Our Story of Revival
In November 2013, the need to expand the GoAbroad Foundation’s reach from the United States across the world was brought to the forefront, in a way that no one could have predicted.
On November 8th, 2013, our partner in the Philippines as well as the office of our “father” company (GoAbroad.com) were confronted with the biggest storm in the history of the world, Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Typhoon Yolanda).
The first 72 hours after the Typhoon struck, all lines of communication were silent. Our GoAbroad Staff in the U.S. lay restless awaiting word from staff, friends, and even family who were living in Tacloban City, considered to be “ground zero” in the wake of the storm’s destruction. In those hours of anxious anticipation, not knowing if over 70 employees and friends had survived the storm, GoAbroad’s U.S. Staff gathered together and decided they had to start preparing for the inevitable aftermath.
Though the level of devastation was still unknown, destruction and incredible loss had been clearly unavoidable. As the first images of the island of Leyte surfaced, GoAbroad’s U.S. Office launched a Causes.com campaign to begin supporting relief efforts, even though the survival of their friends and colleagues was still uncertain.
On November 11th, 2013, three American employees working at the office in Tacloban, including Jonathan GoAbroad’s Asia Operations Manager, were able to escape the devasted area and make initial contact with family and friends back home. Jonathan immediately began seeking out survivors through social media and beginning to put the pieces of the company back together one person at a time. It was the first good news from Tacloban in over 72 hours, but there were still hundreds of unanswered questions.
As International Media and Humanitarian Aid from all over the world flowed into the area, GoAbroad’s Founder, Troy Peden, worked tirelessly in Tacloban to search for every single employee. He coordinated relief efforts from the damaged office and his very own home, which he once shared with his four children and wife before he was forced to evacuate them to safety on a nearby island.
Troy took in news media from NBC, iTV, BBC, and many more international stations. He traveled back and forth to a nearby island collecting medical supplies that were desperately needed at local hospitals.
Employees gathered with their families in the GoAbroad office’s Mess Hall, relieved to be in a safe, dry place to stay before they began their own journey outside the affected area. Dinner was held by candle light each evening, made possible by Troy’s negotiations with a local store owner, which literally saved many employees and their families from going hungry. Rain water was collected and boiled as mineral water began to run out. Nights were fearful, restless, and sleepless; the rising sun was more of a blessing than ever, yet still reminded everyone of their isolation from the world.
All the while the U.S. Staff worked from sun up to sun down raising funds through the GoAbroad Foundation, so that as soon as resources were available, relief could begin.
Good news continued to flow in to the U.S. from short conversations with Troy and Elsa, the new GAF Director and a GoAbroad Content Manager in the Philippines who remained in Tacloban. Employees with small children, and multiple employees that were pregnant, survived the storm surge and were able to relocate to other cities with their families. An Evacuation Center built by Elsa in a rural village just months before the storm withstood the Typhoon’s massive destruction, saving the entire village.
Handfuls of employees whose homes were completely submerged in 3-story high flood waters some how made it to higher ground or into taller buildings before being swept out to sea. Even the inability to swim didn’t impede them from literally fighting for their life. Employees were saved by friends, family, and strangers, and they too saved the lives of those around them.
With the good news cames painful realizations. Though every single GoAbroad employee in the Philippines and every single VFV Staff member survived the typhoon, not all of their family and friends were as lucky. As this disheartening news spread throughout the GoAbroad International network, the GoAbroad Foundation Donation page continued to collect thousands of dollars for survivors.
By the end of the campaign over $150,000 dollars were raised to support relief and reconstruction efforts in the Philippines. Hundreds of individuals received relief goods and financial support to rebuild their lives, and the potential impact of the GoAbroad Foundation was without a doubt apparent.
After witnessing so much loss and devastation, experiencing such enormous challenges, and giving up everything at times to make a difference for survivors, the GoAbroad Family knew it was time to utilize the momentum of our own experiences to revitalize the Foundation.
The GoAbroad Foundation of today is dedicated to “supporting projects that help people,” as it always has, but we now have a whole new perspective on what it means to truly carry out our mission. In the chaotic world of today, life is full of events that are often entirely out of our control as individuals, yet we are empowered to help people in every way possible.
By supporting sustainable projects, that prevent and alleviate hardships, make life easier and more efficient, expand the future of communities, and raise the standard of living for families, we are passionately impacting real people in positive ways through our mission, and creating a better future for individuals, for communities, and for the world.
Please contact us if you’d like to learn more about our story, our mission, and our projects.