Students Help with Typhoon Haiyan Relief Efforts

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

The images are heartbreaking. Many of us in warm and safe households can’t imagine the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan. Yet, there are plenty who know first hand the ravages of natural disasters. Within the U.S., we’ve seen what the forces of nature can do to our neighborhoods – tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and floods have all taken their toll. And, each time, we come together as a nation to volunteer and help those in need. We come together as a community to gather and distribute food, clothing, medical and housing supplies. After Hurricane Katrina and Super storm Sandy, many students spent holiday breaks volunteering to help rebuild devastated neighborhoods.

Right now in the Philippines though, with communications wiped out, limited security and roads blocked, only experienced disaster relief aid workers are allowed in. How do we help those so far away who are in desperate need of food, water, medical attention, sanitation and shelter? There are plenty of opportunities to help including donating money, organizing fundraisers and giving blood.

For now, Meredith Brandt, communications manager for the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region said financial donations are the most efficient way to help meet the emergency needs of those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Help people affected by the Typhoon in the Philippines.

As of November 16, the American Red Cross has committed $11 million to support their global response to the disaster. Funds will be used to distribute relief items, repair and rebuild shelters, provide healthcare and ensure access to clean water and sanitation systems.

“We don’t send in unaffiliated volunteers,” said Brandt. We have subject matter experts that go to help with disaster relief.”

These specialized emergency response teams are experts in logistics, disaster assessment, shelter, health, water and sanitation. They will assist the Philippine Red Cross with rescue efforts and relief operations.

Brandt emphasized that financial aid will go a long way to help rebuild and recover and said that individuals and groups may also consider fundraising for the Red Cross.

In fact, many college student organizations are doing that now. Their desire to help has resulted in a number of creative and tried and true ideas to raise funds for the relief effort.

From using social media to engage their community and collect donations to organizing fundraisers and selling t-shirts , students everywhere are volunteering at home to make a difference.

For the last 15 years, the Philippine Student Association at Texas A&M University has organized a talent show to help promote diversity among the state’s universities. This year they decided to donate 100% of their ticket sales, as well as any other additional donations collected during the event. “We decided to change focus and donate all of the money raised to the typhoon relief effort,” said Trung Mai, vice president of Texas A&M’s Philippine Student Association. “We wanted to make the event more about our mission statement and what we are all about.”

Mai said they accomplished their goal this year to get more schools involved in the program. “We were sold out and packed all 500 seats in the auditorium. We had six or seven other universities support us, including the University of Texas at Arlington, San Antonio, Dallas, North Texas, and the University of Houston. We raised about $2,500.”

The group decided to donate their funds to the Philippine-based humanitarian organization, Gawad Kalinga.

Mai said they looked at different relief organizations. “We decided to work with Gawad Kalinga. It’s an organization that has a lot of credibility within the Philippines. You can go to their website to donate. There are plenty of choices of how to use your donations. You can also help by keeping them in your prayers.”

The Cornell Filipino Association in Ithaca, New York, is utilizing existing events to raise funds. They’ve also planned a bake sale and a cooking competition, So, You Think You Can Adobo on November 22. The competition emphasizes the delicious diversity of the Philippines' national dish. For only $5, attendees can sample and judge the tastiest variation of Chicken Adobo. Their proceeds will go to Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization working to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice.

The Cornell University group used the website Charity Navigator to determine where they would direct their funds. The nonprofit evaluates the financial health, accountability and transparency of nearly 7,000 charities.

The Philippine Student Association at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign held a bake sale and fundraiser this past weekend. Funds raised will be directed to the Philippine Red Cross.

In addition to volunteering to raise funds, students can also support relief efforts by donating blood or organizing a blood drive.

Most people don’t think about donating blood until a disaster strikes. It’s important to ensure a sufficient blood supply and it’s also a great opportunity for community engagement.

While you may not be able to travel the globe now to help with disaster relief, Brandt suggests that students check out their local Red Cross chapter for volunteer opportunities within their own community. Individuals 13 years and older can volunteer.

If you want to be ready to help with disaster relief in the future, then consider disaster response training. Most disaster responders must be 18 years or older. Each local chapter can provide additional information about volunteer opportunities.

“We encourage people who want to help with disaster relief to become affiliated with the Red Cross and be trained,” said Brandt. “So, if the next disaster occurs, you are trained and ready to go either nationally or internationally.”

If you are organizing a fundraiser or would like to personally help fund relief efforts, here is a partial listing of organizations, in addition to ones previously listed, working to help those affected by the typhoon. What are you doing to help those affected by disasters? Share your stories.

Catholic Relief Services

ChildFund International

Direct Relief

Habitat for Humanity 

International Medical Corps

International Rescue Committee (IRC) 

Salvation Army (Text TYPHOON to 80888 to donate $10.)

Save the Children


World Food Programme (WFP) (Text AID to 27722 to donate $10.)

