VANCOUVER, B.C. — When local Filipino woman Nenita Yap heard the news of Typhoon Haiyan, she prayed for her family members – including her 13-year-old daughter — who were trapped back home.
“I just kept on praying that if they didn’t survive, I’m praying that they didn’t suffer. For three days we didn’t know what happened to them,” said Yap, who was working as a nanny in Surrey at the time.
The typhoon was one of the strongest tropical storms ever recorded, and it was also one of the deadliest. More than 6,200 people were killed – including 10 members of Yap’s immediate family. She lost her sister, mother, and her brother’s four children, aged two to seven.
“I thought they’re all gone. I said what’s the purpose of my life? They’re my motivation for living.”
Yap’s daughter made it through the storm by grabbing onto a metal fence. Twenty-five other family members also survived.
She was planning to enroll in a healthcare assistant program, but once the typhoon hit she put the plans on hold so she could instead financially support her family members in the Philippines.
“I am determined to elevate my current situation by improving my education…financially speaking I am not able to achieve that goal immediately because there are other financial priorities that need to be taken care of first,” she said.
Then she learned about an essay contest at Sprott Shaw College. She wrote about her story and won free tuition and books. Today, she accepted the award at the Philippine Consulate.
“I am someone who loves to take an active role in taking care and helping others,” she said in her acceptance speech. It’s clear her surviving family members would agree.
– With files from Darlene Heidemann
© Shaw Media, 2014