Philippines disaster hits home, spurring local response

Last Friday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported there had been 4,460 deaths in the Philippines following the deadly typhoon that hit the country recently.
This number is expected to grow. Even though Bristol is roughly 8,000 miles from the Philippines, the disaster is hitting close to home.
Local resident Kim Villanti and her husband Steve adopted two children from Cebu, a city in the Philippines. Her children, who were adopted at a young age, are now 19- and 21-years-old. They had not been back to their birth place since 2008, when Villanti and her husband traveled to show them where they had come from.
“We went back to visit the orphanage, and so they could connect with their culture,” Villanti said, adding she created several connections in the Philippines and decided to start fundraising for the country, which has a population of either very wealthy individuals or very poor individuals.
Villanti and her family are parishioners at the First Congregational Church in Bristol, which has set up a Philippines Mission Fund solely designated to supporting education for children in extreme poverty. This fund was set up after the Villanti’s visited the country in 2008. From there, she was able to raise $13,000 in about four months.
“Over the years, the church’s outreach committee continues to fund it,” with about $1,000 donated each year, she said. She added there are also other fundraisers and donations made to support this fund.
Now, this fund supports 12 students who are in higher education, and three students who have been supported by these efforts have graduated from college. In addition to education, Villanti said some of the funds are split to be put towards the orphanage, and one of her contacts, Sister Adelina Terrado, receives the funds directly and buys school supplies and other items needed.
Villanti is asking that donations be made to help the victims of the typhoon, and 100 percent of any funds raised will go directly to Sister Terrado, who is a member of the order of the Daughters of Charity. After one of the last typhoons that hit the Philippines, Villanti said the fund raised enough money to help 36 families whose homes were washed away build structures for shelter and buy materials, cooking utensils, and other supplies. Out of those families came the 12 students the fund is supporting today for education.
Villanti said she has a contact traveling to the Philippines on Nov. 26, and any money raised will travel as well, as it is a faster way to get it there rather than via mail.
“One-hundred percent of these funds raised will be handed directly to Sister Adelina, who will purchase the supplies that are needed,” Villanti said, adding that Sister Adelina, and others in her order, are well-respected, especially by the poor communities, “because they know she is there to help them.” She said the nuns, while they feed the hungry as much as they can, are trying to educate the communities more so that they can be self-sufficient individuals.
Since 2008, Villanti said the fund has sent between $25,000 to $27,000 to the Philippines, between the money donated by the church, parishioners and other community members, and also at fundraisers. Each year, $2,000 to $2,500 is able to support 12 students receive higher education. These students receive their education in the province of Iloilo, which was hit by the typhoon.
Villanti has traveled to the Philippines three times, so she is familiar with the need that is there when there isn’t a natural disaster.
“It just breaks my heart to see what these people are going through,” she said. “They are some of the warmest, kindest, most respectful, family-oriented people I have ever met.”
Anyone interested in donating can write a check made out to the First Congregational Church, with the Philippines Mission Fund written in the “memo” box. The First Congregational Church is located at 31 Maple St., Bristol.
Comments?Email knaples@BristolObserver. com.