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Knights rally for typhoon victims in Philippines

By Caroline Glenn
On November 24, 2013

When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, it claimed the lives of more than 5,000 people and displaced approximately 4.3 million people, according to an article from NBC News. Although the Philippines is more than 9,000 miles away, for the UCF Asian-American community, the disaster hits home.

Hope for the Philippines is a communal philanthropic effort among several UCF organizations, including the Filipino Student Association, Vietnamese American Student Association and Asian Student Association that has raised nearly $8,000.

The project was started by Chris Chen, a UCF communications alumnus and founder of KnightBloc Entertainment, “a marketing and promotions company that strives to enhance nightlife and events in the Central Florida region,” according to its website.

As a Taiwanese student and member of Pi Delta Psi — an Asian-American cultural interest fraternity — Chen said he felt a personal connection with the victims of the disaster and a brotherly loss.

“For me, it was more so thinking about my friends, thinking about my fraternity brothers,” Chen said. “It definitely made me feel like it could have hit anywhere in Asia.”

When Chen heard the news of the typhoon, he reached out to Mike Cho the founder of Impress Ink — a T-shirt design company — and Teresa Chan from Sus Hi Eatstation. The project seeks to “raise funds for the victims, awareness of the situation and, ultimately, to deliver hope,” according to a press release.

The trio came together to create a local and online T-shirt campaign, Hope for the Philippines, selling T-shirts for $10 with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Operation Walang Iwanan by the Gawad Kalinga Foundation. Contributors can also opt to buy a T-shirt for $15 and receive a free promotion from Sus Hi Eatstation.

Chen initially hoped to reach a goal of $10,000 by Christmas, but after a mere seven days, the philanthropy has raised more than $7,000.

“When I see that number … I see hope,” Chen said.

Not only has Hope for the Philippines raised awareness, it has brought together members of the Asian-American community at UCF.

Katherine Ragamat, a junior majoring in journalism and network representative for the FSA, said, “It’s brought all the Asians together.

“It pains us to see … our homeland being devastated by the disaster. All in all, we know that if something were to hit Vietnam, something were to hit Japan … we’d help each other.”

Ragamat encourages non-Asians to get involved with Hope for the Philippines as well.

“They should want to help others regardless of race,” Ragamat said. “We’re all the same people on Earth.”

Of the students who visit the Hope for the Philippines table, Ragamat said even if they don’t donate, she hopes they’ll spread the word.

FSAs at other Florida universities, including the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of South Florida, have joined in UCF’s effort to aid the typhoon victims. College Democrats at UCF has also lent its efforts to bring awareness to Hope for the Philippines through selling T-shirts, events and providing resources to the counseling center.

“We need to stand with the Asian-American community in this extremely stressful and emotional time. By promoting the efforts of Hope for the Philippines, we hope that our fellow Knights will reach out and give however they can, whether it’s by picking up a sign or by buying a shirt,” Mikaela Mendoza-Cardenal, the president of the College Democrats at UCF, said in a press release.

Matthew Gorion, a junior majoring in industrial engineering and president of FSA, said he has seen a positive response from students who pass by the Hope for the Philippines table.

“Even if they don’t want to buy a shirt, they ask,” Gorion said. “I honestly didn’t think we would have this much success so quick.”

Through the project, Gorion said he has seen UCF students come together to do something more than their normal routines.

“We don’t get many opportunities to make a difference in the world,” Gorion said. “It affects everyone. It unites every Filipino and non-Filipinos.”

Jenny Vuong, a senior majoring in biology and member of VASA, agreed that Hope for the Philippines is a rare opportunity to give back.

“It was an opportunity to do something to help people, and we’re not really given that opportunity. I automatically wanted to be a part of it,” Vuong said.

With winds reaching more than 250 miles per hour and 45-foot waves, Typhoon Haiyan’s death toll has surpassed that of Hurricane Katrina and left most of the third-world country in pieces, according to a press release. And although, globally, millions of dollars have been raised to aid the victims of the typhoon, the numbers shrivel in comparison to the billions of dollars raised after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

Vuong said she believes the Philippines distance from America is most likely a reason for the lack of awareness.

“A lot of people are really uneducated about it,” Vuong said. “Since [Katrina] was in the United States itself, more of the nation contributed … ”

Even a world away, UCF students, alum and local businesses come together to raise awareness for the Philippines.

“The ultimate goal is to deliver hope,” Chen said.

Hope for the Philippines will be tabling in front of the Student Union until Dec. 10. To purchase a T-shirt or make a donation, visit

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