In just a little more than two weeks, two initiatives in Hay River have raised more than $13,000 for relief efforts in the Philippines.
“It has just been tremendous, the response we’ve had from the community,” Tessie Gonzales told The Hub at an international cuisine fundraising dinner on Nov. 30 at Assumption Roman Catholic Church. “From individuals and groups and businesses, we’ve had single donations of thousands of dollars. It’s amazing to see Hay River coming together like this for people so far away.”
Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on Nov. 7, killing thousands and leaving millions homeless, without basic food, water and shelter.
After seeing images of the destruction on television and witnessing the effect it had on Hay River’s Filipino community, Gonzales decided to organize a fundraising dinner, featuring cuisines from all over the world, to raise money for the cause. She said she was overwhelmed by Hay River’s reaction and support – from businesses donating their services to make the event happen to more than 180 individuals buying tickets for the evening.
The fundraising event was sold out, Gonzales said. “I’m glad some people decided to buy tickets and then take the food home with them, it helped ease the space, but we’re still very crowded.”
Indeed, the basement of Assumption Roman Catholic Church was packed full of people, with table numbers being drawn for people to go up to the massive buffet to avoid a rush on the food.
“These people don’t know the people in the Philippines,” said Gonzales. “But people in Hay River are such global thinkers, and everyone tonight has been willing to donate something to this cause.”
Gonzales pointed out that all proceeds from donations and ticket sales will go straight to an appropriate charity and then on to the Philippines, as all the food, services and even the hall were freely given.
“Hay River has shown itself as a community of kindness,” she said.
Students at Diamond Jenness Secondary School also contributed to the relief effort, raising close to $800 for the cause in only a week. While social studies classes always participate in some kind of fundraiser approaching the Christmas holidays, this year the Grade 10 class decided to find money to help the Philippines.
“We went around to classes and asked students to give what they could,” said student Novie Bordey, whose grandparents live in the Philippines, but were not affected by the typhoon. “We also had a jar out, and we left it there for a few days and it just filled up.”
Bordey said, even if the donation was as small as $5, that sum can go a long way in a developing nation like the Philippines.
“You can get a meal there for one dollar,” she said. “Nothing fancy, but a good, nutritious meal.”
Gonzales’ husband Romeo Gonzales said it is great to see young people in town with such a global consciousness and willingness to help people a world away.
“The young people here are very caring,” he said. “It’s great to know the next generation are so involved in this stuff.”
The federal government has promised to match all donations for the Philippines made to appropriate charities before Dec. 9, bringing what Hay River has been able to help contribute to about $26,000.
“We have been here 43 years,” said Romeo Gonzales. “People ask me why I am still here, even after I retired. This – this generosity, this giving – this is the community of Hay River and this is my town.”