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Utah volunteers partner with Filipinos to help those devastated by typhoon

By Jesse Hyde | Posted - Nov. 20, 2013 at 7:20 p.m.


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CEBU CITY, Philippines — Relief efforts continue in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the island nation. Americans — some former missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — are working alongside Filipinos to help victims of the devastating storm.

Since Typhoon Hyann hit the Philippines, thousands have fled the areas most devastated to make a life somewhere else. But for those who have stayed behind, the path forward is daunting.

Ormoc was one of the areas hardest hit by the storm. Miraculously, a chapel managed to escape relatively unscathed and served as a shelter for up to 400 people who slept on its floor. Many are still there.

The scene at the chapel was remarkable — Filipinos and Americans working together to help people who had been hurt during the typhoon, which flattened houses and laid waste to entire neighborhoods.

"You don't realize the magnitude until you're here," said volunteer Jared Richards. "You don't realize there are power lines on the ground and people are playing on them, or draped over stoplights."

Richards arrived this week with 10 other former Mormon missionaries who had served in the Philippines, looking for a way to help. One of those people was Chris Biesinger, a Provo ER doctor who spent the morning we saw him tending to infections, gashes and bruises caused by the storm.

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All morning long, lines of people needing medical treatment trickled in to the chapel. A 2-year-old boy was found by his bishop in Tacloban, a city three hours away, and transported by motorcycle with his father. He's now receiving medical treatment for a burn on his back and an infection that could have killed him had he not received help.

As the doctors — most of them from Utah — worked, volunteers from the LDS Church in Tacloban assisted with translations, even though their own homes had been destroyed.

"Ultimately what made us want to come was our love of the people knowing that they're humble people, and that they just need support and they're very resilient," Richards said. "We knew that if we could get here, just us being here it would bring hope to them and would also lift their spirits."

It's a story of two groups of volunteers — one from thousands of miles away, another from around the block — united by faith and a desire to serve those who need it most.

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Jesse Hyde

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