Aspen man set for another aid trip to Philippines

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
Aspen resident John O’Donoghue enjoys a moment with a Filipino child during last year's visit to the typhoon-ravaged city of Tacloban.

How YOU CAN help

Donations to help buy school supplies for children in Tacloban can dropped off at St. Mary Catholic Church, 530 E. Main St. Donators are asked to write “school supplies” on the memo line of a check.

The first time he went to the typhoon-torn city of Tacloban in the Philippines, Aspen resident John O’Donoghue was so moved by its resilient residents that he knew he would return.

That was in September, when O’Donoghue and a group of St. Mary Catholic Church parishioners, including one of his teenage sons, went on a medical-aid mission to the town, which was wrecked by Typhoon Haiyan on Nov. 8, 2013.

“It had such a profound effect on me,” O’Donoghue said. “I actually jumped at the chance to go again. The people there are wonderful and appreciative.”

O’Donoghue, 51, will leave Aspen for another mission-aid trip to Tacloban on May 20, only this time he’ll be on a solo quest. O’Donoghue is paying for the trip with his money, and he’s not seeking any public support for his flight fares or lodging and meal expenses.

“This is my trip, my spring vacation,” said O’Donoghue, who moved to Aspen 20 years ago to help a friend run Pour La France restaurant. He’s been employed at the Miner’s Building for the past six years.

However, he is asking the local community to help him in his efforts to raise money to buy school supplies for poverty-ridden children ages 5 to 12.

“You can outfit a kid with the basics for $1.65,” he said. “That’s five pencils, a couple of pens, a notebook, some paper, a ruler and a little glue.”

Backpacks can run $3, so a $5 donation can help get a child through the school year with basic school supplies.

O’Donoghue is raising money through St. Mary Catholic Church. He said the cause so far has generated about $3,000, with the goal to eclipse $5,000.

O’Donoghue will work with Missionaries of Charity, which was founded by Mother Teresa in 1950, to buy the supplies and deliver them to the schoolchildren.

Typhoon Haiyan caused 6,300 casualties, damaged 11 million homes and displaced an estimated 4.1 million residents.

Tacloban is an industrial port city with a population of just more than 220,000.

“It was such a spiritual mission,” O’Donoghue said of last year’s trip. “There were smells and sights that we had never seen. We talked to a lot of people who you would think, with that amount of poverty, there would be a certain amount of crime. But there’s also a lot of dignity.”

O’Donoghue also will be part of the church’s second aid trip to the Philippines in September. The mission will be led by the Rev. John Hilton, who also participated in last year’s trip.

The September visit will entail building a new playground for the children. O’Donoghue plans to research the project during this month’s visit.

The conditions the children endure are beyond fathomable, he said.

“For them to have an actual playground with swings and slides and fun stuff for kids, it will be unbelievable,” he said.


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