Nikki Powers
Nikki Powers donated

When I started working for GoAbroad in October of 2011, I got to visit our office in Tacloban City almost immediately. As in the next week. When my boss told me I would be going halfway around the world to the Philippines in a matter of days, I had a mini freak-out. He responded with “That’s how I roll.”

My first visit to the Philippines was an amazing experience. I got to meet everyone from GoAbroad’s office in Tacloban, learn from and get to know my advertising counterparts, and visit the downtown, a market, and a local beach. One day we visited the project sites of Volunteer for the Visayans to see different community centers, a homestay, and their program with dumpsite children. I also learned the true meaning of humidity when I attempted to go on a morning run – at 6:45 in the morning the air was so thick that I ended up turning around and walking back. If I had brought 50 pesos with me I would have taken a Pedi cab, but I did not think ahead. Lesson learned. More rice and less exercise was the plan for the rest of the trip.

The second visit was with our entire U.S. office and after a year of working with GoAbroad. I knew my team better, understood what to expect, and couldn’t wait to have quality time with both offices together. This trip was an incredible chance to learn more about the culture, food, and traditions in the Philippines. We got to see several local performances, taste halo-halo and pork belly, and I even learned some words in Waray (the local dialect). If you are ever in Tacloban, you can say “ma-ooh-pie-nah-aga” and that means “good morning.” That is also an absolutely phonetic pronunciation and should not be written out, or your attempt to impress the locals will backfire.

When we heard the news about Typhoon Haiyan heading towards the Philippines and specifically with Tacloban in line for the eye of the storm, it seemed a little unreal. I could not imagine the strength of the storm or the intensity with which it would hit the city I had visited twice. During the first three days after the typhoon hit, we had no idea what was happening on the ground. It was a surreal time of waiting to hear about our entire office and the people we cared so much about. Remarkably, all 80 of our team members in the Philippines survived the storm. We feel so lucky that we were able to account for all of them, thanks to the dedication of my boss, one former employee, and several of my colleagues.

Even though it has been a month since the typhoon hit the Philippines, the situation in Tacloban is still urgent. Many people have lost their homes or part of their homes, both from GoAbroad and the surrounding community. Much of the aid that is going through the government has not reached areas that were directly hit by the storm.

If you are looking for a charity to work with this holiday season or are just feeling a little bit more generous than usual because of your proximity to Christmas cookies, I invite you to donate what you can to the Philippines through the GoAbroad Foundation. Thanks for reading if you got this far. ☺

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