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Student fundraising helps community in the Philippines

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MORRIS – Many of the students at Morris Area High School know that science teacher Kevin Pope is originally from the Philippines.

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When a devastating storm hit southeast Asia last winter, students rallied to collection donations to send to help the members of Pope’s family who live there.

Last Friday, May 9, Pope gave a presentation to students to show them what impact their donations had made for his family and their neighbors in Tacloban City.

Pope was born in the Philippines – his mother, Elena, is a native Filipino and his father, Mike, was in the Navy. They met and were married when Mike was stationed in the Philippines. Many of the Pope family’s relatives still live there.

On Nov. 8, 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, a category 5 hurricane, made landfall in the Philippines, devastating much of southeastern Asia. The typhoon was one of the strongest ever recorded, generating sustained winds of more than 145 miles per hour. Experts estimate that more than 6,200 people were killed in the storm.

Tacloban City, where many of Pope’s relatives live, was leveled.

“It’s hard for us to imagine how poor the infrastructure is in a lot of places there – it’s very much a third world country,” said Pope.

When students heard about the typhoon they started working to collect donations to send to Pope’s relatives overseas. On the last day of school before Christmas break, the students involved surprised him in front of the entire school with a giant check and about $3,000 in donations.

“I was completely shocked and surprised,” said Pope.

At the same time, residents of Pope’s hometown, Ely, Minn., rallied around Elena to donate clothes and tools to ship overseas. Some of the students’ donations were used to pay to ship the donations to Tacloban City.

“I wanted it to be something that helped my family, I guess, but I knew it could be so much more than that,” said Pope. “My relatives over there are the ones that suggested before that conversation was had that we can help a lot of people.”

Pope worked with his parents to wire the remaining money to relatives in the Philippines, who used the donations to buy local food and water to distribute to their neighbors, hundreds of people in total.

“[My relatives] distributed it to pretty much anybody. They set up a couple different locations and they handed out food as much as they could,” said Pope.

At the presentation, Pope said it was emotional for students to see the impact of what they’d done and how helpful their work could be.

“Without anything in return, [the students] decided to help people on the other side of the world that they didn’t know,” Pope said. “It was important for me that they saw the impact of what they’d done.”

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Kim Ukura is the editor of the Morris Sun Tribune. 

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