Facebook friends pledge thousands in typhoon aid

Jacqueline Harper with school children in typhoon-struck Cebu City.
Jacqueline Harper with school children in typhoon-struck Cebu City.

An aid worker has hailed the powers of Facebook after friends helped her raise more than £4,000 in a matter of days to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

Jacqueline Harper, was due to visit family in the Philippines, and arrived in Manila on Sunday, 10th November.

But after seeing the devastation of the storm firsthand, she scrapped her family holiday and spent most of her two weeks in Cebu City – preparing aid packs containing food and water for victims.

The 30-year-old former Anderson High School pupil took to the social networking site asking her friends to donate money so she could buy supplies for those in need.

Six days later she had more than £4,000.

“Everywhere I looked there were aid relief tents and things to help people. That motivated me to do something myself,” she said.

“I donated some money to a local organisation there and that night I went home and asked my friends on Facebook if they wanted to donate something.”

And Ms Harper was completely overwhelmed by the response.

“It just goes to show the power of Facebook. It wasn’t just my best friends it was people that I’ve met on my travels – people I’ve met in Austra­lia, Hungary and lots of other different places.”

Family also chipped in – with her sister, who works on the neonatal unit at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, offering funds along with her brother who lives in Germany.

Realising she could not tackle the challenge alone, Ms Harper got in touch with her aunty who works for the department of education in the Philippines.

She was able to provide vehicles and offer extra help to distribute the food parcels.

Ms Harper bought rice, noodles, tinned meat and biscuits and also travelled to a primary school in Bogo, which lies in the Cebu province.

Children there had not been reached by aid efforts, she said and were in desperate need of food.

“Being able to work with a team of people there and actually distribute parcels was quite touching.

“Just being there made everything so real.”

But she could not be everywhere at once, and one day spent a whole day in a supermarket buying food while others packed up the much-needed parcels.

It was enough to last them a couple of days

and extra money went on soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes.

All the money was spent in the way it should have been spent, said Ms Harper.

In the wake of one of the strongest storms on record, she saw whole families coming to Cebu City.

Lots of survivors were in search of a new life and lots were seeking shelter, she said.

“Even people who had nothing were giving something.

“Really poor people were giving noodles which cost peanuts.”

Teachers were given a roof over their heads by the department of education, she said.

But because records had been lost, they had no money and could not access their salaries.

Ms Harper said Cebu City has become a main point for distributing aid to victims – due to its port and airport.

On Wednesday, 13th November the first UK aid flight arrived at Cebu Airport, carrying almost 9,000 emergency shelter kits.

Strong winds had caused a huge tree to topple and crush two buildings in the city, but that was only damage, the rest was barely noticeable, said Ms Harper.

On Sunday, she returned home – now living in Edinburgh after leaving Shetland.

And despite her amazing efforts she remains surprisingly modest.

“I didn’t give too much thought to it to be honest. It just came naturally. It definitely felt good to be able to do something.”

More in tomorrow’s Shetland Times.


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