Ground-up efforts boost large-scale work

When businessman Loh Sien Chi heard about Typhoon Haiyan last Friday, he quickly made calls to his business contacts and friends.

In less than 48 hours, the 55-year-old secured 90,000 half-litre bottles of water and three 6m containers of used clothes from donors.

He partnered logistics company YCH Group to transport these items to the affected areas.

"It gives me a sense of comfort knowing that victims are receiving physical items," said Mr Loh.

Other Singaporeans have chipped in. Restaurateur Pang Seng Meng, 58, is running two charity lunches at his family's seafood restaurant, New Ubin Seafood, on Nov 23 and 24.

He hopes to raise $20,000, as his family "feels a strong connection to the community", since three of their employees are Filipinos.

Such ground-up movements complement larger outreach efforts such as those by Caritas Humanitarian Aid and Relief Initiatives Singapore (Charis) which coordinates overseas relief efforts for the Singapore Catholic Church.

Charis has pledged an initial sum of $200,000.

In a statement, the Catholic Church said it was deeply saddened by what has happened. "The pain and anxiety is especially felt in the Catholic community here in Singapore because a very significant proportion of our Catholics hail from the Philippines, or have family and friends there."

The Singapore Government has contributed $200,000 through the Singapore Red Cross, which also committed $100,000 worth of emergency relief supplies on Sunday. The public and corporations have helped raise $145,000 so far, said its deputy secretary-general Lim Theam Poh. He said cash donations during this critical period are preferred as they allow for greater flexibility.

The organisation and Touch Community Services will be sending teams to the affected areas. Mercy Relief has done so already.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force also sent two infocommunications specialists last Thursday.

Meanwhile, other organisations are helping Filipinos here. A migrant workers' group, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, is planning counselling sessions for affected domestic workers here.

Catholic parish the Church of St Vincent de Paul, with a congregation of 800 Filipinos, is holding a special afternoon mass this Sunday. The parish priest, Father Michael Sitaram, 58, said: "The Philippines is a Christian country and Christmas is just around the corner. We want to make things better where possible."

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