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Okanagan disaster response group helpless in Philippines

The Kelowna chapter of Shelters International Disaster Response (SIDR) went to the Philippines to help with the recovery but instead encountered red tape.

Last month, we introduced you to Laura Allan, the president of the Kelowna chapter just before they headed out to the Philippines to help build houses. The group had just been given thousands of dollars worth of equipment; drills, chainsaws and most importantly a generator.

The plan was supposed to be straightforward: fly to Manilla and get to Cebu — one of the lesser known southern islands hit hard by the storm.

The group thought everything was set until they boarded the plane last week. United airlines wouldn’t allow them to bring the generator.

“I had to say I started crying. That generator is the core of how everything runs,” said Allan from Manilla. “If we don’t have the generator we’re done. Completely done. We’re out of the water….everything everyone had packed and worked so hard to fundraise is dead equipment.”

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With a generator, tools are powered and houses are built faster but now the group was sitting idle in Manilla.

They pleaded with the airlines, airports, anyone involved but no one would help.

With nowhere else to turn, Allan contacted Global News. After we called United Airlines, the company had a change of heart.

“We regret the miscommunication between our employees with the generator and luggage. After assessing the issue we waived the cost of flying the generator to Philippines and are getting it there as quickly as possible,” said Jennifer Dohm, a spokesperson for United Airlines.

The generator is on route and should be in the Philippines before the weekend is over. Allan and her volunteers now past the red tape, will finally be able to get started on their mission.

“I thank you guys I’m so grateful you have no idea,” said Allan. “You’re empowering us literally.”

If you’d like to help SIDR’s relief efforts you can find out more information here.

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