As the Disasters Emergency Committee joint appeal draws to a close, a Cambridge-based trainee priest from the Philippines has urged people to keep donating to victims of Typhoon Haiyan.
Seminarian Jude Belnas, who is training to become a Catholic priest for the Diocese of East Anglia, calls parish St Philip Howard Church in Cherry Hinton his “second family.” However, Jude was visiting his home country when the super typhoon struck.
He has appealed to people to give money through charities like CAFOD, which is one of 14 leading UK aid charities that make up the DEC in times of crisis, and has representatives on the ground in the country’s worst hit areas.
In the days leading up to the much-reported typhoon, Jude and his family experienced three other typhoons which brought down trees and cut all electricity to his home province of Pampanga. The country was also recovering from an earthquake.
“It was our fourth typhoon in about five days. The winds were the strongest I have experienced.”
Despite being an hour’s flight from the worst-struck area of Tacloban, the roof of his father’s home, where he was staying, came off and the ceiling fell down.
Jude, who is in his first term of six years training to become a priest at St Mary’s College, Oscott, Birmingham, said: “It was our fourth typhoon in about five days. The winds were the strongest I have experienced. The noise of the wind was a scary thing.”
But the former Anglia Ruskin University humanities student is aware that as bad as the damage and devastation was in Pampanga, far worse had struck Tacloban and Cebu.
“It breaks my heart when I see what has happened. I’m still watching now from my laptop and it is really saddening.” He said the Philippines, being a predominantly Catholic country, has strong faith and many are drawing strength from going to the churches.
Jude said he was concerned that as time goes on and the DEC ends its already extended appeal on Monday 2 December, that news stations and papers will start to report less on what is happening. He fears people will forget to send donations to help those in need.
He said: “I think it is sad that the DEC has to stop but I am still hoping that aid will keep going on through CAFOD and people will keep donating to them. Help is vital. It is great that people are sending food and clothes but what they need is money.
“It’s money that they need to establish themselves and help the community rebuild again. They need to find somewhere that’s safe so they can escape the next typhoon. People need to start finding a way of getting their lives back, of going back to work and a way so that children can go back to school.”
“I am still hoping that aid will keep going on through CAFOD and people will keep donating to them.”
He said some of his friends are planning on going to Tacloban and he would really like to go with them and help in whatever way he can.
CAFOD is channelling support through local churches and responding to the most immediate needs of people and doing everything it can to reach the most isolate and vulnerable people.
He added: “Help is really needed at the moment, in times of devastation like this.
“It is all about standing up together from that devastating calamity.”