Overwhelming reaction to Typhoon Haiyan fundraiser

POSTED: 11/18/13 1:11 PM

St. Maarten – The Filipino community of St. Maarten came together this weekend with a lemon-aid fundraiser at Le Grand Marche on Bush Road to support the victims of typhoon Haiyan. Dozens of Filipinos flocked around the entrance and the exit of the supermarket, carrying placards and collection boxes. Filipino nurses from the St. Maarten medical Center were at hand for free blood pressure testing. The lemonade on offer was also free.

Ferdinand Odono, the President of the Filipino community in St. Maarten told this newspaper yesterday that he was “overwhelmed” by the reactions from the St. Maarten community. “Tourists also reacted sympathetic,” he said. “We offer the lemonade for free but many people just came to contribute.”

The Filipino community in St. Maarten is just a bit over one hundred strong – adults and children together. Odono said that it is still unclear whether family members of the local community have been affected by the monster typhoon that goes internationally by the name Haiyan, but in the Philippines the storm has been dubbed Yolanda. “We do not know, because in many places communication is still down, so we do not know what happened to our loved ones.”

Several Filipino nurses that work at the St. Maarten Medical Center however did get information about their families. “None of them have perished, but all their houses are gone,” Odono said.

Despite the fact that this disaster, which was categorized as the strongest ever to be recorded on the planet, occurred hundreds of miles from St Maarten, it did affect a few that live here directly and Patrick Zurita, who has been working in the Emergency Room at the St Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) for the past 13 years is one of those persons.

“We knew that as nurses at the St Maarten Medical Center, we had to do something,” said Zurita.  Realizing that they needed to be of assistance in some way, permission was granted by the Head of Patient Care Tony Pantophlet who agreed to let them use some equipment and to two days off from work in which to do so.

If the huge collage of the dead, the dying, the injured, and those struggling to survive did not cause persons to be compassionate, the live television coverage of the aftermath was more than enough to motivate persons to make a meaningful contribution.

“St Maarten is my second home, but one of the provinces that was affected is where I come from.  What you are watching at on the news is in the most affected areas, but they have not reached certain areas as yet, which also have more casualties and our house was damaged completely,” Zurita said.

Over the next few days, collection boxes will be positioned at various supermarkets and every dollar donated can go a long way to help the victims of a super typhoon that changed the lives of over 25 million people.

The Filipino community has set up a Facebook page about the fundraiser. It has been well received, Odono said: “Everybody is sharing that page.”

Radio host Jeffry Sochrin (Island 92) witnessed the fundraiser on Saturday and he posted the following comment on Facebook: “This afternoon, was reminded of the importance of community. This week on the radio, like most other folks in the media, I reported on the tragic events in the Philippines. Today, in my adopted home of St. Maarten, I saw real community spirit as I watched the Filipino Community of Sint Maarten come together organize a fundraiser for their countrymen in the Philippines.

What began as a lemonade sale, very quickly turned into a full blown fundraiser, with a donation, you enjoyed a wonderful glass of lemonade. The nurses from the St. Maarten Medical Center also joined in to offer blood pressure tests and blood sugar tests for a donation to support those affected by the typhoon.

Nurse Mely Mendiola is one of the popular faces in the Gynecology Ward and has been working at the SMMC for the past 13 years. “My immediate family is okay, but my husband lost his grandmother. When we spoke with them this morning, they said that she was covered with cement and they were unable to remove her,” Mendiola said.

Their efforts came directly from the heart, and next week, I will definitely continue to follow their actions to make difference in part of the world that clearly needs everyone’s help right now. More lemonade tomorrow morning and I know the effort will continue again next weekend. I tip my hat and say job well done. Listen in next week on Island 92 as we continue to follow this story and the efforts of the local Filipino community on St. Maarten.”

On Facebook, the Filipino community thanked Rudy Louis Engel, Mr. Brian of Orleans Auto, and Travel Planners for their generous donations. President Odono does not only extend his gratitude to these individual donors. “I cannot thank the community of St. Maarten enough,” he said.

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