Tinley Park senior provides helping hand for typhoon victims
By Ginger Brashinger Correspondent March 6, 2014 6:48AM
Danielle Pascual, 18, a senior at Tinley Park High School, worked with the Business Professionals of America club at school to raise funds for victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan in her native Philippines. The group raised $200, which was used for food, first aid and medicine. | Ginger Brashinger~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 7, 2014 12:31PM
Danielle Pascual is in many ways a typical senior at Tinley Park High School.
Pascual, 18, belongs to clubs, participates in school activities and is looking at her options for college, where she plans to study to become a pediatric nurse.
The National Honor Society member’s time is often divided between school and family, which includes her father, Danny; mother, Esmeralda; and two siblings, Dan, 17, and Danille, 15.
But when Super Typhoon Haiyan hit Pascual’s native Philippines in November affecting people she and her family know and love, Pascual said she had a new purpose.
“I wanted to help,” Pascual said.
The typhoon made landfall near Pascual’s birthplace, Carigara, destroying nearly everything in its path in the province of Leyte, one of several areas severely affected by the storm, according to news reports.
Pascual, who came to the United States and settled in Markham with her family in 2005, read some of the reports on Facebook news feeds, the online site where she kept in touch with her family and friends in the Philippines. Before the storm hit, Pascual said she wasn’t especially concerned because everyone on Facebook seemed to be treating the storm as if it were just another annual event during the rainy season.
“People underestimated how big it was going to be,” Pascual said. “They knew it was going to be big, but they didn’t expect it to be a super typhoon.”
Then, Pascual said, the tone changed and people began posting Bible verses — “technically praying on Facebook,” she said — because of the dire predictions.
Pascual said all messaging came to an abrupt stop “for three or four days” after the typhoon’s landfall on Nov. 8, leaving Pascual frantic to find out what had happened to friends and family.
The next messages she received from family friend Jeanielou (Sanchez) Smith were devastating photographs of Ormoc, a town of about 190,000 people, near Carigara.
“All the houses were washed out,” Pascual said.
Smith, who was visiting Ormoc with her infant when the typhoon hit, left the city with her child and after several days of travel by boat, reached an area where communication was possible.
“She witnessed everything in Ormoc,” Pascual said.
What Smith shared with Pascual was emotionally devastating to her. Pascual said she felt helpless.
“There’s always that (feeling) that I want to help, but I’m young and I don’t have the funds to help people,” Pascual said.
But after speaking with her Business Professionals of America teacher, Laura Munoz, the two settled on a way to raise funds for people affected by the typhoon through the Titan Book Store, giving Pascual a way “to help my people,” she said.
The BPA group had reopened the Titan Book Store at Tinley Park High School in April. Munoz suggested that Pascual spearhead a fundraiser which would funnel bookstore profits during a designated period of time one day to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.
Pascual said the $200 raised — worth much more in the Philippines — bought food, first aid and medicine for victims in Ormoc.
The need is still great, Pascual said. Months later, many people are still “depending on relief goods” and are without adequate shelter and other essentials, according to her sources.
“Everything is more expensive now,” Pascual said. “People can’t afford the basic necessities. A lot of people are more focused on being fishermen. It’s the easier way to make money.”
The lives of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos were changed by Typhoon Haiyan. According to USAID (www.usaid.gov), a U.S. government agency, about 33 million coconut trees were destroyed in the typhoon, “affecting the livelihoods of more than 1 million coconut farmers.”
ShelterBox (www.shelterboxusa.org), a disaster relief organization, said that 11 weeks after the storm, people were still living in tents while homes were being rebuilt. The organization reported that nearly 450,000 families were displaced.
Pascual, who has discovered that she can make a difference despite her youth, said she will “gladly” help others in the future.
“I have always wanted to volunteer and help other people. Having an opportunity to fund raise and help people makes me happy,” Pascual said.
For more information or to make a donation, visit www.redcross.org.