The typhoon, with sustained wind speeds of 145 mph, made landfall fives times as it traveled along the Philippines.
The Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council had confirmed 6,155 deaths caused by the storm as of Sunday, Dec. 29. Published reports from United Nations officials say the typhoon — called Yolanda in the Philippines — affected millions of people, leaving many homeless and in need of food and other necessities.
Members of the American Heritage Girls Troop CA5160 joined in relief efforts, sending 100 teddy bears to children at a Philippine hospital.
Coordinator Albert Cordero said the 22 girls of the troop based at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church bought the bears with the help of their charter organization, Knights of Columbus Council 4041. Their goal was to tell the children of the Philippines that someone cared about their plight.
“The girls just wanted to reach out to the other kids and let them know they are not alone,” Cordero said.
In December, the troop gathered for a bear-tagging party, writing prayers and words of encouragement on cards and attaching them to the bears with ribbons.
“It was a good way to get the message across,” Cordero said.
Cordero’s 10-year-old daughter, Gigi, is a member of the troop and helped in the bear project. She said working on the bears and knowing she was helping other children made her happy.
‘It’s important to help and make them feel better,” Gigi said. “It won’t replace everything, but it will make them feel better.”
The bears will be taken to the Philippines by Violeta Seitz of the Psuong Pinoy Forever Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by the Seitz family of Tracy.
The toys are destined for children at the Hospicio de San Jose, a Catholic welfare organization for orphans, special-needs children and elderly people in Manila.
American Heritage Girls troop member Megan McLarty, 9, also helped get the bears ready to go to the Philippines. She attached tags and wrote messages telling the recipients the Tracy girls were praying for them.
“I know we were helping people,” Megan said. “It made me feel pretty good.”
Local artist and teacher Carol Ponsaran, 33, is also doing her part to help with typhoon relief.
Ponsaran’s parents, Oscar and Rosalinda, left the Philippines hours before Typhoon Haiyan struck. They had spent 10 days in the rural town of Sigma to build a classroom and canteen at Eleodoro J. Ponsaran Elementary School, named after her grandfather.
Ponsaran said the typhoon wiped out all the new construction at the school and destroyed some homes and other buildings in the community.
News of the damage to the school weighed heavily on the family, which values education highly, Ponsaran said.
“It hit pretty close to home, especially with my parents being there,” Ponsaran said. “This is something my grandfather worked for and passed down.”
She said her family is dedicated to rebuilding the small rural school. If it has to be closed, children will be forced to walk to another school several miles away.
“My family just wants to do what they can to keep the school open,” Ponsaran said. “We want the children to go back to the school — it’s important to do what we can to provide students with an education.”
The Ponsaran family — including members in Fremont and Cleveland, Ohio — is trying to raise money for construction materials to repair the damage to the school and the town’s chapel.
Ponsaran has set up a webpage to sell prints of her artwork for donations to the Philippines project. It can be seen at http://ponsaran.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/art-for-the-philippines-art-for-sigma.
She said the $20 cost of each signed print will go to the rebuilding fund.
Donations for construction materials can also be made at http://fundly.com/us-sigma-acbo-fund.
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or email@example.com.