29 containers of aid for Philippines in 1 month

Boxes of relief goods for victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan were collected at Cairnhill Community Club (above) for a month.

Businessman Loh Sien Chi's donation drive for the Philippines began as a one-man mission.

But by the time the month- long operation ended last Saturday, 29 containers, each 6m long and full of relief goods, had been sent to victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan.

From Nov 15, more than 300 volunteers packed goods such as dried food, clothing and medicine into them.

Mr Loh, 55, put the success of the drive down to the wide reach of social media and communication platform WhatsApp.

Recalling a similar drive he undertook in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that claimed 230,000 lives, he said: "There was no Facebook or WhatsApp then and I relied on text messages and word of mouth to get the word out. But this time, I could set up a Facebook group to reach out to the public."

Mr Loh was spurred into action after he read about the death and destruction caused by the Nov 8 typhoon. It swept through central Philippines and wiped out almost the entire provinces of Samar and Leyte. More than 6,000 people were killed, with close to 1,800 people reported missing and millions displaced from their homes.

"There will be more casualties from post-event illnesses," Mr Loh told The Straits Times, citing unsanitary conditions and the lack of clean drinking water.

Saddened by the extent of the disaster, he got in touch with his business contacts and friends the Monday after the typhoon struck and secured, in less than two days, donations of about 90,000 half-litre bottles of water and three 6m-long containers of used clothes.

To help people donate aid items easily, Mr Loh got in touch with the Tanglin-Cairnhill grassroots organisations to appeal for the use of Cairnhill Community Club as a collection centre.

This was granted on Nov 14.

Chairman of Tanglin-Cairnhill Citizens Consultative Committee Soh Chee Keong said: "This caring spirit strengthens our own community bonding and revives the gotong royong (community support) spirit."

A spokesman for Pacific International Lines, the shipping firm that shipped the items to Cebu at no cost, said the firm was "pleased to be able to assist in providing transportation of relief goods to Philippines for the victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan".

Mr Loh said: "It was really the true spirit of charity and giving this season - a satisfying, rewarding and enriching experience."

audreyt@sph.com.sg


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