'Sandy' victims give back to Yolanda survivors

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau
Dec. 16, 2013

NEW YORK – Santa Claus is definitely coming to Tacloban this Christmas via a Philippine-bound 747 cargo plane.

International relief organization Samaritan’s Purse loaded a cargo plane with more than 60,000 gift-wrapped shoe boxes filled with necessity items, school supplies, toys and prayers—early Christmas gifts for the young Filipino survivors in the Super Typhoon Yolanda-devastated areas.

“When we pray over the box, we’re praying for the child to know that they are loved, and that they are cared for and that Jesus loves them and that they have hope,” Samantha Sourbeck, a volunteer for the Operation Christmas Child, said.

Operation Christmas Child is a kids-helping-kids project that is sending nearly 10 million gift-filled shoeboxes to hurting children in more than 100 countries this year.

Before the typhoon, Operation Christmas Child had already dedicated more than half a million shoebox full of gifts to be given to Filipino kids in the next couple of months.

Now, thanks to hurricane Sandy survivors like FilAm Diana Barbacena, who know first-hand the devastation a powerful storm can cause, another 60,000 children in the Philippines will benefit from this project.

“What’s in my box?” Barbacena said. “I brought a cute stuffed animal that a child can hug at night.”

The 11-year-old FilAm, whose neighborhood was flooded during the super storm, said she is passionate about sending comfort and hope through gift-filled shoeboxes to typhoon survivors in the country where her father was born.

“I pray that child who receives the box will have a spark of hope and that they will know that Jesus loves them,” Barbacena said.

Local Filipino community church members in Glendale, New York gathered more than 300 boxes. Pastor Eric Bautista said they have been spreading the Christmas cheer for 13 years now and for the first time this year, their shoebox gifts are going to the Philippines.

“When you give, your heart is warmed and we know that’s really the reason for the season now and that’s the reason why we live,” said Pastor Bautista of the Queen’s Bible Church.

“All of us in our church felt excited,” Rowena Gaspar said. “I think we’re beyond excited because our hearts are jumping for joy.”

Since the super typhoon hit, Samaritan’s Purse has delivered and has been distributing some 100 tons of emergency relief supplies, shelter materials and medical supplies, along with a helicopter, to respond more quickly to people in areas of the Philippines that are difficult to reach by road.

Several thousand shoebox gifts from Filipino churches in Canada were also included in the airlift that left New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport Thursday and arrived in Cebu Saturday morning.

You can contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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