Yukon’s Filipino community organizes typhoon relief

Madelyn De Leon has been waiting for days now to hear from family members who were caught in the path of Typhoon Haiyan. The massive storm struck her native Philippines over the weekend.

Madelyn De Leon has been waiting for days now to hear from family members who were caught in the path of Typhoon Haiyan. The massive storm struck her native Philippines over the weekend.

De Leon, 37, has been living in the Yukon since 2004. Her mother remains at home in Eastern Samar, one of the typhoon-affected areas, and she also has a niece and nephew studying in Tacloban, the worst-hit city.

“There’s no signal,” she said. “I’m trying to call them, sending texts, Facebook. No response yet.”

“We’re just waiting and waiting.”

De Leon is one of several Filipino Yukoners with family and friends in the typhoon zone. While they wait, the local community is taking action.

Last night at the Asian Central Store, a community hub for Whitehorse’s more than 2,000 Filipino residents, the board of directors of the Canadian Filipino Association of the Yukon met to plan a fundraising campaign for typhoon relief. City councillor Jocelyn Curteanu, the city’s first Filipino elected official, Minister Scott Kent and other community members were also on hand.

The group has set a date, November 23, for a major fundraising dinner. There will be a traditional Filipino buffet, 50/50 raffles, silent auction items and live entertainment. The venue has yet to be finalized.

The association will also be distributing fundraising letters to local businesses, offering grocery bagging for donations at the city’s supermarkets, and placing donation jars in coffee shops and other retail outlets.

“We are overwhelmed with the support of the Yukoners: co-workers, friends, other business establishments,” said Ailene Gayangos, one of the association’s founders and key organizers, and a co-owner of the Asian Central Store. “Today I heard from a friend I hadn’t talked to since she retired. Those are priceless. I just broke down and cried.”

Gayangos said the store has become a gathering place for the community in the wake of the storm, where they can eat together, share updates and ideas, and wait for news. It’s also the contact point for any Yukoners looking to contribute to the relief effort.

The Yukon government has announced a $25,000 donation to typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines.

As of Wednesday morning, more than 2,300 were confirmed dead as a result of the storm, and more than 3,800 injured. According to the UN, 673,000 Filipinos have been displaced by Typhoon Haiyan, and more than 2.5 million are in need of food aid.

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