Remembering Typhoon Haiyan: Palo Alto, California-Palo Leyte, Philippines

Six months ago today, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, struck the Philippines. The “super typhoon” caused catastrophic damage, leaving cities and towns destroyed, over 6,300 people dead, and thousands of others injured and displaced throughout the island. After hearing the news about Typhoon Haiyan, the city of Palo Alto in California decided to immediately respond to their sister city of Palo, in Leyte Province, Philippines.

Co-Vice President of Neighbors Abroad (Palo Alto’s sister city association), Ruth Carleton, approached the City Council of Palo Alto directly after the Typhoon struck the Philippines and requested the city give an emergency monetary gift to Palo Leyte. The City Council graciously donated $10,000 to Neighbors Abroad, who then gave the money to two affiliate organizations on the ground in the Philippines – Feed the Hungry and Phi Kappa Mu Medical Fraternity. The organizations immediately provided rice, water, noodles, canned food, crackers, matchsticks, candles, and towels to those affected in the Palo Leyte area.

The strength in the Palo Alto-Palo partnership stems from an impressive 51-year history of humanitarian exchange programs. In the first couple of decades of their partnership, Palo Alto sent doctors to repair hundreds of patients with cleft palates. After an earthquake hit Palo Alto in 1989, Palo Leyte sent funds to help support their sister city. The project with the most longevity is Neighbors Abroad’s Children’s Library in Palo Leyte. Each year, children’s books are collected in Palo Alto and then sent to the library in Palo Leyte, managed by two dedicated Librarians, thus allowing children to learn and take on the responsibility of borrowing books.

Since Neighbors Abroad’s first contribution, Palo Alto has continued fundraising to maintain direct aid efforts. Neighbors Abroad has received immense support from the bay area’s Filipino community, the greater Palo-Altan community, and local youth. With their help, the organization has raised an additional $15,000 in the past six months. In addition to donating funds, they plan to help rebuild the Children’s Library that was destroyed in the storm, and hope to assist with other rebuilding activities within the Palo community.

Although six months have passed and some progress has been made, it’s important to remember those affected by Typhoon Haiyan and that there is more to be done to restructure the Philippines’ cities and towns. Palo Alto plans to follow up with their Filipino counterparts and see what next steps will be needed to continue the recovery.