One local nurse is responding to the call for help from families halfway across the globe devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, which decimated the central Philippines last week.
Barb Balbin, a surgical nurse at Newton Medical for the past 13 years, learned that her hometown in the western Iloilo province on the Philippine island of Panay was among the areas hit by the supertyphoon. Balbin has been trying to spread the word about the magnitude of the destruction and encourage her co-workers, neighbors and the community to donate to the Red Cross or other well-established relief agencies.
Through some cellphone coverage and Facebook posts, Balbin learned that her grandmother was moved to higher ground before the storm and is safe. But many others in her community were not so lucky.
"The people are given warning signs, but where are they going to go? Coastal areas are lowlands, and the mountain areas are too far," she said. "They started with gyms, schools, churches. But the gym roof was ripped off, the school was wiped out... Some of these areas are poor people. They don't have transportation."
"It's overwhelming. I've never seen anything like this before," said Balbin. "We're so used to monsoon and typhoons. Usually people are able to surpass that. But nothing of this magnitude. Not around the country like this... They keep saying help is on the way. But the people living there are hungry."
Balbin said her network of family and friends and medical personnel in the Iloilo province have adopted the area, which has not yet seen relief agencies nor military presence. They are collecting supplies and giving donations to medical personnel working in the province. She's heard of some food and clothing collections in bigger cities but not as much activity around Atlanta.
She is encouraging everyone she knows to donate to well-established agencies such as the Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services and the Church of Latter Day Saints, which has a presence in the Philippines, so donors know their funds are being appropriately handled.