Appletreewick woman Lalah Johnson sends aid to Philippines after typhoon tragedy

Lalah Johnson with her daughter Gabrielle

Lalah Johnson with her daughter Gabrielle

First published in News

A woman who lost 16 members of her family as typhoon Haiyan barrelled through the Philippines in November, is helping with an aid programme in Craven.

Lalah Johnson, of Appletreewick, travelled to her former home town of Baybay, on Monday with her six-month-old daughter Gabrielle to see how her parents are coping amidst the carnage.

Her father, mother and immediate family escaped the disaster, but her uncle and his family died as their home took the full brunt of the storm.

“I didn’t manage to contact my father for three days though I knew they had moved away from the coast to my grandmother’s home,” said the 36-year-old. “I was terrified when I saw the pictures on the news.”

It was some time later when she eventually contacted her father again and learned of the loss of her uncle, aunt and cousins who were living in the town of Ormoc.

“I couldn’t bear what I heard. I went to pieces and fell to the floor,” she said.

The horror of her loss so moved her friend Vicky Lund, a teaching assistant at Grassington Primary school, that she set up an appeal for people to donate aid. “I wanted to be useful. I couldn’t believe what had happened and wanted to help,” said Vicky.

“It was said people were destitute and needed so much, such as blankets, clothes and shoes.”

Supported by International Aid Trust, her appeal to local people for any domestic items they could spare received a huge response.

It was was so great that her home in Grassington resembled a warehouse to such an extent that a wagon was needed to remove donations to Preston, IAT’s base.

Now Vicky, Lalah and friend Prim Walmsley of Grassington, who is also involved, are appealing for help to find a building where future donations can be stored.

“Lalah will be keeping in touch with me when she’s in the Philippines to tell me what kind of things are needed,” said Vicky, who has collected three loads of donations already.

“But we need somewhere to store it all. I don’t mind my house being used – I’ve been literally tripping over stuff – but that’s not ideal.”

She plans to make herself available every Saturday from 9am to 4pm to receive aid which can range from clothing to furniture.

Anyone who can help with the request for a building should contact her on 01756 753014 or on her Facebook site.

Save the Children say 5.4 million children, 460,000 under two-years-old, have been affected in the aftermath of the superstorm.

A spokesman said: “We’ve helped more than 100,000 people so far, including 60,000 children, and aim to help 760,000 people.

“Almost 100 tonnes of aid supplies have arrived and it will be distributed to the worst hit areas.

“Items delivered include four mobile clinics, 12,000 blankets, 500 new born kits and a vast supply of basic shelter items.

“A team of 12 doctors from the UK are treating the injured and sick and we're setting up six mobile health clinics in affected areas.”

To make sure the aid gets to the right places, nine senior logistics experts – from Britain, Australia, and Denmark – had been recruited.

More aircraft were planned for the coming days which would see aid delivered from warehouses in Europe, Africa and Asia.

For more details, visit www.savethechildren.org.uk/

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