On November 8, 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Yolanda, ripped through the Philippines, causing massive destruction. The strongest storm ever recorded on landfall, as of December 4, Haiyan took 5,719 lives, injured 26,233 individuals, and left 1,779 people missing.
Watching the devastating events unfold on news broadcasts, Sean Harris, a senior business economics major, felt called to help. On December 15, Harris and a team of six fellow APU students he assembled will depart for a 10-day service trip to the Philippines.
Upon arrival, the team will see the devastation first hand. National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reports the typhoon has impacted more than two million families or nine million individuals. More than three million people were displaced, and more than 1 million homes damaged, with the cost estimated to reach up to $14 billion dollars. Significant needs center around food, water, medicine, and clean up.
Harris, partnering with his father’s nonprofit Friends and Family Community Connection (FFCC), plans to work with his team to distribute food, install water filters, and help with other relief efforts. The group will fly into Cebu and travel to Talcoban City, where 90 percent of the city was destroyed, bringing residents 1,000 water filters to combat illness that stems from contaminated water.
“I felt God’s calling on my heart to help those who have been affected by this horrible travesty” said Harris. Matt Browning, associate vice president for internationalization in the Center for Student Action (CSA), said Harris’ knowledge of short-term missions is key. “Sean has a good heart, mind, and understanding of the important role short–term missions play, such as working with local organizations and developing key relationships on the ground so that the effort is sustainable.” By partnering with FFCC, already serving in the Philippines, Harris and his team will know how to focus their energies and make the greatest impact.
This emergency trip is one example of Azusa Pacific University’s service commitment. Annually CSA sends students to more than 30 countries around the world. “CSA helps motivate undergraduate students to stop talking and start acting, because everyone matters and students need to do something about that,” Browning said. “Through CSA, students make a difference around the corner and around the world. Since 1899, Azusa Pacific has been a training school for Christian workers. God calls us to pay attention to the needs around the world and make an impact for the Kingdom. We have been blessed with much, and with that comes responsibility because we care for the people God cares for.”