A farmer in Co. Monaghan has launched an appeal for donations after a massive storm in the Philippines indirectly came close to home.
Typhoon Rai has ripped through the south-east Asian island country in the last week, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The death toll stands at around 375, while some €400 million in damage has been caused.
Although all this is – literally – on the other side of the world, it wasn’t too far away from dairy farmer PJ Boylan.
PJ’s 91-year-old mother has a carer who is from the Philippines and who has a son and daughter (both in their late teens) living on Bohol, one of the many islands that make up the country.
After seeing the fear his mother’s carer went through, and the damage – and death – that has occurred on Bohol, PJ decided to help and, with the help of some friends, started a Facebook page to highlight what happened and to ask for donations aimed at helping the people of the island.
The Facebook page includes a post explaining PJ’s reasons for starting the appeal.
It says: “Last Friday [December 17] I called in to see my mum, who is 91… I wanted to keep her at home and hopefully she will end her days in the family home. To help with this we employed a carer who happens to be from the Philippines.
“When I called, Nancy, mum’s carer, was in a very loud [phone] conversation with who turned out to be her son and daughter, who were in their house on the island of Bohol. There was a lot of shouting going on as the typhoon that hit was still in full swing,” he says.
“All their voices were strained, it was like something you’d see in a movie. They were speaking their own language but you don’t mistake abject fear in a voice, regardless of what language it is. I won’t forget that.”
PJ explains that the phone call suddenly dropped, and Nancy, the carer, spent the next two days “not knowing what had become of her family”.
Typhoon Rai has destroyed much of the electricity and communication infrastructure in the Philippines. Wind speeds are thought to have reached 215km/h, with torrential rainfall.
Thankfully, Nancy got a call from her son on Sunday to say that the family was alive and uninjured.
Unfortunately, many people in their local area have died, and some of Nancy’s extended family have seen their homes destroyed or submerged underwater.
Another issue they are facing is the large amount of livestock that has died, with the family’s pigs and chickens killed in the storm.
The village the family lives in had only one cow, which was killed when a tree fell and broke its back.
Nancy’s family is involved in fishing, but their boat, along with some 40 others, are damaged beyond repair.
“I was troubled by it and couldn’t get it out of my mind,” PJ says.
He explains that he was out on his own farm this week when he though of the idea of a fundraiser. The aim is to raise €1 million over two days (Christmas Day and St. Stephens Day – though donations can be made at any time, not just on those days).
“I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind, [so] I reached out to a group of colleagues and they all agreed it could work, so here it goes, I’m asking everyone to dig deep.”
He references the well-known example of the Native American Choctaw people who raised money for Ireland during the famine, saying: “They helped us and we as a nation don’t slack when it comes to helping out. We will do it again.
“I know we are troubled by the way our lives are restricted at present but we are blessed by all we have. Let’s share what we can, let’s dig deep. You won’t regret it,” PJ urges.
He is asking people to donate and spread the appeal. Anyone wising to donate can do so here.