LIVINGSTON, NJ – Right now, through Dec. 13, Livingston resident Nancy Gourishankar is gathering items to disperse to victims of Typhoon Haiyan, a tsunami-like storm surge that hit the Philippines on Nov. 8 and devastated much of the country.
Gourishankar, a member of the Marian Rose World Mission, which was founded by her sister, Cristina Pamaar, and is a sister mission to Life is Great Global (LIG) Foundation, is collecting items on behalf of the groups and will be going to the Philippines herself to ensure that the items reach the victims.
The public is invited to donate non-perishable food items; toiletries; gently used clothing and shoes for children and adults of all ages and genders in all sizes; as well as blankets and sheets and gently used children and teen books. Items should be bagged and dropped off on the porch of 31 Aspen Drive, in Livingston. There is no need to ring the bell, and donors are asked not to drop off items when it is raining.
With maximum sustained winds of 195 mph (315 kph), Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the southern Philippines leaving a trail of destruction in multiple provinces. The official death toll hit 5,719 on Wed. Dec. 5. According to The United Nations, at least 14 million people were affected, with 1.8 million children displaced. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, 1,779 people are still missing. The typhoon is also estimated to have caused nearly $390 million in damaged infrastructure and the same amount again in ruined crops.
Gourishankar is not only collecting items for the victims, she is also working to help feed 2,000 people via the LOAF foundation, a kitchen on wheels that brings cooked food to affected areas.
“We already started feeding 2,000 evacuees over the past two months, and will be examining the victims when we get there on our next mission,” said Gourishankar.
Gourishankar said that she is also participating in a campaign spearheaded by the Philippine government to revive the fishing industry in the country's central regions that were hit badly by the typhoon. The storm tore through 41 provinces in the Visayan Region of the Philippines—which mostly comprise Islands. Many fish died in the storm, and nearly 20,000 fishing boats were lost, with nearly 58,000 fishermen affected. The goal of the campaign is to get 10,000 new boats.
“We are asking friends for funds to build pump boats for the fishermen who lost their livelihood due to the wrath of the typhoon,” said Gourishankar.
And, helping the victims of the typhoon is not her first charitable endeavor; rather, Gourishankar, has been collecting items for people in the Philippines for 18 years. Her quest began when her son Eric was in fifth grade at the Oak Knoll School and needed to fulfill a civics project for school. He went on a trip to the Philippines with his mom who showed him places she had lived and gone to as a child. One place they visited was his mom’s former school, which they found had few books and that the ones they did have were very old. Thus, in 1984, Eric founded the "Project: Share a Book," a reading comprehension program that supplies the Philippine public schools with books, computers, school supplies, used clothes and shoes, and musical instruments like ukuleles and others.
“Every year we go to the Philippines ourselves to distribute the books to 30 public schools and we even go into mountains to make sure that those children who do not have computers at least have books to read,” said Gourishankar.
Gourishankar, a nurse, who owns Home Care Visiting Angels, in Caldwell, said she generally goes to the country twice a year—once to deliver the books, and once on a medical mission through LIG to help connect underserved patients with health care providers. This year, she will also bring the items she has collected for the victims of the superstorm.
In Jan. 2013, she went on the Marian Rose World Mission's medical, surgical and civic mission in the Philippines, with volunteers from New Jersey. The mission encouraged families to do the mission together. So, while parents were working in operating rooms or doing medical examinations, their high school and college students were helping to build libraries, plant trees and were meeting and interacting with the Filipino students. They played Frisbee and took classes together for CPR and other health issues.
For the Jan. 2014 mission that Gourishankar is participating in, 74 volunteers, mostly from Saint Barnabas, are going to the Philippines. However, due to the devastations Typhoon Haiyan left at the northern part of the city, the focus has been changed from working in the city doing surgeries and medical exams to going outside at the affected areas where immediate attention is needed.
“I grew up in the Philippines and have always had a strong connection to the country,” said Gourishankar. “My parents were charitable people and good role models, so I am just continuing in their shoes. I love helping those who are less fortunate.”
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