Typhoon Haiyan: Toronto woman seeks to help her stricken family in Tacloban
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The grief, the anguish at distance, is a tempest all its own.
Malou Caise can attest to that. She’s been a wreck since Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the central Philippines over the weekend. Her parents and five brothers are in Tacloban, the city torn to bits by the mammoth storm.
Caise feared for their lives until Tuesday, when her family managed to find someone with a cellphone signal. Now she knows the truth, a sort of sorrowful relief: her brothers and parents survive; her two kindergarten-age nephews and their mother are dead. They were children and wife to her youngest brother, who was injured trying to save them as water rushed in and destroyed the refuge centre to which they had fled when the typhoon drew near.
“He managed to escape, but he wanted to save his family,” said Caise. “At the last minute, he couldn’t.”
Though reeling from the sudden loss, Caise is focusing on her surviving family. The 44-year-old personal support worker, who lives in a Wellesley St. apartment with her husband and two kids, is desperately trying to gather the funds to fly to nearby Cebu and relocate her family there. “It’s really hard for me. I cannot sleep right now,” Caise said. “I’m eating well here, and there, even water they don’t have … I don’t even know if they have blankets when they are sleeping.”
Caise hopes to find a discount ticket to the Philippines so she can use her savings to get her family an apartment in Cebu. Monday, she approached the Filipino Community Centre on Augusta Ave. for assistance. She has no idea how much it will cost. “At this time we need help,” she said. “They really don’t have anything there.”
Rosalinda Cerrudo-Javier, president of the Filipino centre, said she’s met many people directly affected. “I have heard cries and sobs and horrific stories,” she said.
Cerrudo-Javier’s centre is one of several groups in Toronto’s Filipino community that’s helping people like Caise track down loved ones and send aid to their homeland.
“Either they want to volunteer, give cash donations, or give donations in kind,” said Cerrudo-Javier, describing how the centre has amassed nearly $15,000 worth of medical supplies — antibiotics, infection-prevention medication and pain killers — and six skids of canned food.
She’s hoping someone will help Caise find lodgings for her large family in the Philippines, especially if no discounted flights can be found.
“There’s no roof over their heads. She has to go back and help them.”
While Caise plans how to help, she is also wracked with regret. Working in Israel, then Canada, she hasn’t been able to go home in 11 years, and so never got to meet her nephews or their mother, Juliet. Now she never will. She knows the children only by their nicknames, Tenten and Owe.
“I just had a good breath since this morning when I heard my mom and my dad and some of my brothers are OK,” she said. “But it’s hard. It’s really hard.”
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