MANKATO — In front of San Joaquin Central School in Palo, a city in the Philippines, painted crosses mark 46 makeshift children's graves.
The children were killed when the area, in Leyte province, was hit by typhoon Yolanda in November. Because of the number of victims — more than 6,200 killed in the island country — there wasn't time or space for proper burials. During free time at school, San Joaquin staff have watched the children go out and sit by their friends' gravesides.
This was one of the schools visited in February by Cita Maignes, international recruitment/retention specialist at Minnesota State University, as well as her two friends involved in MSU's Friendship Families program, sisters Terri Prange and Mary Guentzel. Guentzel's daughter, Angela Guentzel, also went along.
Following fundraising efforts through MSU that generated more than $3,200, the women went to disperse funds and school supplies directly to several schools in the Tacloban area.
Maignes, originally from a farm an hour from Davao City in Mindanao, Philippines, knows firsthand the importance of education. And she wanted to make sure the funds went to elementary schools. “I really have compassion for the children,” she said.
The women spent two weeks together both at Maignes' family farm and traveling to the Tacloban area. (Maignes stayed in the Philippines with family for two months, returning a couple of a weeks ago.)
“(The Tacloban area) is just flattened,” Maignes said. “The whole area is just devastation.”
Among the needs of the San Joaquin school was a new fence, which the principal explained was to protect the children from kidnappings related to human trafficking. Schools also needed school supplies, which the women provided to 1,300 children, as well as new roofing.
For many schools, the building damage is so extensive that classes are being held outside on the grass, Maignes said. At one school UNICEF had provided a tent to hold class, but it's so hot inside that the school isn't using it.