The Packer Weekly: West Fargo helps ease pain in Philippines
By Claire DeJong On Nov. 8th, Super-Typhoon Haiyan, known also as Typhoon Yolanda, reached Category 5 status, the highest a typhoon can reach, when it ripped through the Philippines with record-breaking sustained wind speeds of 195 miles per hour and gusts up to 235 miles per hour. According to reliefweb website, this typhoon left 1.9 million citizens homeless with a death toll of 4,460 people. While this storm may seem distant to us here in North Dakota, West Fargo’s para professional Mena Alverson was closely related to this tragedy. Some of her immediate family was hit directly by this typhoon.
“I was in a panic because I couldn’t get a hold of my parents,” Alverson said. “We couldn’t get a hold of anybody for a couple of days. My mom was fortunately in Manila, so she wasn’t right where it hit, but my dad, my brother, my sister-in-law and my nephew were all in the actual area that got hit, which is a province of Leyte.”
When Alverson heard the effects of Haiyan, she knew that her community and friends in this school would be willing to help. After some planning with the key club, the Miracle Minute was created to help provide relief for the victims of this typhoon.
“I felt good that she thought she could come and ask us questions,” Key Club advisor Lisa Mulvaney said. “I felt it was good that she, as a new person here at this school, knew where to come and that she knew that we would be there for her. I think that says a lot about our community.”
When Mulvaney and Spanish teacher Christina Walker presented the idea of the Miracle Minute to Alverson, she was skeptical.
“I didn’t expect that much. I was thinking, ‘Oh, they’re just teenagers, why would they have anything on them?’” Alverson said. “But I know Dr. Fremstad wanted the students to be involved. At first, I was thinking more so that it would be just staff, that we would try to figure something out, but she wanted the students involved to give them a more worldly cause that they could be a part of.”
After the fundraiser, Alverson changed her opinion. She said that especially for the short notice and planning, the money raised was a lot more than she expected.
“If I could raise $300 in three minutes, I would be really happy,” Marquart said. “And that $300 may not seem like a lot, but it’s making a big difference in the long run.”
With this money earned, the school now feels like they are contributing to the destruction that happened in the Philippines.
“It’s what it would feel like if it were the end of the world,” Alverson said. “It’s basic necessities. You can’t give them anything they can’t use. So at this point they need food, water and shelter. And that’s it. I think it will take time. It’s not something that will be okay after a week. It’s a process.”
With the 23,000 injured people, Alverson is proud to have a best friend who is a doctor in the Philippines.
“She’s also having problems,” Alverson said. “There were supposed to be German doctors there for different medical missions, but when the storm hit, they figured they would just go there. But they are having problems with customs since they have equipment that’s not from the Philippines; they’re kind of given a harder time.”
Despite the efforts that have been sent out to help destroyed areas and the victims, there are still long strides that need to be taken.
“There’s no electricity still, they’re still working on getting it back,” Alverson said. “My parents are in an area where they didn’t have to be evacuated, but they couldn’t stay in their home. Right now I think they’re feeling more of the aftermath, the pain after the fact.”
Even though there is still a long way before the effects of Haiyan will go back to normal, Alverson is able to see the good that can come out of this tragic situation.
“I am very grateful and blessed that I have great colleagues and students,” Alverson said. “It makes you even more proud to be a part of this community.”
(The Packer Weekly is an ongoing column authored by journalism students at West Fargo High School with the intent of providing awareness about and insight into a variety school-related topics and activities. For additional information visit www.westfargopacker.org)