Browsing 'typhoon haiyan' News

Hezron Onyango / InterContinental

Peter Kovessy

Hezron Onyango / InterContinental

In the eyes of his coworkers at InterContinental Doha The City, Hezron Jeremiah Onyango is an unsung hero.

In the aftermath of last year’s devastating typhoon in the Philippines, the 24-year-old Kenyan expat quietly donated his entire month’s salary to a fundraiser to support the families of the hotel’s employees directly affected by the disaster.

Onyango, a laundry attendant, said he was motivated to help due to his own good fortune in life, namely leaving a troubled Nairobi neighborhood and landing work with an international hotel chain in Qatar.

“I’ve been through hardships and some situations. I needed to do something for my Filipino colleagues,” he told Doha News, after his employer recently shared his story with the media.

Typhoon aftermath

For Onyango, who arrived to Qatar in May 2012, each workday comes with a fair degree of routine. He picks up clothes from hotel guests, cleans and irons the garments and exchanges laughter and conversation with his coworkers.

But almost exactly one year ago, Onyango sensed something had changed. One of his normally upbeat colleagues in the laundry department, a man from the Philippines, appeared particularly dour.

“That day was totally different … The expression on his face was frustration and worry,” he recalled.

Super Typhoon Haiyan

Praveen Agrawal / WFP

The scene in Tacloban, Philippines on November 10, 2013 after Super Typhoon Haiyan swept through

On Nov. 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan – one of the strongest cyclones ever recorded – struck the Philippines. More than 7,000 people were killed or went missing in its wake, while thousands more were injured or left homeless.

Many friends and family members of Filipino expats living in Qatar were affected by the storm, leading the country to declare a day of solidarity and sparking several local fundraising efforts.

At the InterContinental, workers were given the option to donate a portion of their monthly salary to help eight hotel employees whose families in the Philippines were directly affected.

When Onyango received the donation form, he quietly pledged QR1,150 (US$316) – his entire pay check.

His payroll supervisor, Hannah Zeta, thought Onyango had made a mistake. After checking with him and confirming the amount, Zeta said she was inspired to increase her own donation.

“I was really moved by his initiative … He’s not directly affected by the typhoon or from (the Philippines), but he felt he had to help,” she said.

Motivations

In an interview with Doha News at the hotel this week, Onyango explained that he was raised in a Nairobi neighborhood rife with drugs, vandalism and gangs.

He managed to find work at a hotel in Kenya, the Diani Reef Hotel in Mombasa, before passing his resume on to a friend and landing a job at the InterContinental in Qatar two years ago.

He said he considers himself lucky, and felt it was necessary to share his good fortunes with his coworkers affected by the typhoon.

“Whenever you come out of that neighborhood, it’s a positive,” he said. Reflecting on his past and his coworkers’ plight, he said he felt he “just had to (make the donation) for the community.”

Reaction

Typhoon

While Onyango didn’t tell anyone about his donation, word eventually spread through the hotel.

Kien Arriesgadu is a bellboy at the InterContinental whose family’s home in the Philippine province of Cebu was partially destroyed. Thanks in part to the donations from Onyango and other co-workers, his family is in the process of rebuilding their house.

“Hezron has a huge heart,” Arriesgadu said. “I’m a very thankful to have him as a friend and a colleague. I wish I could say thank you every day for what he’s done for us.”

Late last year, the hotel honored Onyango with its Unsung Hero award for his generosity, positive attitude, strong character and hardworking nature.

“Hezron is the epitome of an unsung hero as he is continually looking for ways to help people yet never calling attention to his good deeds. In fact, we would have never even known about his generous donation if the accounts team hadn’t alerted us,” said hotel general manager Pascal Eggerstedt in a statement.

Late last month, Onyango spent a night in Dubai for the first time and attended the Hotelier Middle East Awards with several colleagues. He was awarded the runner-up award in the Unsung Hero category and was sought out by several executives from the InterContinental Hotels Group who wanted to meet him in person.

Now that he’s back in Doha, Onyango has returned to his regular routine in the laundry department with his normally upbeat outlook.

“I always come to work happy … I’m just happy working here, and happy to be in Qatar.”

Super Typhoon Haiyan

Praveen Agrawal / WFP

The scene in Tacloban, Philippines on November 10, 2013 after Super Typhoon Haiyan swept through

In the aftermath of the disastrous Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and a tropical cyclone that devastated northern Somalia last week, Qatar is holding a range of fundraisers on Tuesday, Nov. 19 to help survivors.

The solidarity day, which has the backing of the country’s Emir, aims to help alleviate the suffering of those affected by the natural disasters, Qatar Red Crescent Society Chairman Dr. Mohammed bin Ghanim al Ali al Maadid said, as quoted by the Qatar Tribune. He continued:

“Driven by a long history of supporting vulnerable people everywhere regardless of their religion, race (and) color, we aim to relieve the victims by raising money and donations in kind. We also wish to pay tribute to our Filipino and Somali brothers and sisters who continue contributing to our development process and renaissance.”

In a statement released Monday evening, QRC, which recently launched an appeal to raise $2 million for the Philippines, said that as part of the solidarity day, fundraising activities would be held in schools, offices and public places, including at:

  • Hamad Medical Center at noon;
  • Villaggio Mall for the Filipino community at 4pm; and
  • Landmark Mall For the Somali Community at 4pm.

