Mason Gives Back helps with Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts

Over 2,300 are estimated killed (photo by AP)
Over 2,300 are estimated killed (photo by AP)

At the top of the Mason Gives Back website is a letter asking for monetary donations to help with the ongoing relief effort in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

“I’m working with a childhood friend that grew up with me in our hometown of Bolusao, which was directly affected by the storm,” said Jarrell Gary, an advanced biomedical sciences candidate who wrote the letter. “Because I knew that our town is in a very secluded area, I knew that officials will have difficulty in giving aid to my family and hometown. We made it into our efforts to do something ourselves.”

Gary was born and raised on the Philippine island of Samar and has been unable to contact many of her family members since the storm hit on Nov. 8.

“By Monday… I received a Facebook message that my grandmother passed,” Gary said. “I can't explain enough my heartache. Days passed, and information continued to circulate on Facebook, yet I haven't been able to contact my family. Bolusao was my home. And the storm destroyed so much spirits, including mine. But, I know that I can only be strong for my family.”

Along with her friend Arjun Germones, Gary set up the Bolusao Relief Fund to raise money for her community. People can make donations through an online GoFundMe page, which lists a goal of $5,000.

She is also collaborating with Mason’s Filipino Cultural Association and Mason alumna Liana Elopore to host a candlelight vigil on Nov. 17 to memorialize victims of the typhoon.

Mason Gives Back has supported several other service projects, including another effort to help with recovery in the Philippines by Dr. Al Fuertes, an assistant professor for New Century College.

“Mason Gives Back isn’t necessarily a program,” said Lisa Snyder, associate director for the Leadership, Education and Development Office. “I would describe it more as kind of like a clearing house or a hub for [campus-wide service initiatives].”

Snyder introduced the idea for a forum for students who wanted to promote service projects they were working on two years ago.

“A lot of times, students will come to the LEAD Office to say, like, we know that x, y and z is happening on campus, but we don’t know how to help or get information,” Snyder said. “Instead of having 8000 different websites for a bunch of the same projects, we’re trying to keep it in a centralized place.”

When students want to share information about their projects and events, they can e-mail Snyder, who updates the website whenever something new surfaces.

The programs themselves were sponsored by different departments and organizations at Mason. For example, The Big Event, a service day when students volunteered to help elementary school children, senior citizens and the homeless in the Fairfax area, was hosted by Student Government and the LEAD Office.

In the past, Mason Gives Back oversaw food, water and clothing donations to a New Jersey town affected by Hurricane Sandy, the 9/11 Day of Service, in which Mason students, faculty and staff pledged to spend a day participating in service-oriented activities such as gardening and a clothing drive, and #GivingTuesday, a campaign to support nonprofit organizations at the start of the annual holiday season and to promote Mason’s Early Identification Program.

Although the website is still in its early development, it offers accessible information about ways for people to make an impact on the Mason community.

“There are many students, faculty and staff that want to find ways to help and give back,” Snyder said. “And I think what Mason Gives Back does is it provides opportunities to be able to showcase something that you’re doing… and it helps people find ways that they can help.”

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