Elle Harris didn’t get much sleep Wednesday night.
The owner of Pearl of the Orient, a Filipino market on Dilworth Drive, was up until 3 a.m. Thursday, trying to reach friends and family in Northern Samar. Many of them live just a few hours drive away from where Typhoon Haiyan—known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines—caused the most damage.
This week has been difficult for Harris; she hasn’t been able to contact her sister or brother since the typhoon made landfall.
She did manage to get in touch with her former high school teacher and mentor early Thursday morning; however, the news was not positive.
“According to her, it’s pretty bad there,” said Harris.
“I feel for what happened in my country. My heart breaks when I see a city, very beautiful and prosperous, all of a sudden just washed away.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the confirmed death toll was over 2,300—that number is expected to rise. More than 11 million people have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
Victoria Oppertshauser, president of the Okanagan Filipino Canadians society, doesn’t have any family members who were directly affected by the typhoon, but she has heard from some of the approximately 4,000 Filipino residents of the Okanagan over the past week.
“They have been calling, e-mailing and texting, saying they are very worried about their families back home because they haven’t heard from them,” said Oppertshauser.
“They’re stressed out; they can’t sleep at night; they can’t even eat because they’re worried about their starving relatives.”
Both Pearl of the Orient and the OFC society are doing what they can to help those affected in the Philippines.
Pearl of the Orient is accepting food, clothing and financial donations, which will be taken to Vancouver by Nov. 25 to be shipped to the Philippines by LBC Express, free of charge.
Harris and her husband have bought products from their own store to donate and are paying all of the costs associated with transporting the items to Vancouver.
Harris said she’s touched by the donations and assistance, which have been offered by members of the community.
“We want to be transparent…every single cent and every single (food and clothing) donation will be accounted for.”
More information is available on the store’s Facebook page: Pearl of the Orient2013 Filipino Store Ltd. Donations can be brought to the store at 106-1835 Dilworth Drive.
The OFC society is collecting financial donations, including cash and cheques, which will be given to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. The registered charity has a long history of working in the Philippines and has already committed $100,000 to support relief efforts.
All money raised will be matched by the federal government until Dec. 9.
Cheques can be made out to the Okanagan Filipino Canadians society, with the memo: Typhoon relief.
Financial donations can be dropped off at Kaibigan Restaurant at the corner of KLO Road and Gordon Drive, Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy at the corner of Gordon Drive and Lawrence Avenue or Oppertshauser’s residence at 987 Christina Place.
Those wanting to donate directly to Development and Peace can phone 1-888-664-3387 or visit devp.org.
The society is also planning several events in an effort to raise funds.
Oppertshauser said a fundraising lunch is being planned for Dec. 1 at St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church, 1077 Fuller Ave. She added the society is looking to host a concert fundraiser and is hopeful an appropriate venue will donate their space, or provide it at a discounted price.
“We’re trying to help in whatever way we can,” said Oppertshauser.
“Right now the immediate need is food, shelter and water…when all the aid workers go away there will need to be funds to build their houses.”
The Red Cross has yet to hear from groups in Kelowna interested in doing a fundraiser for disaster victims in the Philippines.
Those who simply wish to make a financial contribution can do so through both online (redcross.ca) and telephone (1-800-418-111) options, according to Carly Milloy, annual appeal manager in the development division of the Red Cross.
The charity does require groups to register their fundraising events—one can do so by emailing email@example.com.
Some of the earliest groups to registered were based on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland, but the federal government is also matching donations between Nov. 8 and Dec. 9 which will be allocated to established Canadian and international humanitarian organizations to support relief efforts.
The Red Cross International Federation also has a team focused on providing assistance in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters and former West Kelowna mayor Rosalind Neis is the local member.
She has not been deployed in this case, though two members from Vancouver Island are en route.
Doctors Without Borders does not have any fieldworkers from Kelowna, or anywhere in B.C. heading out at this time.