Philippines storm draws county woman to help

Nov. 23, 2013 @ 02:52 PM

Two weeks ago, Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines and other Pacific Island nations. So far, the estimated death toll is more than 5,000 people. United Nations officials estimate that about 11 million people have been affected by the typhoon and may be homeless. 

Kim Courtright spent many years in the Philippines with Kids International Ministries building and running a school in Manila, the capital city. Manila is in the northern part of the country and apart from some wind and rain, their buildings were not impacted, Courtright said. Another site in Mindanao, on the southernmost island was not impacted. 

The Philippines is made up of about 7,000 islands. 

Most of the damage is in Tacloban, a city toward the middle of the country. 

Courtright did not initially plan to return to the country until February of next year. However, due to the storm she will return after Thanksgiving. 

"This kind of happened fairly quickly and we got to go-ahead to go last midnight," she said. 

She is hoping to bring medical supplies and volunteers with her. In particular, nurses and construction workers. 

"The biggest needs are medical supplies," Courtright said. They also need water filtration supplies and will need more clothing in the near future.

Her organization is working to rebuild a community center and set up a makeshift clinic for injured or sick people.They are also working to feed people who have been displaced and are without homes. 

"One thing I did hear was the kids love stuffed animals," she said. 

Due to the logistics of helping the island nation, it is often easier for people to donate money so groups can buy needed supplies in the Philippines. Courtright said her organization has connections with the military and are working to ferry many supplies. Medical supplies and stuffed animals are easier for her to bring on the airplane. 

Courtright has been meeting with nurses and churches in the area and she is working to coordinate teams and supplies in the area. 

Airfare is expensive and though she asked, airlines were not willing to give a discount for relief work. She is encouraging churches to sponsor people with necessary skills to make the journey. 

Courtright said the images on television are an accurate reflection of the damage. 

"It's really bad," she said. "(The missionary teams) were going down there not knowing what to expect and they said it's very bad, the news that you're seeing is the truth. There's nothing left. There's no infrastructure."

Staff and volunteers from her organization are staying at a local church and they are using the church area to help rebuild. 

People who want to donate supplies can coordinate that through Courtright. She said one of the best ways to contact her is through e-mail: kim.courtright@yahoo.com. Her organization is collecting donations through their website, www.kidsim.org, and 100 percent of the donations go to relief efforts.