Lynnwood relief worker's family among 850,000 Philippine flood victims

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on August 8, 2012 at 6:32 PM

LYNNWOOD, Wash. -- Christine Umayam is one of those people who feels the pain of suffering children around the world. So much so, she established her own relief agency, Child United.

 “We helped in Haiti. We helped in Japan and the Dominican Republic, as well. I just feel the need to help children,” she said.

On Monday Umayam heard about the increasingly desperate situation in the Philippines where 850,000 people are homeless after 11 days of relentless rains. Tuesday saw 20 inches in 24 hours.  She knew immediately she had to help.

“My heart aches in pain when I see those pictures,” she said. “It’s personal.”

So personal, because Christine has hundreds of family members in the flood zone - family she still hasn't heard from.

“To be personally affected is very different from what I usually do, which is just help as much as I can,” she said.

Umayam’s only contact overseas is her sister, Marivi, a Microsoft worker in Manila. They were able to connect via Skype this afternoon. Marivi hasn't been able to find the family members either.

“We haven't gotten a hold of anybody, and that's where I saw a lot of the flooding,” said a bleary-eyed Marivi, checking in at 5:00 in the morning Manila time.

“I'm hoping and praying they're ok. I’m really concerned,” she said.

Now, Christine, who has been recognized by the White House for her relief efforts, does what she does best. She’s putting her vast network of connections to work. She’s gathering donations, establishing drop sites and trying to secure a shipping container to deliver the goods overseas. 

A friend in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood is clearing out her garage, prepping it as a drop zone for local donations.

“We have to do something,” said Larcy Douglas, who works with Philippino youth in the city.

Umayam plans to ship the supplies out on August 18. The supplies are destined for nearly a million desperate strangers half a world away and a few hundred who live in her heart.

“I'm hoping what I'm doing here will help them. To not know where they are is heartbreaking. At least I’m doing something,” she said.

There are five drop zones around Puget Sound: Tacoma, Lynnwood, Kirkland, Seattle and Oak Harbor. For more information on where they are and what’s needed visit http://childunited.com/help-now-list-of-relief-items/

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