It was just about a month ago when Bernice Abrehica looked around her hometown of Guiuan in the Philippines and tried to capture a “mental picture.”
She was leaving to study in the United States and didn’t think she would be seeing home for several years.
But the Guiuan that Abrehica wanted to remember is now gone, devastated by the fearsome fury of Typhoon Haiyan.
“My hometown was the first place hit,” she said Saturday while sharing a traditional Filipino breakfast with dozens of others at the Filipino Cultural Center in Overland Park. “Ninety-five percent of the buildings were devastated.”
The breakfast was a fundraiser for victims of the typhoon, and the center is the focal point for the local Filipino community’s typhoon relief efforts.
Bing Sakach, president of the Filipino Association of Greater Kansas City, said money and supplies including clothing, medical supplies, personal hygiene products and nonperishable food are being collected at the center for shipment to victims in the affected area.
People attending the breakfast were told to be practical in what they donate.
“They don’t need high heels or heavy coats,” an association official told them.
There are about 200 to 250 Filipino families in the area, according to Sakach. She said it is difficult to watch news accounts of the damage and not be able to do something to help.
“It’s frustrating and sad,” she said.
For Abrehica, a nursing student at Penn Valley Community College, the first few days after the storm hit were agonizing because she had no word of how her family had fared.
“I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. There was so much worrying,” she said.
Finally, she got word that her family was OK, but she has not been able to talk to them directly. She has yet to know the fate of her own home.
People who live in the area where she is from are used to storms, Abrehica said, but Haiyan, also called Yolanda, has been described as perhaps the worst storm ever recorded.
“You never expected it to be so grave,” she said. “I still can’t believe it happened.”
The collection of donations for victims of the typhoon will continue through this week at the Filipino Cultural Center, 9810 W. 79th St. in Overland Park.
Drop-off times will be 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Plans are to bundle up small packages targeted to individuals in the hardest-hit towns. They hope to make the first shipment next Saturday.
Items being accepted include: blankets, towels, washcloths, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bar soap, antibacterial liquid soap, socks, sweaters, light jackets, raincoats, flashlights, batteries, candles, wipes, insect repellant, small kitchen utensils, sandals, shoes, slippers, combs, shampoo/conditioner, lotions, canned food, rice, pasta, salt, sugar, coffee, powdered drinks, chocolate, Gatorade, analgesics, anti-diarrheal Lomotil, Immodium, anti-emetic, vitamins, antibiotics, triple antibiotic ointments, hydrocortisones, eye drops, mouth wash, bandages, alcohol, betadine.
Money donations can also be sent to pay for medicine, medical supplies and shipping costs. Donations can be made online atwww. filipino-association .org/ typhoon
Also on Saturday, a doctor from the University of Kansas Hospital left Kansas City for the Philippines to help typhoon victims.
Matthew Markert, a neurology resident at the hospital, left to join two other doctors who will deliver life-saving medicines, according to a hospital news release.
“Sometimes, in the early stages of disaster relief, smaller numbers can make a huge impact when they carry and administer the right medicines,” Markert said in the statement.