SEATTLE – When Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippine islands of Samar and Leyte a year ago, many Catholics in Western Washington worried about the fate of their family members.
Father Felino Paulino, pastor of St. Edward, St. Paul and St. George parishes in Seattle, said many of his parishioners lost family members and loved ones in the typhoon, which killed more than 6,000 people.
Amid the mourning, Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Seattle mobilized to help those struck by the tragedy, donating nearly $1.2 million to Catholic Relief Services.
“It was really a great reaching out,” Father Paulino said.
One of his parishioners at St. Edward, Joepit de los Santos, has family living in the town of Dulag on Leyte Island. Although none of de los Santos’ family members were hurt, he said the storm destroyed the homes of his mother and sister. The family had to live off coconuts and young bananas for three days until food relief arrived, de los Santos said.
A boy looks at hundreds of crosses at a mass gravesite for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, Philippines, Nov. 8. Many Filipinos continue to struggle with the loss of family members, homes and jobs a year after the storm ravaged the central Philippines Nov. 8, 2013. Photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey
The disaster affected Catholics here in a very personal way, said J.L. Drouhard, missions director for the archdiocese. “A lot of our communities felt directly connected to communities in the Philippines,” he said.
While many local Catholics wanted to donate their time and talents to the relief effort, Catholic Relief Services needed treasure most of all.
Drouhard said the $1.18 million raised in the archdiocese was one of the biggest disaster responses he has seen, rivaling local contributions for Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
In all, CRS received $50 million in private donations and $20 million in public donations, said CRS spokesman Tom Price. The initial response brought emergency shelter, food and clean water to 60,000 households affected by the Nov. 8, 2013, disaster.
One year later, Father Paulino said the work still continues, and donations are still being accepted for the victims. De los Santos said his sister’s home has been rebuilt, but his mother’s home is still in ruins. Jobs also remain scarce, he said.
The challenge now, Price said, is rebuilding homes, improving sanitation and helping the economy recover — a process expected to take five years.
Learn more or donate to CRS recovery efforts in the Philippines.
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