World Vision

Topics: abroad, volunteering, community engagement, outreach, community service, engagement, service, community, civic engagement, global, opportunities, volunteering nonprofit, involvement, nonprofit, social media

Shy or Introverted Students: You can be a leader

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Oct 17, 2013 @ 08:30 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

The five-year-old Natasha was an imaginative little girl living in her own little world.  She played by herself or with her cousins, living comfortably in Neverland until she was thrown into the big wide world: school.  She went through pre-school with her cousin—where the two of them only talked to each other—and spent junior and senior kindergarten (we had two years of kindergarten) mostly keeping to herself the whole time.  She lived within her imagination.  She was scared to talk to people she didn’t know.  Then, at five, she started grade one where she barely knew anyone.  In her new school, everyone could read, but the five year old Natasha didn’t.  From the start she didn’t do very well in class, but luckily her teacher realized her potential.

In grade one, my teacher gave me a green, apple-shaped timer to set when I started my homework, because I struggled with managing my time and finishing my assignments.  On it she wrote, “Natasha, you can do it!” and I did. In time, and with my mom’s help, I learned how to read, and I studied and became self-disciplined.  By the end of the year I was doing much better.  Ten years later, and my peers don’t believe that I used to make D's on those very first report cards because I’ve managed to do pretty well in school. All because of those little words of encouragement, I’ve learned there’s nothing stopping me from my determination.   School Classroom image via

By my freshman year of high school, school came easily to me, but inside I was still the shy little girl again - in a new school of 1,700+ students where I only knew four people.  My quietness was still holding me back.  My best friend wrote me a note in the beginning of the year when I was afraid to talk to someone who intimidated me, and on it those same words from grade one occupy the whole page: “You can do it.”  That was the day I stopped being shy.  Little by little, I shed my inner silence.  I started talking to people outside my comfort zone.  I joined clubs at school and even ran for office in one. I volunteered.  I spoke up, and the whole time I was still just as scared as before, but I did it all anyway. I feel like I’ve become a better leader and person because of it.  Overcoming my shyness has been one of my biggest personal challenges because it’s something I had to figure out by myself, but today it’s resulted in the confident young woman looking back at me in the mirror.

The green-apple timer doesn’t ring anymore because it must have been dropped a few too many times, and when I shake it the pieces inside rattle about.  The message written in Sharpie is faded, but I still keep it and the note because they remind me of how much I’ve grown in my short time on earth.  However, this story is not about my accomplishments, or telling you how great I am—because I have flaws too.  It’s about how I see my own shyness in my peers all the time, and how just a little bit of encouragement would give them the courage to speak up and share the brilliant ideas hiding behind their quietness.  Let this be my “You can do it” to every shy person (but if you aren’t shy keep reading too).

Students help create a more sustainable community.

Being shy can keep students from becoming more active in extracurriculars like sports, clubs, and service-learning.  Timidity can keep us from achieving our goals because being a bit timid and shy is about fearing speaking up both in our words and our actions.  An idea can be entertained in your head, but for it to come to fruition, you need to speak up.  Maybe something inspires an idea in you that could solve a problem in your environment.  Perhaps you think of how to change something in your community like homelessness, hunger, the achievement gap, poverty, or clean water, but that idea is just a thought until you make it a reality.  That takes courage, and it takes confidence in yourself and your abilities. 

If you feel like your shyness inhibits you, I challenge you this week to speak up just once.  Ask just one question in class.  Ask a teacher for help if you’re struggling.  Talk to someone outside of your usual group of friends.  Find out from your peers how you can join an organization at your school and become involved in something that interests you.  Call one local nonprofit and ask about volunteering.  Think of something you’ve always wanted to do, and if the only thing keeping you from it is your fear of speaking up, then challenge yourself to do it anyway.  Sometimes it’s the scariest things that end up being the best things.

Confidence often appears as being loud and fearless.  However, confidence in fact is not how we interact with others.  It’s how you interact with yourself, and how you learn to believe in yourself.  We seek the approval of others before our own, and confidence is learning to be comfortable with your own self-approval.  I’m so grateful that along the way I’ve had people who, in four little words, believed in me and gave me the approval I thought I needed, but I realized all I needed was to find the nerve to believe in myself.

Susan Cain’s book Quiet talks about the power of introverts where she challenges the negative connotations behind the characterization of an introvert.  She talks about how we live in a world where being bold, outgoing, and sociable are valued most, and being quiet and thoughtful are not considered useful.  Everyone is both intrapersonal and interpersonal, but we typically lean naturally toward one more than the other.  With the immutable babble of some successful, loud extroverts we often tune out people who are quiet.  However, Cain suggests that introverts actually make better leaders than extroverts because they are better listeners and can lead more productive groups.  Don’t see your quietness as a weakness; see it simply as part of who you are.

Being quiet isn’t something to be ashamed of.  It’s something to be embraced because it means you bring something different to the table.  Don’t change yourself into someone you think you should be, but sprout into the person you want to be.  

For me, overcoming my shyness wasn’t about changing who I am.  I’m still very much the imaginative little girl from preschool, but I’ve grown up and developed my ability to communicate who I am to the world.  As much as I love my friends and activities that challenge me to speak up, my favorite time of day is between 2:30-5:30am when I can be by myself, entertaining the constant soliloquy in my head.  If you aren’t a shy person, I challenge you to realize that speaking up is not as easy for some people as it is for you.  I challenge you to be the green-apple timer in someone’s life, and if you’re like me and are shy, I implore you to adopt the mantra: You can do it. 

Topics: volunteering, engagement, leadership, introvert, shyness, involvement

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