NEW YORK – The Miss Universe Beauty Pageant is the Super Bowl to many Filipino fans.
Having recognized that the Philippines is home to their biggest and most passionate fans, Miss Universe Organization (MSO) President Paula Shugart says helping the victims and survivors of Typhoon Yolanda is their way of giving back to Filipino supporters.
“It was absolutely heart-breaking and you felt helpless,” said Shugart, “and we all looked at each other, and we have to do something, and especially because we have a strong tie to the Philippines. We can’t put this off. We’ve got to do it now.”
The MSO partnered with Dutch development agency Cordaid, to create a global fund that raised awareness and money for the devastated areas in the Philippines – particularly in Coron, Palawan and Guian, Samar.
Cordaid assisted vulnerable communities not only to build safer homes, restore water, and build sanitation facilities, but to build back smarter and become resilient with emergency preparedness plans.
“Haiyan is not an incident, it’s going to happen more often, and let’s spend our money wisely and investing capacity of communities,” Cordaid’s Dutch economist Jan Willem Wegdam said. “So go bottom up, train people, make people aware, empower people – that’s the way to go and that’s the best investment we can make.”
Spending a good amount of time in the Philippines, Wegdam says he has learned not only that toilets are known as comfort rooms in the Philippines, but these typhoon-resilient comfort rooms make a strong shelter from the storm.
Wegdam said, “It has been shown that a lot of people during the typhoon were actually seeking refuge in their comfort room, because that was the strongest building. Building a comfort room is cheaper than building a house.”
Reigning Miss Universe 2013, Gabriela Isler, says she committed herself to give back by using her title to bring much needed awareness to the causes she believes in – including Typhoon Yolanda relief and recovery.
“We cannot forget the people we still need our help,” said Isler. “Even after a year, there are still people trying to become resilient, become stronger, and maybe we can support it, we can do something.
Miss Universe Organization and Cordaid say they will remain committed for the years to come to help and ensure that the affected Filipino communities be rebuilt with an eye to self-reliance.