A live television program will also be broadcast in English and Arabic on Tuesday, on the following channels: Al- Jazeera Mubasher, Qatar TV, Al Rayyan TV, Qatar Radio, Sout Al Khaleej Radio and Qatar Quran Radio.

Typhoon Haiyan (termed Yolanda domestically), which struck the central islands of the Philippines last weekend, has killed nearly 4,000 people at latest count. Another 1,600 people have been reported missing.

In Somalia, a cyclone in the northern region of Puntland has prompted a state of emergency after killing at least 300 people, with hundreds more missing. Aid agencies have been having trouble reaching those in need because flood-hit routes have become inaccessible, Al Jazeera English reports.

How to help

According to QRC, residents should also be able to donate to relief efforts through SMS and bank transfers. We’ll post updates on how to do that when the information becomes available tomorrow.

Donations via wire transfer can be made at Barwa Bank. The bank account number for Somalia is 100000002005. For the Philippines, the number is 100000002050.

To SMS funds, residents can text “S” for Somalia and “Ph” for Philippines to the following numbers (note, the amount you donate is determined by the number that you SMS):

  • Vodafone users: Donate QR100 by SMSing “S” or “Ph” to 97727; or donate QR50 by SMSing “S” or “Ph” to 97727;
  • Ooreedo users: Donate QR1000 by SMSing “S” or “Ph” to 92972; or donate QR500 by SMSing “S” or “Ph” to 92971 (smaller denominations not available right now).

Donations can also be made to Qatar Red Crescent, Qatar Charity, Eid Charity, Raf and Alasmakh in the malls.

Meanwhile, the Philippines Embassy in Doha has been working with umbrella groups to collect financial and in-kind donations.

Schools are also getting involved.

Newton International School’s West Bay campus, for example, is holding a collection drive on Thursday.

Speaking to Doha News, Ben Vaughan, a teacher there, said 15 staff members and several students are from the Philippines:

“Some have had family members affected by the tragedy. We are asking our children to bring in items to help with the cause. We have asked them to bring in items to help the families rebuild their lives and items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shower gels, towels, blankets, kitchen items, small toys, non perishable foods, tinned and canned foods, old clothes, old football kits, shoes or any other old and unwanted clothes.

Additionally, QRC said that the Philippine School in Doha has collect more than QAR35,000 for the typhoon survivors. The school marked today with artwork produced by students portraying the dismal

Thoughts?

Typhoon

Qatar Red Crescent

Qatar’s government and residents have been working to help send money and aid to the people of the Philippines after certain parts of the country were stuck by a devastating typhoon last weekend.

This week, Qatar Red Crescent (QRC) sent around $70,000 to the Philippines in immediate aid and has launched an appeal to raise $2 million to help thousands of people made homeless by Typhoon Haiyan.

The appeal, which is being conducted in cooperation with the Philippines Red Cross, will send funds to provide food, water, shelter, and health care to 25,000 people in the Northern Mindanao region, the QRC said in a statement.

Haiyan – one of the most powerful storms ever recorded – hit the central islands of the Philippines last Friday, leaving massive destruction in its path.

The QRC says that local teams working in Northern Mindanao have identified food, shelter kits, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, jerry cans and tarpaulin sheets as key priorities for aid. More than 3,000 homes in the area have been damaged, many severely so, the QRC adds.

Aid flights

Meanwhile, Qatar sent two planeloads of aid to the affected areas yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced. The cargo, which included 80 tons of medication, food, tents, blankets and clothes, was sent due to “Qatar’s duty towards its friends in the Philippines, so as to relieve their suffering and devastating conditions,” the ministry said in a statement.

Aside from these official donations, many of the country’s schools, companies and community organizations have been organizing collections of aid and money.

Speaking to Doha News today, Philippines Ambassador to Qatar Crescente Relacion said that the embassy is currently storing donations, ready for sorting and dispatching to his home country:

“Tomorrow morning, a number of Filipino nationals will gather at the embassy to assist and help with the repacking of these donated goods. We have a number of ways to get these donations into the country. LBC – a Filipino freight company – is accepting boxes of donations, and they will cover the cost of sending them.

We are also now speaking to Qatar Airways, who have agreed to send through a shipment free of charge – we are now finalizing details of how much they will send. “

Elsewhere in the region, the UAE’s President Sheikh Khalifa has announced an aid donation of $10 million, stating his country’s “deep solidarity with those affected by this natural disaster in the Philippines.”

Donations have been pouring in from around the world, not only from governments, but also via ordinary citizens donating to aid charities. The UN has estimated that some $301m will be needed to help the affected region cover.

Ambassador Relacion emphasized that his country is grateful for all donations it receives towards the aid effort, however big or small:

“We have received tremendous responses from many countries, and whatever those counties will contribute, we are very thankful for.”

Those who wish to donate via the embassy can find details here, and those who want to contribute to the Red Crescent appeal in Qatar can do so via the following methods:

  • Call the mobile hotline number 55884707;
  • Transfer your donation to account number 100002649 (Qatar Islamic Bank);
  • Deliver your donation to a Red Crescent Office;
  • Give to Red Crescent’s representatives at malls across the country; or
  • Donate online (Arabic only.)

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