Rechel Plazon is a freelancer of the law firm living in the Philippines. She was expecting a degree of uncertainty at her home province of Cebu this past December 16th; government officials had warned an enormous typhoon, Typhoon Rai, was likely to hit the island. But she had no idea of how deeply it would affect her family personally and her neighbors and friends.
Plazon and her family which includes both her 13-year-old daughter Trishia and her fiance Raymond evacuated the night before to a neighbor’s house that “was newer and stronger” than theirs, she said. “We thought we would be safe there, and we were right.”
The typhoon was indeed one of the most powerful storms to ever hit the Philippines, and Plazon’s house was partially destroyed. More than 50 percent was completely demolished, including large sections of the upper portion of the dwelling.
As of January 11th, the country’s death toll from the massive storm had reached 403, with 78 people still missing, according to Ricardo Jalad, an office of Civil Defense Administrator in the Philippines government. With power lines down, roads flooded, and reliable communication very difficult to find, Plazon was finally able to contact her Rosenblum Law co-workers days later and tell them what had happened. They immediately sprung into action.
“She’s such a critical part of our operation and an amazing employee,” said Brie Rowan, an Intake Manager at the law firm. “You ask her to do something and it’s done, and she’s so dedicated, working as many hours as it takes to complete her work. She’s a great person, and we all felt like we wanted to help.”
Rosenblum Law started a fundraiser among employees and was able to raise nearly $1,500 to help Plazon fix her house. Able to evacuate after a few days to northern Cebu, where the storm had done less damage, Plazon was thrilled and appreciative of the assistance from co-workers.
But she saw so much suffering, she knew that money would do more good for others than for herself.
“I saw the need for food and water and shelter were so great for people, and a lot of the relief organizations that were coming to help took awhile to get here, because the roads were so bad,” Plazon said. “It was like a war zone here. People were starving.”
So, as soon as the money from Rosenblum Law arrived in her bank account several days after the storm, Plazon set out to help others. She, Trishia, and Raymond began buying sacks of rice, canned goods, noodles, and as much water as they could find, and then began distributing it to neighbors in need.
They purchased wet and dry goods at the local market, and construction materials to fix their own roof, and the roofs of others. They packaged and re-packaged food and supplies for around 100 families, Plazon said, most of whom had been left with nothing after the storm.
“There was one family where the mother had passed away five years ago, and the father had abandoned the kids, and they got hit really hard (by the storm),” Plazon said. “You feel so bad that you can only help them with some water and a little food, but they had so little.”
Adam Rosenblum, Principal at Rosenblum Law, said that he and the others at the firm were surprised and that it’s “very unusual” for someone to act as magnanimously as Plazon, especially when faced with dire personal circumstances.
“This act shows that Rechel is a very selfless person, and she is an exception to most people in that she thought of others first,” Rosenblum said. “She did so much to help.”
Plazon said she “didn’t know how to thank” the Rosenblum team enough for their help, and that she and the others she was able to help are “beyond grateful.” She doesn’t know when she’ll be able to get back into her home and expects to be in a rented apartment in northern Cebu “for a while.”
“Things are getting better slowly; there’s more food available now and financial assistance is starting to come,” Plazon said. “The damage is just huge, and I’m really happy I was able to do something for people.”