Long Island Filipino Community Responds to Typhoon Haiyan



Filipino civilians displaced by Typhoon Haiyan board a U.S. Marine Corps Air Craft.

Photo credit: Anne Henry; Tacloban Air Base

By Jeanine Russaw

Long Island has had its own run-ins with natural disaster—the effects of 2012 Super Storm Sandy are still visible on many parts of the island—but that has not kept its communities from reaching out to those left displaced by Typhoon Haiyan.

The Filipino-American Society of Long Island (Tanglaw) planned relief efforts in advance while monitoring developments of Typhoon Haiyan several days before it reached land and ravaged the Philippines.

Based in Holbrook, NY, this 35-year- old organization exists to “extend all feasible means of support to [our] native land, the Philippines, in an effort to build a more stable and prosperous country.”

Robert Zarate, president of Tanglaw, began Operation Tanglaw: a fundraising campaign for victims of Typhoon Yolanda [Haiyan]. Before moving to Long Island in search of opportunities for his family, Zarate worked at the Philippine Consulate in the late 1980’s and early ‘90s.

Operation Tanglaw is currently requesting nonperishable donations including canned goods and baby supplies in addition to monetary funds to help cover shipping costs. The organization has donation drop-off locations in Nassau and Suffolk counties and is hosting an event on Saturday, Nov. 23 at the Villa Lombardi in which all proceeds are being donated to the Philippines.

However, once things have calmed down and the Philippines have been restored once more, the work will not cease for this Filipino-American Society.

Typhoons are a natural disaster that is “not anything new to us on the island,” said Zarate, who has seen everything from earthquakes, typhoons, and the Philippines’ volcanic eruption of 1991.

Taking a different approach than that of Operation Tanglaw, the International Youth Fellowship (IYF) recently sponsored a winter concert at Mahanaim School in conjunction with the U.S. Fund to UNICEF.

The approximate 400 people who attended this free concert on Sunday, Nov. 17 had the opportunity to make tax-deductible contributions toward the purchase of food, water, medicine, and other basic supplies for typhoon victims.  Several musical selections of the evening were dedicated to the “undying spirit of the people of the Philippines.”

While originally scheduled several weeks ago to collect funding for student scholarships, the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan inspired IYF and the Mahanaim School to again become involved with UNICEF, like they had over the summer.

“People of Nassau and Suffolk are very supportive of good causes. They come to our school and are interested in the education of its students,” said Glen Heil, IYF Public Relations Personnel. “Since we have a very generous and supportive town, why not make this concert about more than our school?”

While this concert may have been the ideal way to aid the Philippines, it almost did not happen. News of the event had been spread at the last minute, primarily by “word of mouth,” according to Heil.

$3200 was collected by the end of the night with $2083 being allocated to UNICEF’s disaster relief efforts. The remaining funds are going toward the school’s student scholarship funds.

Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock Nine, still fighting for more inclusive America

ernest green and i

Jeanine Russaw interviews Ernest Green

Ernest Green—a man forced to walk through a barrage of physical harm, insults, and contemptuous glares to attend school – has lived to see two great moments in history.

“Growing up, there were two things I never thought I’d see,” Green said.  “One was a president who looked like Barack Obama in the White House, the other was a free South Africa led by a Nelson Mandela.”

Green, who addressed the students of Hofstra University on Tuesday, Nov. 5,  was one of nine students who integrated the formerly all-white Central High School of Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. He also became the first African-American to graduate from the school in 1958.

A living link to America’s civil rights history, Green called on his young audience to use social media to highlight the continuing problems with racism in the U.S. and spread his message of a more inclusive America for future generations.

“Whether it’s the overt activity of Jim Crow laws we had in the 50s or the possibly more subtle racism today, it still restricts people’s ability,” Green said in an interview. “What we need in this country is to develop talent wherever it is and provide a foundation the country will benefit from.”

Ernest Green speaks on his experiences as one of the Little Rock Nine

Ernest Green speaks on his experiences as one of the Little Rock Nine
LIR Photo Credit: Jeanine Russaw

During poignant pauses in Green’s presentation, words such as “leadership,” and “education” echoed among audience members; many realizing  their speaker’s struggle was not “excessive” homework, but  inadequate learning materials and violent confrontation.

