By Andrew Cohen
Days before Typhoon Haiyan decimated part of her native Philippines, JeAnne Reyes ’14 grappled with feelings of helplessness and despair.
“I was tracking the storm online,” said Reyes, co-chair of Berkeley Law’s Pilipino American Law Society (PALS). “You could see how massive it was and that it was headed straight for the Philippines. I wanted to do something to help, just like a lot of other people.”
After details of the devastation emerged—more than 5,000 deaths, 11 million people displaced, and $1 billion in damages—Reyes and fellow PALS Co-Chair Alan Enriquez ’14 called a group meeting. Members brainstormed about different ways to support victims of the disaster, reached out to other Filipino organizations on campus, and launched a concerted effort to support relief initiatives.
PALS member Katy Robinette ’14 contacted a friend at Goldilocks, a Filipino bakery chain with 16 stores in California. Goldilocks donated a generous amount of baked goods, which PALS members sold on three straight afternoons outside Booth Auditorium. The bake sale raised more than $800 for relief efforts of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON).
“I was concerned because we’re a small organization, and Thanksgiving break and final exams were right around the corner,” Enriquez said. “But it was really heartening to see how committed people were to helping. Many students here aren’t familiar with PALS or Filipino culture, so it was a bonus to help familiarize them with our organization and introduce them to our cuisine.”
PALS also worked with Filipino undergraduate groups to make and sell hand-painted ribbons that read “#Act4thePhilippines.” Sold during the two weeks before Thanksgiving on Sproul Plaza, the ribbons—sporting colors of the Philippine flag—raised more than $4,300.
Other awareness-raising events included a moment of silence on the steps of Sproul Hall dedicated to typhoon victims and their families, as well as a candle-lighting ceremony the following night. The latter featured a program with guest speakers and performers, as well as donation booths and information tables.
PALS’ efforts were buoyed by Berkeley Law staff members who helped publicize events and coordinate logistical support. Notably instrumental were Student Services Director Kim Natividad ’09, Student-Initiated Legal Services Projects Coordinator and former PALS chair Janelle Hill ’12, and Dean’s Office project specialist Romeo Ferrer, Jr., who gathered donations to NAFCON and offered information on tax-deduction eligibility.
“I was touched by the responses we received and how our PALS members were willing to volunteer extensively at a very busy time,” Reyes said. “A lot of law students, not just those of us who are Filipino, wanted to help even though many of them have student loans and are strapped for cash. It was really moving to see our school’s close-knit community support one another.”
PALS’ outreach efforts also connected the group with two Filipino LL.M. students—married couple Arianne Jimenez and Jose De Castro. They mobilized support and contributions from fellow LL.M. students, helped staff booths during the donation drive, and are now active members of PALS.
When students return from winter break, PALS will reconvene to discuss new ways to support the relief effort. “Our work will continue because the need will continue to be there,” Reyes said.
Both co-chairs are grateful that no one in PALS had friends or family directly affected by the typhoon—and that the organization will continue to help the Philippines rebuild in 2014.
“We may have a small Filipino community on campus, but this tragedy and the response to it reinvigorates my belief that we have an important role to play here,” Enriquez said. “It definitely empowers my desire to strengthen our organization and to help it grow.”