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On November 8, Super Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda), the most powerful typhoon to ever hit land, wreaked havoc across central Philippines, killing more than 5,000 people and leaving nearly one million people displaced.
On November 13, representatives of the Soka Gakkai in Japan, led by Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada, visited the Embassy of the Philippines in Japan and pledged a financial donation of US$50,000 in support of relief efforts in a meeting with Minister of Cultural Affairs Angelica C. Escalona.
The SGI-Philippines headquarters in Quezon City also began gathering relief goods such as bottled water, canned food, clothes, blankets, and medical and sanitary supplies from members across the country. These goods were then sent to public agencies such as the Philippine Red Cross, a local TV station and the SGI-Philippines Cebu Community Center. The center is located in the hardest hit Visayas Region that encompasses Tacloban City, Samar and Leyte and serves as the organization’s center for relief operations. Young men’s group members and exchange students from Soka University of Japan participated as volunteers.
A local Disaster Management Committee was also set up based at the SGI-Philippines Cebu Community Center to enable members to communicate closely with each area and gather the latest information on the region.
On November 14, SGI-Philippines Youth Leader Rodel Paul Sauza and local young men’s leader Glen Elorde, representing the SGI-Philippines Disaster Management Committee, traveled by boat to visit the Visayas Region. They met with affected families and handed out basic relief goods.
From November 20 to 26, an SGI delegation from Tokyo, led by SGI Vice President Masatoshi Konno, visited the SGI-Philippines Cebu Committee Center, from where they helped distribute relief goods, held gongyo meetings and met with as many members as possible, including those from the devastated Leyte and Samar Islands.
“Our island has constantly been troubled by the effects of natural disasters. This time, based on my Buddhist practice, I’ve decided to make all-out efforts to strengthen the network of individuals in my community who are committed to creating a safer and more peaceful land,” commented a men’s group member from Calbayog City, Samar Island.
related article First Tohoku Restoration Youth Speech Conference Held On November 17, Soka Gakkai youth in Tohoku organized the first Tohoku Restoration Youth Speech Conference in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, an area devastated by the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake. Speakers included Kunio Sunou, president of the Ishinomaki Fish Market and three Soka Gakkai youth members. All shared their experiences of overcoming difficulties in the aftermath of the earthquake with hope and courage. Members of SGI in Malaysia and Thailand have been collecting funds in support of relief activities in the Philippines. Malaysia members in various states are using their Soka Day events in December to hold gongyo meetings to pray for the repose of those who perished in the typhoon disaster, and to pray for the early reconstruction of the disaster areas. Donation boxes have been set up for members who wish to donate in the period to December 15. Funds collected will be donated to the Philippines Embassy in Malaysia. In Thailand, donations are still being collected.
[Adapted from reports from SGI-Philippines, Soka Gakkai Malaysia, Soka Gakkai Thailand and the November 14 and 23, 2013, issues of Seikyo Shimbun; photos courtesy of Seikyo Shimbun and SGI-Philippines]
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