Mark Atkinson, fourth year student and audio visual technician for the event said Green made him realize  “the value of [my] education.”

“Hearing his firsthand account of how he fought to have his education makes my own mean so much more,” he said.

For Green, 72, the work is never done. He currently lives in Washington D.C., serves on the Board of Directors for Fisk University and the Board of Trustees for both Clark Atlanta University and Quality Education for Minorities Network.

The lecture, “On the Front Lines with the Little Rock Nine: a Conversation with Ernest Green,”  was organized by the NAACP [Hofstra Chapter]  to mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Green says it was impossible to know the outcome when he took part in what became one of the most celebrated events in the Civil Rights Movement. As president of the Hofstra NAACP, Angelica Jackson wanted students to walk away from Green’s visit with “the realization that ‘hard’ wasn’t even the word for them [Little Rock Nine].”

“We worry about the boy who doesn’t like us because we have a pimple on our face,” Jackson said. “They had to be worried about people not liking them for the color of their skin.”

Written by: Jeanine Russaw on November 9, 2013.

New York Youth “Stop Bullying and Speak Up” at Hofstra University

Published on Long Island Report

“I’ve seen bullying.”

“If there is a bully, it [anti-bullying conference] really helps because you know what to do now and you don’t have to be afraid—you can just reach out and help them.”

“I’ve learned to speak up,”

These were remarks made by some of the more than 200 children from four different elementary schools in New York who attended an anti-bullying conference at Hofstra University on Friday, Oct. 25.

The event, using the slogan “stop bullying; speak up,” was intended to educate children on the dangers of student harassment.

Children show off artwork at Hofstra's ant-bullying conference

Children show off artwork at Hofstra’s anti-bullying conference
LIR Photo Credit: Jeanine Russaw

North Shore LIJ Medical Center contacted Hofstra’s radio station, WRHU, and worked in tandem with the university to create a place for the students to engage.

A chief organizer of the conference and an adjunct professor at Hofstra’s Department of Rhetoric, Charlene Sanders, made appearances at each presentation.

“Today’s conference is also based around a dream,” Sanders said. “The dream of Dr. Wells—from North Shore LIJ— in wanting to do something to combat bullying.”

Understanding the issue

One session of fifth grade students addressed the new weapons of student harassment, cyber bullying.

“I feel many of our students are using many different internet facilities such as Facebook,” said Christine Taylor, fifth grade teacher at Northern Parkway Elementary School. “As a teacher, that worries me because that is out of our control.” Many faculty in attendance echoed Taylor’s concern.

After teaching for 17 years, Jo Schoonmaker has seen situations of taunting parallel to the examples outlined by the conference. She says the event brought “a reality” to her students.

Volunteers at the event stressed the importance of addressing bullying. Sophomore Jen Karasik got involved under the advisement of Sanders, and feels that bullying is a part of any child’s life.”You always want to make a difference in people’s lives. Especially young kids, because it starts that young,” Karasik said of the conference’s impact.

Each presentation lasted an hour and a half and was interactive. Kids were asked questions that prompted them to think about the effect bullying has on their peers.

Making a difference

After the end of the first half of the sessions, three girls walked the hallways recounting the tales of the last speaker they heard, and addressing a group targeted by bullies in their school: members of the LGBTQ community.

“People who are gay are afraid to admit it because they are afraid they will get teased,” one girl said.

“I didn’t stand up for my classmates before, but I will now,” said another girl.

Spoken word presenter Peter Volatti worked with students who have been affected by bullying, but he’s also worked with bullies themselves.

“I made them understand that it [bullying] is an awful thing to do to someone,” Volatti said. “Especially when the child can hurt themselves or even worse, commit suicide.”

The conference was seen as effective by both the event’s organizers and those who attended. There are plans between North Shore LIJ and Hofstra for more anti-bullying campaigns and informational sessions in subsequent years.

Written by: Jeanine Russaw on November 1, 2013.