When disaster strikes, the scenes unfolding on the television screen raise goose bumps on arms and push pained gasps from lungs out to empty spaces, but what happens inside us has the biggest impact.
Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November, causing $288 million of damage and killing and misplacing thousands of people. For Chris Gallagher, a sophomore general education major from Highland and Dixie State University Student Association service chair, the numbers meant a great deal. He called the same areas impacted by the storm home while serving an LDS mission in Tacloban, an eastern city hit hard by the typhoon.
Gallagher said he channeled his confusion and frustration into helping in any way possible. Gallagher said without much of the experience it takes to plan a benefit event, he felt hopeless due to the situation’s full-scale impact on the place he spent two years.
“[The location was] what set it off for me; it really hit home for me and for all of my friends who I served with,” he said. “So we all wanted to [help], but we didn’t know what to do.”
However, Gallagher’s determination to create a difference pushed him to organize Run 4 Philippines, a charity 5K held Saturday in Provo to raise funds for humanitarian efforts in the Philippines. Gallagher said he made a difference by succeeding in three aspects that all students aspiring to make a difference should focus on: using social media for promotion, grouping efforts with like-minded people, and executing plans without hesitation.
At Run 4 Philippines, about 500 runners participated to help raise more than $17,000 for relief efforts in the Philippines. In addition, notable Utahans like Sen. Mike Lee and Attorney General Sean Reyes showed up at the 5K to offer support. Gallagher is continuing to help raise funds by partnering with HELP International. For more information, go to help-international.org and click “Donate Now” then search for Philippines disaster relief.
Gallagher said his ability to network with connections in the Philippines, compounded with his brother’s knack for event planning, allowed him to contribute to charity efforts from thousands of miles away. Organizing any event takes time, Gallagher said. But planning coincided with the bustling holiday season, and he had to focus on schoolwork and his duties as service chair as well.
After preparing for two months, though, Gallagher said he has both channeled the emotions he felt after the typhoon into the 5K’s creation and found ways to help while working as service chair.
“It actually works really well [at DSU] because now I can pull from the support of people from student government to use the different resources we have to promote [the effort] in St. George,” he said.
Compounded with experience students can acquire being a part of DSUSA, other programs at DSU provide more opportunities.
And DSU has substantial resources for students who want to advance charity efforts, said Ellen Lloyd, DSU AmeriCorps campus coordinator.
Through programs like AmeriCorps, students can volunteer for various causes that align with their future career fields. Although the program includes numerous incentives, like funds to go toward educational expenses, Lloyd said the program provides a solid foundation for students with unwavering passions for giving back.
“The experience sparks a desire among many of the students … to continue giving back to their community in humanitarian work,” she wrote in an email. “Some of the students go on to complete a second or third AmeriCorps service plan, partly because they derive so much personal satisfaction from their volunteer hours.”
Lloyd said DSU students will account for nearly 35,000 hours of service this year through the 72 students enrolled in AmeriCorps. In addition, the students involved must mobilize five other volunteers, which Lloyd said helps develop the initial experience students need to succeed in future volunteer or humanitarian endeavors.
Gallagher said being involved in organizations like DSUSA can also motivate students to give back; his experiences in student government have helped expand upon his desire to lend a hand in relief efforts for the Philippines.
“Service has [been] on my mind … so I can definitely say being involved with DSUSA has given me that motivation or put me in that mind set,” he said.
For more information on AmeriCorps, contact Lloyd at 435-634-2003 or search DSU’s website and its scholarship page.