The Organization of Young Filipino Americans at the University launched a semester-long fundraising campaign called the Philippines Relief Fund last month to support relief efforts and long-term rehabilitation for areas affected by Typhoon Rai, which hit the Philippines in late December.
Patrick Salvanera, second-year Engineering student and community committee co-chair for OYFA, is one of the main organizers for this on-going project. Salvanera noted that the mission of this fundraiser is both to help those in need and to promote greater awareness amongst the club and University communities.
“[We want to help] as much as we can because it's billions of dollars in damage,” Salvanera said. “We want to do our part in raising awareness and teaching people, especially people like me who aren't really knowledgeable about everything that goes on in the Philippines.”
The typhoon impacted two major areas of the Philippines — Mindanao and Visayas. In the affected areas, millions of Filipinos lost access to power, communication, water and supplies. In response, OYFA is donating all proceeds from the fundraiser to a local non-profit organization in the Philippines, Lokal Lab Siargao. Lokal Lab Siargao primarily uses funds for community projects centered around farming, art and education, but has diverted all donations toward relief efforts and long-term rehabilitation in the aftermath of Typhoon Rai.
Cheryll Caalim, second-year College student and community committee co-chair for OYFA, was another key organizer in the fundraising process along with Salvanera. She emphasized the efforts the organizers put into selecting a non-profit — a non-governmental organization with a social mission that operates independently from the government — that aligned with the goals of creating long-term sustainability in Siargao.
“We were most confident in [Lokal Lab Siargao] giving Siargao residents the resources and support to build back their homes and be more than just victims to disaster,” Caalim said. “Lokal Lab Siargao also has a history of valuing the living situation of Siargao residents.”
When deciding on a non-profit organization to donate to, the fundraising committee took a few factors into consideration, such as transfer fees, location, past projects and reputability. In addition, Caalim said organizers chose to work with a local non-profit organization that didn’t initially have a focus on disaster relief because they were more likely to stay in the affected areas long after initial disaster relief was provided.
“I think when it came to doing research on NGOs, there were a lot of news articles regarding which ones you should donate to,” Caalim said. “They recommended donating to the ones that have been around before the typhoon because, ultimately, their goal is to help the area.”
The fundraiser was organized by the chairs of two committees within OYFA — Advocacy and Community — with the goal of bringing awareness to the history of typhoon destruction in the Philippines and the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s ability to rebuild.
“We want to go more in depth about the history of the Philippines and just what they've gone through and how that kind of ties in with how it's being handled now, including the government response, and how that may be lacking,” Salvanera said.
Franceska “Franky” Coo, second-year Engineering student and advocacy committee co-chair for OYFA, said the pandemic certainly impacted relief efforts.
“Money is hard to organize during a pandemic,” Coo said. “The numbers are also worse than a typical typhoon. Thousands of people have died and a lot of people are missing. The numbers for how many people have been isolated because of the typhoon and its destruction is higher than usual.”
To learn more or stay up-to-date with conditions in the Philippines, donors can follow other local non-profit organizations in the Philippines that are helping typhoon relief and visit the news links available on the OYFA Instagram and website. A donation tracker document is also available to donors who would like to see total donations across platforms.
“[For this fundraiser], we didn’t want to take money just from people in OYFA,” Caalim said. “We wanted to push it to the rest of U.Va. to show that our identity and what happens beyond the scope of our university is important to us and that the rest of UVA should also pay attention.”
So far OYFA’s efforts to extend their fundraiser to the greater community have been successful, raising $1,270.89 before the payment of any necessary transfer fees. Looking ahead, OYFA has multiple opportunities left for students and the University community to continue making contributions.
Those who’d like to donate are welcome to donate on the fundraiser’s GoFundMe or Venmo @patricksalvanera, with no preference given to either platform. There will be three donation periods for the fundraiser — the first began Jan. 1 and ended Jan. 11, the second began Jan. 12 and will run until Feb. 19 and the third and final donation period will run from Feb. 20 to March 20. At the end of each donation period, OYFA will donate the donations collected during that period. Given the longitudinal nature of recovery and rebuilding, the fundraiser will run throughout the three periods with no set donation goal.
“We have the opportunity to do whatever we want, so we’re making the most out of it,” Caalim said. “We help people and make as big an impact as possible. It's just amazing, taking a stand, and having the rest of OYFA stand with us and tell the rest of the university, ‘Hey this is important, and you should listen. This is who we are and this is where we come from.’”