On Nov. 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines. Winds reaching nearly 200 mph battered the city of Tacloban and the surrounding areas, creating 16-foot waves that swept away homes, people, and livelihoods. It quickly became the country’s deadliest natural disaster on record: More than 6,000 people died, and nearly 2,000 went missing. The damage was estimated at $1.5 billion.

By now, the story has largely faded from the headlines, but the challenges that Filipinos face in rebuilding their homes and communities endure. To help in this recovery, individuals from around MIT continue to provide support and guidance for those affected.

 

In a message to the MIT community the weekend of the disaster, President Reif extended his condolences to the people of the Philippines. He also charged Provost Martin Schmidt and Faculty Chair Steven Hall with exploring ways in which MIT might be able to help Filipinos in their recovery. 

 

About a week later, Schmidt and Hall followed up with a message describing the Institute’s focus on the safety of those with ties in the Philippines and inviting community input. The response was overwhelming. From faculty, staff, and students to alumni and relatives of MIT affiliates, the community stepped forward with a remarkable eagerness to help. In addition to those who expressed an interest in working together to strategize a response, the community showed its generosity, donating nearly $10,000 to the MIT Philippines Relief Fund

 

Building on this outpouring of support, a working group chaired by associate professor of history Christopher Capozzola was formed to leverage the expertise of the MIT community in addressing problems facing the people of the Philippines. The working group identified the Independent Activities Period (IAP), which was due to start in just a few short weeks, as an opportunity for on-the-ground assessment.

 

Acting quickly, the working group distributed a call for proposals aimed at community members interested in traveling to the Philippines over IAP to assess the situation and identify ways in which MIT might be uniquely positioned to assist.  Using donations made to the MIT Philippines Relief Fund, the working group approved the applications of Mary Anne Ocampo, a lecturer in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and Alison Laporte-Oshiro, a graduate student in the Sloan School of Management. Ocampo and Laporte-Oshiro traveled to the Philippines in mid-January and returned at the end of that month.

[Excerpted from MIT News.  To learn more about the process and the different ways students and faculty were involved, see the complete article, written by Aaron Weinberger]