LAST WEEKEND, Typhoon Haiyan swept through the central islands of the Philippines, destroying much of their infrastructure and leaving a rising death toll of over 1,000 people (initial estimates were 10,000 dead, but that has been reduced to around 2,500). Upwards of 580,000 also lost their homes. Several members of the Matador community have been directly affected by this storm, and people around the world are coming together to help aid in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of damaged areas.

Below are travel narratives, photo essays, and videos depicting the diversity of the Philippines. Information on how you can help during this critical time is also included.

  • Earth Day in paradise: Palawan, Philippines – Kate Siobhan Havercroft, faculty member for MatadorU’s Travel Photography program, participated in a beach cleanup at the El Nido Miniloc Resort to celebrate Earth Day this year. This series of photos encapsulates her experience working alongside members of the hotel staff, and what it means to be a responsible traveler.
  • How I proposed to my girlfriend in the Philippines – Bart Schaneman’s emotional narrative explains why he chose the beaches of El Nido in the Philippines as the perfect place to pop the question.
  • In the Philippines, fishing is taken to a whole other level – Humans are constantly adapting to their environment in order to survive. This video clip presents Sulbin, a Bajau fisherman in the Philippines, who can hold his breath for up to 5 minutes while free-diving 20 meters deep.
  • 11 “ordinary moments” from Cebu, Philippines – The level of destruction in the Philippines is devastating, but Filipinos are working together to get their communities back in order. Stephanie Santana’s photo essay explores the city of Cebu, and is a reminder that life will one day continue as it did before.
  • Mountain trekking in the Philippines – Nick Kuchmak’s photo essay provides a look into the lives of those living in the northern Luzon Cordillera.

How you can help
  • Raise awareness. Despite the instantaneous nature of news broadcasts across social networks, many are still not aware of what happened in the Philippines — the scale of damage, the areas impacted, and ways they can help. Spreading awareness is a small way to provide others with information that they can use to make their own decisions regarding the crisis. Check out how people are using social media to get the word out.
  • Donate. This is the easiest way to show your support. Many people choose to donate money to larger organizations, such as the Red Cross, Oxfam, Unicef, Doctors Without Borders, Action Against Hunger, and the Disasters Emergency Committee, but there are plenty of other local groups you can donate to as well. A short list of charities in the Philippines can be found here; it’s a good idea to do some research before donating to any cause, to make sure your funds go to the right place.
  • Organize your own fundraiser. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy gala to show your support — even hosting a party where you charge your guests for Solo cups or jello shots can help. The Disasters Emergency Committee provides a comprehensive guide to hosting your own fundraiser here.
  • Volunteer. Almost as important as funds, the Philippines needs manpower — people to rebuild shelters and other structures, people to tend to the sick and wounded, people to clean up debris and damage, to hand out supplies and food, look for missing family members — no one will be standing idle for very long. Find an organization you trust and admire, and express your desire to help in the field.
  • Lobby for action on climate change. Climate negotiator for the Philippines Naderev “Yeb” Saño broke down on Monday during an emotional speech presented at the UN climate talks in Warsaw. Typhoon Haiyan has been compared to twice the force of Hurricane Sandy, and meteorologists are calling for governments around the world to reconsider their stance on global warming. Contact your local, state, even national government offices, and make your opinions on this matter heard.