In the wake of the disaster left by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, organizations within the Penn community worked to devise ways to help send as much relief as possible to the affected regions.
Haiyan struck the Philippines earlier this month, devastating the region with some of the most intense winds and waves ever recorded. The death toll from the storm hovers around 4,000, and the UN says that around 13 million people have been affected by the storm.
One major agency working toward this goal is the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, a part of the School of Social Policy & Practice. The center, with the help of Penn students throughout the University, was able to start tracking the recovery efforts of on-the-ground organizations the day after the storm hit.
Executive Director Katherina Rosqueta said the Center was able to speak to the Red Cross and Gawad Kalinga, another aid organization, soon after the typhoon hit. This allowed them to identify the organizations’ needs early on and to tailor Penn’s relief efforts.
Three days after Haiyan hit, the center was able to create a guide to effective aid giving, “Philippines Typhoon: How Can I Help?” The guide offers several tips, including “Give money, not items” and “Give to organizations with on-the-ground networks.”
“We know this has influenced corporate philanthropy and individual donors,” Rosqueta said of the guide. “We’ve been providing guidance to others thanks to our connections, including the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.”
Students worked with the Center to help get the guide out as quickly as possible. “Students from across the university, social impact fellows … and our core team developed this,” Rosqueta said.
Through volunteer, work-study and research assistant positions, undergraduate students have “been helping to scout out organizations working on the ground and do due diligence on the organizations people have suggested to us,” Cecily Wallman-Stokes, one of the Social Impact Fellows with the Center, said.
“They’ve also been instrumental in keeping our social media and website up-to-date so that our guidance reaches the folks who can best use it,” she added.
The Center estimates that it has reached over 80,000 people with their social media efforts through both the School of Social Policy & Practice and the University’s websites. Rosqueta also sent out an email containing the guide to 2,000 people, including “donors, philanthropic advisors and intermediaries, nonprofits leaders and others concerned about social impact.” The Center also partnered with the Wharton Social Impact Initiative to get the word out about relief efforts.
Many have responded to the outreach efforts. The head of philanthropy for the Philadelphia Eagles told Rosqueta over email, “…it’s really helpful to have this to share. I’ve passed it on to the Eagles organization; I’m advocating that we do something.”
As for the University itself, Rosqueta said it “seems unlikely that Penn made an institutional grant” to donate to relief efforts, owing to its non-profit status.
On the student level, the Penn Philippine Association is hosting a Coffeehouse event on Friday to raise funds for Gawad Kalinga — the charity that the Center for High Impact Philanthropy sees as most effective right now.
“They are important because they are working on the ground and can accept donations from other countries,” Rosqueta added about the charity organization. “They will be an important agent not just for disaster relief, but for recovery and rebuilding, which will take months or years.”
“There’s an expression in Tagalog, ‘Kapit bisig,’ which means to hold or link arms in solidarity,” PPA’s President, College senior Martin Pico, said. “I believe that expression fits one of the goals of the event.”
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