Canada's Filipino community rallies to help after typhoon devastation

TORONTO – Members of Canada’s Filipino community faced daunting logistical challenges as they scrambled on Monday to collect cash and relief supplies for victims of last week’s catastrophic typhoon.

The biggest problem, said one spokeswoman, was the cost and difficulty of getting the supplies to the Philippines, where food shortages are compounding already unfathomable misery.

“It’s really very overwhelming,” said Rosemer Enverga with Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Toronto.

“By the day, it’s getting worse.”

As volunteers packed boxes of canned goods, clothing, blankets and other supplies at the church, Enverga noted it would take well over a month to get the goods to where they are desperately needed.

The problem, she said, is air freight is prohibitively expensive, leaving sea shipment as the only option. However, even sea freight is expensive, and many companies are already at capacity in anticipation of the Christmas rush.

“It would be nice if an airline could sponsor,” Enverga said.

“We’re still praying and keeping our fingers crossed that somebody with good heart and generous enough will sponsor the shipment costs.”

Given the cost of shipping supplies, the Red Cross said cash was the best way for Canadians to help because money would allow the Philippines Red Cross to identify needed supplies and source them more cheaply.

The relief agency had already raised $1.2 million in donations as of noon Monday, said spokesman Guy LePage.

“People are being very generous,” said LePage, who noted the true scope of the disaster has yet to emerge.

“This is going to be a long-term recovery program.”

In addition, the Canadian Red Cross was set to deploy a mobile hospital that would offer basic health-care services in conjunction with its Norwegian and Hong Kong counterparts, LePage said.

The unit would be able to care for 20 people at a time, he said.

Canadians who want to donate through the Red Cross can do so via and designate typhoon Haiyan. They can also donate $5 by texting redcross at 30333.

The Canadian government has pledged $5 million in disaster relief and offered to match Canadian donations dollar for dollar.

Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the president of the Philippines to express condolences and offer support.

Harper spoke with Benigno Aquino to say the thoughts and prayers of Canadians were with those affected by the horrific storm that has killed thousands.

Canada was ready to help and support the Philippines in responding to the disaster, and was deploying a disaster-response team to assess the needs on the ground and identify response options, Harper told Aquino.

Aquino expressed his sincere thanks to Canada.

As many as 200,000 Filipinos in the Toronto area have been affected by the disaster, said Filipino-Canadian Martha Joy, who is planning a series of fundraising concerts.

The first will be held Nov. 22 in the city’s east end.

Joy, who was 8th in the 2007 “Canadian Idol,” said the concerts were the least she could do.

“I am deeply saddened by what has happened,” she said.

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