The devastating typhoon that hit
the Philippines last month deves- tated coastal communities. This di- saster, though, received support all around the world, from the UN to students at Rio.
While many groups collected re- lief funds, one student went further. Zach Deleon, a 17-year-old junior, went all the way to the Philippines to volunteer from Nov. 2 to Nov. 11.
“I went on Thanksgiving break and I was there throughout the whole break,” Deleon said. “I saw all of the
commercials on TV and felt obligat- ed to go and help.”
Typhoon Haiyan has been clas- sified as the strongest typhoon ever recorded with winds reaching 195 mph.
It killed 6,069 people and caused an estimated $5.8 billion in dam- age. Approximated 11 million peo- ple have been left homeless and the hard-hit central Philippines, on the island of Leyte and elsewhere.
Philippines Interior Secretary
Mar Roxas said at a news con- ference, “The devastation is—it’s—I don’t have the words for it. It’s a great human tragedy. There’s no power. There’s no light.”
Deleon wanted to go and make a difference in rebuilding the Phil- ippines and aiding the millions of people in need.
Deleon is the first-born child to Filipino immigrants and has family in the Philippines, which also in- spired his decision.
He and his mother, who were separated for a majority of their trip, went to go visit them and contrib- ute to the reconstructing in Manila. Thankfully, none of Deleon’s family was affected.
“Thanksgiving was coming up and I was going to be all cozy while there were millions of people being affected. I felt it was unfair,” Deleon said.
When he got there, it was a mess. Everything was scattered and people were scrambling for food and for their lives.
“It was overwhelming to see the whole situation. There were entire families living under three bamboo sticks and there were starving kids begging everyone for food, but ev- eryone else needed food too,” Dele- on said.
Deleon traveled to different vil- lages and met the International Res- cue Committee, a relief organization that responds to the worst human- itarian crises. “The IRC is kind of like Unicef or Red Cross, an Amer- ican humanitarian organization,” he
said. “I started talking to them half- way through and introduced myself and I ended up volunteering for them for two days.”
He volunteered with several people from all over the world and made both memories and friends that will last him a lifetime.
“One time we went to this one village and the people there started crying because they were so thank- ful because we came and that was very memorable,” said Deleon.
This experience has changed the way Deleon thinks about his life and everything in it.
“I’m a lot more grateful for ev- erything I have now. I think more about giving than receiving,” said Deleon.
Deleon hopes to include hu- manitarian efforts in his career and hopes to go back to the Philippines to help again sometime soon.