Kirtland — Although a group of Filipino-American employees with the Central Consolidated School District are far away from their homeland -- recently hit by an enormously destructive typhoon -- they want to help.
This week, CCSD teachers, staff and administrators are being asked to donate money to a fundraising effort started Monday by those employees.
"It's overwhelming," said Rhodora Alonzo, a principal in-training intern at Tsé Bit'a'í Middle School in Shiprock and is spearheading the effort with three teachers, about the response to their effort.
Ann Aboyme, a science teacher at Kirtland Central High School, is taking it one step further by setting up a small donation box in her classroom so students can donate change.
The group does not have a set goal in mind but will continue collecting throughout the week and each CCSD school has a designated person who can provide more information about the fundraising effort.
Despite the distance, news of last week's tropical cyclone did hit close to home.
Cynthia Dumayes, a sixth grade science teacher at Tsé Bit'a'í Middle School, has a father and four siblings living in the province of Eastern Samar, which is the first place Typhoon Haiyan made landfall with winds up to 196 mph.
Dumayes last communicated with one of her brothers Nov. 8.
"I asked him if they were prepared," she said. "He said, 'Yes.' We tried to call the next day, then no more signal."
She also has relatives living in Tacloban, which is the capital of the province of Leyte and was largely destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan.
Since news about the tropical cyclone broke, Dumayes had been watching updates on The Filipino Channel and monitoring Facebook.
Dumayes said she does not go to sleep until after midnight because she is waiting for updates.
Last Friday, one of her sisters in California talked to a relative but until Dumayes directly hears from her family the worry continues.
"We're still praying and keep on trying to reach any communication from them," she said.
Karl Siozon teaches community living at Kirtland Central. His father, Ruben, and stepbrother, Rob, live in Eastern Samar.
Siozon does not have cable and had not checked his Facebook profile in months but he recently signed on to the website to see if relatives had heard from his father.
Although Siozon heard from family members that his father and stepbrother were OK, he still worried.
Father and son finally spoke by telephone Saturday.
"It's different when you get to talk to them," he said.
Siozon learned that his father and stepbrother were in Tacloban during the storm but have since relocated south of the city because people are looting businesses and homes and prisoners escaped from one of the jails damaged by the cyclone.
He also learned that his father swam, with a cooler containing important documents tied to his body and Rob on his shoulders, a half-mile through water as high as 15 feet.
"The spirit of survival is very strong and they need more of that," Alonzo said.
The group of CCSD employees will meet Thursday to decide which relief organization will receive the final donation. They want the donation to be issued by the district on behalf of the employees.
CCSD superintendent Don Levinski sent a message to employees urging support for the effort.
"They need medical supplies, fresh drinking water, food housing, and to know the rest of the world cares," Levinski wrote. "The fastest way we can help is to send money that can be converted to meet the needs of their families and homeland."
The group said Levinski's message is helpful and comforting.
"We feel the message," Aboyme said.