Local organization collects donations for Philippines


Melissa Villa from Millbrae founded Project Pearls nearly four years ago to help the poorest of the poor in the Philippines. Monday, the non-profit raised its banner in San Mateo to help survivors of Typhoon Sendong.

The powerful storm hit the Philippines Dec. 16th and the death toll has now topped 1,000, with more than 1,000 still missing.

"The grief is overwhelming and we're just traumatized. I think it's worse than Hurricane Katrina [because] we don't have technology there," said Villa.

The tight-knit Filipino community is joining forces to raise money and donations. One volunteer was in tears at the thought of the victims, especially in the southern cities of Cagayan de Oro and Illigan City.

"It's the children, honestly it's the children because some of them are probably the last ones," said volunteer Sherril Salangsang.

The passionate plea for help along El Camino Real had people stopping to make donations.

"When people [are] suffering, if you can help... I feel in the heart, I have to help," said San Mateo donor Aliaksei Kalesmik.

In addition to the collection site set up on Monday, the group is holding a similar fundraising effort in Sacramento on Wednesday. The driving force behind the fundraising effort is social media and people are using every opportunity to spread the word.

"I'm just posting on my Twitter and Facebook to come help Project Pearls," said volunteer Brandon Malaluan.

Project Pearls has also partnered with Philippines-based shipping company LBC, which is sending clothing, food and toiletries to the typhoon region for free.

"It's a small group of family and friends who want to make a difference and the response is overwhelming," said Villa.

Volunteers say it's gratifying to see the spirit of giving is not confined to a holiday.

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