Helping out

SaskAbilities and SARCAN collected and donated clothing and hygiene items for volcano victims. Pictured, from left to right, FASCA President Rhigan Abarquez, SaskAbilities Regional Director Kimi Duzan, Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre Executive Director Icasiana de Gala, and SARCAN Swift Current employee Alvis Castro.

A fundraising initiative for the victims of the Taal volcano eruption in the Philippines has been well supported by the community.

The Filipino Association of Swift Current and Area (FASCA) started the initiative and hosted a fundraiser day in partnership with the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre, Jan. 24.

The come and go event at the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre raised a total of $6,325.75 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. as well as a large number of donated items.

FASCA will still accept cash and in-kind donations for volcano victims through the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre until Jan. 31.

FASCA President Rhigan Abarquez appreciated the support of the community for the fundraising initiative.

“We are very thankful for the community for coming and supporting us,” he said. “We are grateful that we have a very supportive community. Thank you for everyone who come in and donated.”

Donations were received from individuals and organizations in the community. The SaskAbilities Swift Current branch teamed up with SARCAN to collect clothing and hygiene items.

“We put out the word that we'll be happy to collect items that would be helpful as they gather materials to ship to the Philippines,” SaskAbilities Regional Director Kimi Duzan said. “So we set out some bins and some bags, and we brought the first load of goods over here today to share. There is a whole bunch of different things and sizes and styles that could hopefully suit different people that fled from their home with nothing.”

She noted that SaskAbilities saw the fundraiser as an opportunity to show support for friends, neighbours and co-workers in the community who are from the Philippines.

“And really this is the inclusion model,” she said. “Inclusion is the place where we have a way of including people here in Swift Current and extend that care and concern around the world.”

The Taal volcano is located in the province of Batangas. It is the second most active volcano in the Philippines and it experienced violent eruptions in the past. One of the most severe eruptions occurred in January 1911, which caused 1,100 fatalities.

The most recent significant eruption occurred in 1977, but different levels of seismic activity have been recorded at the volcano since then. The volcano erupted again on Jan. 12, 2020 and spewed ash over a large area. The eruption affected more than 271,000 people, of which more than 148,000 people were assisted in over 490 evacuation centres, according to data released by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Abarquez said around 20 families in Swift Current have relatives or connections to that area where the volcano erupted. It has been a very stressful time for them, because they are worried about their relatives in that province.

“It affected my relatives there,” he said. “So I couldn't sleep very well, because I'm waiting for updates, how they're doing, are they being evacuated, do they need more help, what kind of assistance and so forth. So it's stressful and while life must go on here, I can't help but think of my family and relatives there. The same goes with my other Filipino friends who are living here who have family and relatives.”

His sister lives within the 25-kilometre radius of the volcano, and she has assisted evacuees who had to leave the 15-kilometre evacuation zone. She has helped 22 families with food, clothing and shelter in the compound where she and her family lives.

“If it erupts, most likely people within the 25-kilometre radius needs to be evacuated,” he said. “My sister is preparing for that together with her family.”

Last week the alert level for the volcano was at level four, the second highest level on the alert scale. The alert level was lowered to level three on Jan. 26, but the volcano remains active and sudden explosions and lethal volcanic gas expulsions can still occur.

The uncertainty about what might happen adds to the stress of families here in Swift Current, who are worried about their relatives in that area.

“There's no guarantee,” he said. “It's not like having a typhoon hit you on this specific day and then after that you'll have rehabilitation. This is a long process. It's stressful for everyone involved. … The people in the government monitoring the volcanic activity say it might take months, weeks, we don't know, but the alert level is still there.”

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