Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines last weekend, flattening towns and a city in its wake, leaving desperate refugees seeking shelter, medical aid, food and water.
Canadians of Filipino descent and Canadians in general have responded with an outpouring of cash and supplies. The federal government has promised to match donations given to registered charities, and has mobilized disaster response teams to assess conditions on the ground in the Philippines.
Images emerging from cities like Tacloban, a once thriving economic hub, shows a wasteland of rubble and splintered wood, reminiscent of the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami of March 2011, the Haiti earthquake of January 2010, and the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004.
Each of these disasters has been met with the outpouring of aid and good intentions, but getting help to refugees in a timely manner and without wholesale looting and graft remains a challenge.
Even now with the international community hopefully better versed at delivering aid to large-scale disaster areas, reports coming out of the Philippines suggests relief efforts are being paralyzed due to shattered transportation links and little available fuel. Donations are piling up and resources like field hospitals are waiting to deploy.
Relief organizations are in a tough position, both on the ground and in terms of avoiding donor fatigue. The magnitude of devastation in the Philippines is immense, but as Canada and Greater Victoria enter the Christmas season, many worthwhile charities are seeking your dollars.
Church-based and social welfare groups are ramping up campaigns for Christmas food hampers, presents for underprivileged kids, and dinners and clothing for homeless people. The Victoria Hospitals Foundation is seeking millions for much needed medical equipment.
With the disaster in the Philippines, local families are being asked once again to find a few more dollars to what is undoubtedly a worthwhile humanitarian cause.
Pressures to donate are real and can stretch the budget of any family, especially around December. But in times of crisis, be it here or half a world away, it pays to be compassionate and giving.
It’s important to remember that thousands of Filipino people have made Victoria and the Lower Mainland their home, and are an integral part of the greater community. Their plight is our plight.