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Lynnwood aid workers hoping to 'contain' typhoon tragedies

Lynnwood aid workers hoping to "contain" typhoon tragedies

LYNNWOOD, Wash. -- From her quiet Lynnwood home, Christine Umayam works to bring peace to the people of the Philippines.

Her parents still live there.

And as word comes of yet another devastating typhoon, she can't help but feel something else is there as well.

"It's my heart," she said. "My heart is there."

Umayam has made four relief trips to the Philippines in recent years, as storm after storm hit her family's homeland. She founded the non-profit Child United nearly eight years ago to help alleviate poverty and illiteracy in the developing world. Her work has been recognized by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.

As the Philippines continued to get hammered by storms, her focus shifted there.

Just last year 6,000 people died in a typhoon. Umayam's crew was there on the ground delivering aid. Despite help from around the world, many still haven't recovered.

"There are kids still living in tents," she said. "There are mass graves in the centers of the cities. Nobody knows how these people are living."

Umayam is now embarking on a new mission. To find inspiration, she only had to look as far as her local Starbucks.

The same way Starbucks has been converting big, steel shipping containers into stores, Umayam wants to turn them into typhoon shelters. For about $20,000, a cargo container can be retrofitted with insulation, running water and solar panels for electricity. They would be used for classrooms throughout the year and shelters when the monsoon season starts. The long-term goal is to install 20 of them over the next three years. If Umayam can raise enough money, the first could be completed by January.

"Here we are the later part of monsoon season and there are more weather disturbances scheduled to come," said Child United worker Larcy Douglas. "Ruby just hit and then, who knows."

It would be a late Christmas gift for the people of the Philippines, but one that would be deeply appreciated.

A piece of Umayam's heart that could be left there permanently.

Child United is collecting money and relief supplies for the more than one million people impacted by Typhoon Ruby. The container campaign is running, as well. To find out more click www.childunited.org.

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