Students and a teacher auction off items to raise funds for the typhoon victims.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Students and a teacher auction off items to raise funds for the typhoon victims.

December 9, 2013
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Since most students at St. Hilda School are Filipino, they were devastated by the tragedy of Typhoon Haiyan that struck the Philippines.

They watched the news stories of people there losing their homes or, worse yet, losing their lives. In some instances, the extended families of these students lost their property in the storm.

"The bottom line is we had crying in the hallways and in the office," said Irene Washylk, principal at the junior high school in Millwoods. "Everyone needs to cry, but basically we decided that tears are not enough. So we sat down and asked ourselves, 'What can we do about this?'"

The staff and students prayed together, whether at their Advent celebration or during the morning announcements heard daily over the intercom. The students were challenged to devise ways of helping out in the Philippines.

"In our religion classes, we discussed different fundraisers that we could do. Every class came up with a different fundraiser," said student Chantel Giroux.

As a school initiative, they started the Kids in Motion Challenge, and have been partaking in various fundraising activities since Nov. 20. The funds raised will go to the Red Cross and its efforts to help in the Philippines.

Anthony Prakash said his class is hosting a multicultural lunch, with students preparing some international cuisine.

"Helping to donate this money and knowing it's coming mostly from students and parents, and knowing we're helping the Philippines, it makes me feel happy. I've donated money towards this, and it's a good feeling," he said.

Other activities have included a hot chili lunch, bake sale, snack sale, spring roll lunch and a live sports memorabilia auction, feature film movie and Build Your Sundae Friday. Every fundraiser has brought in at least $100, some of them considerably more. As of Nov. 29, the school had raised more than $1,000, with donations still rolling in.

More than 200 items were available in the live auction, with students and teachers bidding on the merchandise, which included everything from jewelry and stuffed animals to hockey jerseys and autographed photos.

Washylk invited other Edmonton Catholic Schools to get involved, and bid on in a silent auction.

Children in the Philippines stand along a road with signs urging passing aid trucks to stop.

CNS PHOTO | WOLFGANG RATTAY, REUTERS

Children in the Philippines stand along a road with signs urging passing aid trucks to stop.

All of the activities are time-sensitive. In order to maximize the federal government's dollar-for-dollar matching program, they must turn in their money by Dec. 23.

"Even those of us who aren't Filipino, we have friends and they are devastated. We want to do something to help them out because it hurts us to see them in pain," said Giroux.

MEANING OF CHRISTMAS

"With Christmas coming, everyone is so worried about getting presents and spending time with their families. But our school taking time to help someone else – that's the true meaning of Christmas," said Giroux.

Washylk said the fundraisers became more than a social justice issue that they read about in a textbook. Kids in Motion became a personal issue, with the students helping their family and friends directly.

Gabby Domingo is a student born in the Philippines, but came to Canada as an infant. Her grandmother's home was destroyed by the typhoon. She is safe, but has been in the difficult process of rebuilding her home and her life ever since the horrendous typhoon.

"My uncles and some of my family went on a ship to where she is to help her out," said Domingo.

GOING TO HELP

Many students from St. Hilda School are soon going to the Philippines to help their extended families rebuild. They will spend their Christmas break overseas, and many will not return until well into the new year.

Crishia Dela Paz, another junior high student, is a Filipino who was born in Canada. She said that once she saw the TV news about the Philippines, her family was determined to provide some assistance. She felt a twinge of guilt because she kept thinking how fortunate she is to live in a nice house and have a loving family when, after the typhoon, many youth her age in the Philippines were left homeless and without a family.

BEST FRIENDS GONE

"Their whole area is changed and maybe some of their best friends are gone, but they are still happy because they are alive and God still loves them," said Dela Paz.

She said the school has always been great at pulling together and unifying in a time of crisis. Both before and after the typhoon, she sees the smiles and hears the hellos among students.

"Everyone knows what's going on in each other's lives. We comfort each other in difficult times. Basically, we are like one big family," said Dela Paz.

Anyone wishing to contribute to typhoon relief, can contact St. Hilda School at 780-462-3195 or donate through Development and Peace at www.devp.org.