Typhoon Haiyan: A Tropical Disaster

What a tragedy it has been to the world and to the University of Louisville’s International Service Learning Program. On Friday, November 8th, 2013, at 6:00 o’clock in the morning, Typhoon Haiyan (also being referred as Typhoon Yolanda) lead it’s surge through the Philippines destroying the homes of island natives and killing more than 2,500 people from the city of Tacloban alone. This unbelievable typhoon has taken its course across the Philippines weeks before participating students of the International Service Learning Program plan to depart. News sources say that people have been displaced and moved to communities that were unharmed by the 200mph winds and waters. The affected areas included Tacloban, Eastern Samar, Northern Cebu, Bohol, and Leyte. To stress the amount of damage Typhoon Haiyan has caused to the Philippines, if the storm would have occurred in the United States it would stretch from the bottom of Florida, across the states and reaching towards Canada. That should change your perspective.

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The International Service Learning Program offers a three credit hour course here at the university. The course is open to any University of Louisville student enrolled in full-time courses. There is no required field of study that is needed to qualify. During the Fall and Spring semesters, an international service learning trip is offered and students have the ability to submit an application, with fingers crossed, hoping that they will be chosen to represent the university and engage in teaching their selected discipline to other students abroad.

Our participating students and faculty members have been preparing for their scheduled trip to Cebu, Philippines that will take place on December 6th, 2013. They will depart to return to the states on December 16, 2013 . After hearing about Typhoon Haiyan and it’s damages, many involved students are worried that the university will not let them travel to the Philippines based on sanitation and health reasons and that their money will have to be refunded to their student accounts. The waves of the typhoon waters reached about 45 feet and the devastation of this tragedy continues as many Americans and surrounding communities lend a helping hand. It is very questionable if this trip will go as planned and at this moment in time, being weeks away from departure, a decision as not yet been made on whether or not the university will allow the trip to happen. The International Service Learning Program awaits as the University’s Provost Office and persons inside Cebu, Philippines provide more information about this storm.

What information can you provide about Typhoon Haiyan and ensuring university students will be safe?

“It is difficult to observe the devastation that Typhoon Haiyan has made through the Philippines. Our thoughts and prayers go to our friends and colleagues throughout the country.

The northern tip of Cebu Island has been dramatically affected by the typhoon. The specific area of Cebu City (located 70 miles to the south) has largely been spared from the most devastating effects of the typhoon. Cebu City is one of the largest cities in the Philippines and, as we have been told from our colleagues in the school district, Lexmark, and community, is operating and functioning normally – with their efforts directed at helping the needy communities in the north and throughout the country.

Additionally, the principals and teachers in the areas the International Service Learning program serves have been largely unaffected and they continue to look forward to our arrival in December. We will make every effort to ensure that students are informed. We also have protocols in place to make sure our students are reasonably safe.

Knowing that recovery from an environmental disaster takes time and resources, we are currently assessing opportunities to support the country through the Office of Student Involvement. Our colleagues on the island continue to assess the damage received by the typhoon and will update us regularly.” – Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr, Vice President for Student Affairs and Adjunct Professor in Education

Is there any chance that participating students in this program will get to go on this trip?

“I have been in touch with Shirley Willihnganz, the executive vice president and university provost. The provost office gets to have the final say so as far as the judgement call. I advised the office that we are looking for more information that is direct and from the individuals we know there.” – Laura Mercer, Student Affairs program coordinator.

How do you feel about traveling to the Philippines after hearing about Typhoon Haiyan?

“I know it was a concern in our class about the university not allowing us as students to go on this trip. We were wondering how our money would be refunded and what will we have to do. It makes me nervous.” – Kristen Larsen, student participant

“I’m just as excited as I was before. I was slightly worried before listening to Tom Jackson, Joy Hart, and Kandi Walker, talk about what was going on. Now I’m pretty chill about it.” – Grant Ford, student participant

“To think that this has happened to the people of the Philippines is so sad. I wouldn’t mind helping them in any way that I can regardless of if we get to go on the trip or not. My prayers go  out to the families harmed by this typhoon.” – Emma Tierney, student participant

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Evacuees of the Philippines continue to board military aircraft in hopes of staying out of harms way and finding a new home. The current president, Benigno Aquino III speaks on the storm and the affects that have taken place. He shares that Typhoon Haiyan is one of the strongest tropical storms in recorded history and it has taken a toll on the people of the Philippines. Across the media graphic images are being viewed of numerous bodies lined up to be processed by police, people walking through damaged homes and rummaging to find belongings, as well as survivors comforting one another. We can be thankful that only the northern part of Cebu was reached by the typhoon, though any part of the storm is of true misfortune. Students and faculty members will be visiting the area directly in the middle of Cebu and the program will take place in those standing schools and hotels. Available resources and scheduled activities are of course delayed at the moment and more information about the International Service Learning Program to Cebu will be discovered. Until then let’s all be grateful that our contributing cardinals are still here with us.

If you would like to help the Philippines, here are two websites you can visit in order to make donations and/or volunteer within the community to help send resources abroad such as www.worldvision.org/Haiyan, www.unicefusa.org/Philippines, and www.redcross.org.ph. University of Louisville Student Activities encourages donations to be made! This would be a great chance for you to take part in being active internationally and to show your respects to those in need during this time.

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The following twitter accounts are being used in order to provide information about relief help and immediate volunteering: @WFPUSA (The World Food Program) and @PhilRedCross (Philippine Red Cross). Vital hashtags are also being used by Philippine survivors in order to find their loved ones that have been separated from one another. Those not affected by the typhoon are being asked to only use the following: #Haiyan and #Yolanda.

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