Chiqui Sanchez needed to get her mind off the waiting.
After a typhoon struck the Philippines last Friday, Sanchez spent days trying to connect with family living in the Pacific island country. To avoid sitting by the phone, she threw herself into local relief efforts, joining many area residents in working to provide aid in the wake of the natural disaster.
“Waiting, watching the news, it is heartwrenching, really,” Sanchez said.
Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on Nov. 8, affecting more than 11 million people and displacing more than 600,000, according to the United Nations. A death toll is estimated at more than 2,000, according to Philippine President Benigo Aquino.
A team leader for the Filipino Catholic ministry at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Vienna, Sanchez immediately started putting fundraising plans in place. She also supported her nine fellow team members, all of whom still have family members in the Philippines.
Three days after the typhoon struck, Sanchez finally heard from her nieces and nephews, who let her know they had made it out unscathed. With that worry off her shoulders, she threw herself even more fully into disaster relief efforts.
Sanchez and her team at Our Lady of Good Counsel all week has served as a community support net for families of those affected by the typhoon.
The ministry also has repurposed a fundraiser that had been scheduled for Saturday to raise money for disaster aid. The Zumba fundraising event, which will take place at the American Legion Patriot Hall in Vienna from 9:15-11 a.m., encourages people to move for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.
Each $15 entry fee will be matched by the ministry up to $1,000, and contributions will go toward Springfield-based charity Feed the Hungry’s disaster relief efforts.
“We were going to put the money toward our ministry, but now we have dedicated it to typhoon relief,” Sanchez said. “Looking around to our family and friends, both at home here and at home in the Philippines, it’s hard to see doing anything else.”
Ed Tiong, the coordinator of the Catholic Filipino Ministry of Northern Virginia, said Sanchez echoes the sentiments of many local Filipino Americans, who see both the United States and the Philippines as home.
Tiong left the Philippines for the United States at age 13, and though he no longer has immediate family there, he still feels a connection.
“It’s who we are,” Tiong said. “We never forget that. It affects us, and it affects everyone. These are people, these are lives.”
The Filipino Ministry and the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, which serves Fairfax County, are holding their monthly Filipino Mass this Saturday at St. Bernadette Church in Springfield at 7 p.m. A large part of the local Filipino American community is Catholic, as is 80 percent of the population of the Philippines. Donations will be collected for victims of typhoon through ABS-CBN Foundation International, charity arm of the largest Filipino media company.
There will be a collection at all Catholic masses in the diocese this weekend in support of typhoon victims. The money will go to Catholic Relief Services to aid victims.
These efforts join others already in motion across the county and the nation.
Local news channel NBC4 held a telethon from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Tuesday to raise money for safe water, food and shelter for those affected by Haiyan, working with the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. The local chapter of the Red Cross opened a call center to accept inquiries about missing people from the Philippines.
Nationally, Red Cross and UNICEF have deployed staff and are taking donations, among many other organizations. AT&T announced that wireless customers would not have to pay for long distance calls and text messages placed to the Philippines through the end of the month.
“The outpouring of support, both from within and outside the Filipino community, has just been tremendous,” Tiong said. “The support is there, and we’re just really thankful.”