Medical team to aid Filipinos
By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Karen Blakeman
As the number of people thought to be dead, missing or homeless after a Feb. 17 landslide in the Philippines mounted, the response of Hawai'i's Filipino community and other Hawai'i residents was rapid and generous.
More than $20,000 had been collected for victims of the mudslide in southern Leyte as of yesterday, said Ariel Y. Abadilla, the new Philippine consul general in Hawai'i. Fundraising is ongoing, and checks continue to arrive.
"I am so proud of this community," he said.
Abadilla and Hawai'i's Filipino leaders met yesterday at the consulate on Pali Highway to determine how to best provide relief.
The funds, they decided, will be used to send an Aloha Medical Mission Team to the stricken area.
Vernon Ansdell, tropical and travel medicine doctor at Kaiser Permanente, will lead a team of 10 to 12 doctors, nurses and laypeople on a two-week medical and fact-finding mission in mid-March.
"We'll provide medical care and find out what the ongoing medical needs will be," he said, "then we'll send teams back on a regular basis."
The organization, which had also provided medical assistance to tsunami victims in Indonesia, will work in schools and churches where thousands of displaced families are now living, then move on to support clinics as the relief effort progresses, he said.
The Office of Civil Defense in the Philippines said more than 18,000 people were affected by the disaster, which brought a mountain of mud down on the small farming village of Guinsaugong.
About 1,000 people, including 248 students and teachers trapped inside a school, remain missing. Most are believed to be dead. After weather problems continued to hamper searchers, rescuers turned their efforts to the living.
Only 139 bodies were recovered when the search was called off Friday night, Philippine authorities said.
Geminiano "Toy" Arre Jr., president of the Filipino Community Center; State Rep. Felipe "Jun" Abinsay, D-29th (Kalihi, Sand Island); and Jun Colmenares and Margarita Hopkins, both of the Congress of Visayan Organization, said checks began to pour in immediately after the landslides. The community leaders also said fundraisers, including one by a Vietnamese group, were quickly organized.
As the effects of the disaster become more apparent, assistance for housing, education and other necessities for the victims will also be considered.
An apparent attempted coup in the Philippines and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's decision to declare a state of emergency have had no effect on the fundraising, the community leaders said, and are not expected to hamper delivery of aid from Hawai'i to the Philippines.
Reach Karen Blakeman at email@example.com.