Op-ed: We cannot forget the Philippines


| oped@queenscourier.com |

STATE SENATOR TOBY ANN STAVISKY

Just over a month ago, the strongest storm ever recorded crashed into the coast of the Philippines. Wreaking devastation over large swaths of Southeast Asia, Typhoon Haiyan has affected over 12 million people in the region and claimed thousands of lives. Even today, the death toll continues to rise. At press time, the latest count was over 6,000 casualties.

It sometimes can be difficult to fathom the magnitude of a storm’s destruction and damage from half a world away. When the victims do not share our common traditions, history or culture, we may feel only remotely affected but that does not diminish the need to help others.

I and many of my Filipino constituents have seen this growing apathy towards the storm’s aftermath, evident in waning press coverage and conversation about the disaster. Our feelings were confirmed by a recent Pew poll which found more Americans were following news about the healthcare rollout than the aftermath of Haiyan. Fundraising numbers also corroborate this—one week after the typhoon hit, Americans raised about $33 million for relief efforts compared to $300 million in the immediate wake of Haiti earthquake in 2010.

So let us be clear—the disastrous denouement of Typhoon Haiyan was total and utter destruction for millions.

New York had a very small taste of the damage that natural disasters can bring when Hurricane Sandy struck our shores just over a year ago. Our friends and family in Staten Island, the Rockaways and Coney Island watched as their cherished homes and livelihoods were swept away by the storm surge. And as New Yorkers, we responded and rallied around our neighbors.

I urge the people of Queens to see the victims of Typhoon Haiyan just as they saw and were moved to action by the victims of Hurricane Sandy. I urge you to treat them as your friends, your family, your neighbors.

Which for many residents of the 16th Senate District, is true. According to a recent Asian American Federation analysis, Filipinos make up the fourth-largest Asian group in New York City, with most Filipinos living in Queens. The 16th Senate District alone is home to more than 10,000 Filipinos who mostly live in Elmhurst and Woodside, more than any other district in the state.

Last week, my colleagues Senator Michael Gianaris, Councilmember Daniel Dromm and I joined many Queens-based Filipino groups to observe the one-month anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan at a candlelight vigil and to review fundraising progress.

I was proud to stand with them that night and I pledge to stand with them until the rebuilding effort in the Philippines is finished. I hope you will join us.

Contributions can be made to the American Red Cross specifically to support Philippine typhoon relief at www.redcross.org. Various Filipino such as organizations Gawad Kalinga are also accepting donations and are able to deliver services with very low overhead costs.

If you are unsure if a non-profit is reputable, you should check their rating on Charity Navigator.

Toby Ann Stavisky, the first woman from Queens County elected to the State Senate and the first woman to Chair the Senate Committee on Higher Education. She currently represents the 16th Senate District.

 

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