I didn’t recognize the email address in my inbox. The subject line read, “From Noelynn.” Even that did not ring a bell, but I opened the email. “Good afternoon, Ms. Ardis!” it began. “I am not sure if you’d remember me for I know you’ve got plenty of students coming through your door. I am a graduate of McAllen High School, Class of 2001.”

Students in Telecommunications and Networking must walk through my classroom to get to theirs, and I quickly learned Noelynn had been a student in T&N. I read on. “I am emailing you today to ask for your help. If you’ve not heard on the news lately, the capital of my country, the Philippines, is submerged by water. This past weekend, the city of Manila was hit by Tropical Storm Ketsana.” Noelynn explained that the country reported 140 casualties and more than 300,000 families left homeless. “With this in mind, the Filipino community in the Rio Grande Valley is starting a fund drive to help these victims. We’ve partnered with a foundation called Sagip Kapamilya www.sagikapamilya.com to ensure that the donations will go to these families that are now homeless.” Noelyn asked me to reach out to Valley Town Crier readers.

Somehow, I had missed the news reports, so I searched online to learn more. Typhoon Ketsana (known in the Philippines as Typhoon Ondoy) hit the Philippines Sept. 26, dumping more than a month’s worth of rain, 14-22 inches, within 12 hours. Typhoon Ketsana produced the heaviest rain the country has seen in more than 40 years. The damage would have been severe enough had the water merely risen, but instead, it rose and rushed, causing landslides. Mud and debris replaced what had been roads just hours before. Some Filipinos drowned in their own homes, unable to climb to safety.

Links led me videos on You Tube. Vehicles literally floated down the streets of Manila, but that paled in comparison to the pictures of homes drifting along in the muddied waters. People waded in the mustard yellow water, chest high in some photos, neck high in others. The videos showed people floating on anything they could find and rescue workers trying to help in some small way, pictures reminiscent of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The faces of the people drew me in. Shock, worry, sadness and devastation. In one picture, a 40-year-old man stood beside a coffin holding his wife and two children, his head hanging, his fist wiping the tears from his eyes. I thought about the students I have had in the past couple of years who were born in the Philippines, all of them among the best and brightest I have taught over the past 26 years. I know they all have family members still living in the Philippines, and I wondered how they had fared. Noelynn told me her husband’s cousin rushed home when the typhoon hit, and she and her daughter sat on the roof of their home for more than 30 hours, waiting to be rescued.

Stories indicate that relief organizations are collecting rice, toiletries, water, cleaning supplies, clothing, shoes and all other basic necessities for the more than 300,0000 people left homeless as a result of Typhoon Ketsana. Noelynn and other members of the RGV’s Filipino community are collecting monetary donations that will be used to purchase such items. Checks should be made out to ABS-CBN Foundation. They can be dropped off at Asian Best, located at 2700 N. 23rd Street in McAllen, or at the Edinburg Seventh-day Adventist Church at 602 W. Wisconsin Road in Edinburg. Members of the group are also willing to pick up donations.

For more information, Town Crier readers wishing to help may contact Noelynn Gillamac Llasos at 240-0650 or by emailing her at ng_llasos@yahoo.com.