGBC and PSBC in regard to the planning. These three organizations have developed an approach to aiding the relief efforts that begins by addressing short-term needs in this semester, and next semester they will redirect their efforts toward providing aid for the long-term recovery process.
Alonsozana said, “People are really struggling to get food, to get water. Relief organizations need money. It’s our short-term goal to raise $10,000 by the end of this semester. We’ve been working with the Volunteer and Service Learning Center and Dan Ponsetto to get a point drive system in which they are allowing us to raise $7,000 by that method, and we want to get $3,000 by our other associated events this semester.”
Events that were already scheduled to take place on campus have now been reshaped around this issue. Following a prayer service led by the Asian Christian Fellowship last Thursday, last Saturday’s International Club Prom was the first event which donated a portion of its proceeds to the initiative. This evening, bcharity: water will be hosting social justice activist Cubby Graham in Gasson 100 from 6-8pm, and there will be donation stations set up for those who wish to contribute toward typhoon relief. A benefit concert and a dance showcase will be hosted in The Rat on Thursday and Friday evening respectively, and on Saturday evening at 6:30pm, a regional Filipino cultural showcase will be taking place in Gasson 100. The weekend will conclude with a Filipino Mass at 11am on Sunday morning in the STM Chapel on the Brighton Campus. Moreover, Campus Ministry has been taking up collections for this effort as well at each of its Sunday liturgies.
Alonsozana has been delighted by the confluence of events that were already planned for this time that were able to contribute: “I really think that it was somewhat a gift from Providence, in a way, that our community can respond so comprehensively because all these events are happening.”
All of the money raised will be donated to Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Looking ahead to the long-term relief efforts, Alonsozana said, “I think that, in the second semester as the needs of the affected communities develop, we might want to partner with other Filipino organizations to which we have personal connections. This includes the Catholic organization Gawad Kalinga, which is sponsored by the Filipine council of bishops; Feed the Hungry; and Hands-on Manila, all of whom are really more focused on rebuilding efforts rather than immediate emergency concerns.”
For Alonsozana, this is also a personal endeavor, as he has relatives living in one of the most severely damaged regions of the country.
“I have family in the area all across the middle part of the country, which is called the Visayas, which is where the typhoon went through. Luckily, they’re doing okay. I really just can’t underscore enough that, since the Philippines is not a rich country, they really need all the help they can get.
“I think if BC really wants to serve, donating money and praying is step one, but really making sure we can keep this in our hearts and minds at least for the next year, I think, would be a great service to those people there.”