Hope in the Aftermath

May 27, 2015

The heat was excruciating and the sawing made her arms sore, but Louise Domingo’s heart was full of purpose. Whatever small pain she was enduring here was nothing compared with the anguish that the people she was helping had experienced. As she labored with a small crew of volunteers, a Filipino family of four looked on. When this small, one-room shelter was complete, they would be calling this home. Just a few months prior, Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in impoverished Daanbantayan in the province of Cebu, Philippines. The storm delivered 225 mile-per-hour winds and rain and destruction. Haiyan was two to three times as powerful as Hurricane Katrina, and there were no levies or evacuation routes that could have lessened her impact. When the winds subsided, tens of thousands had lost their homes and more than 6,300 people had lost their lives. Upon seeing the reports of the devastation, Domingo '15 , a civil engineering grad from Syracuse University's College of Engineering and Computer Science, sprang into action. She set up a table in Link Hall, encouraging her fellow students to donate money and water filtration bottles to help provide clean drinking water for the affected population. In a few short months, she raised over $1,000 for HOPE Worldwide’s typhoon relief efforts and collected dozens of bottles, but for the native Filipino Domingo, this wasn’t enough. She needed to go home and help. Like many college students, Domingo had limited funds, but by pooling her resources she was able to make the trip a reality. She arranged to join HOPE Worldwide Philippines’ volunteer efforts, then packed a very light carry-on bag with her personal items and checked a 50-pound suitcase stuffed with donated water bottles and supplies. Along with her close friend, Yovanny Duran '14, she made it to the other side of the globe to provide aid with her own two hands. The first days of the trip were devoted to the construction of a small hut. The family that they were building it for had lost their home when the typhoon hit. The structure was not much bigger than a small office, but there are no outlets for power tools to be used to ease the labor— everything is manual. Despite the limitations and uncomfortable conditions, the project was completed in two days and the family was finally able to rest under a roof of their own again. Domingo and Duran also spent time among the Filipino people, distributing clothing and other goods, and organizing games for the children in the community. The items included materials with old branding from the College of Engineering and Computer Science and the water bottles that Domingo had collected and lugged to Daanbantayan herself. Throughout the experience, Domingo found it remarkable how upbeat the residents were. “In the Philippines, they have very little, yet they are still joyful and hopeful. It reminded me what is really important in life. It’s not money, it’s not fame, it’s not power. It’s making the best of what you have.” This experience has also fueled Domingo’s career plans. She explains, “I want to help developing countries build up their infrastructures. Having the right modernizations could lessen the effect of the typhoons that hit every year.” To help the Philippines, visit www.hopewwph.org.