Mesa woman heading to the Philippines to help family in relief efforts

MESA, AZ - A Mesa woman who grew in Tacloban plans to head over to the Philippines to help the devastated city.

Jypsy Smith said her immediate family did survive, including her two sisters and mother, but she knows many people who are still missing.

She grew up in the typhoon-ravaged city of Tacloban and the images she's seen have left her in disbelief.

"I'm scared and at the same time I'm in denial. This is not happening," she said.

Smith said the place where she spent her childhood is gone. "It's wiped out," she somberly said.

She lives in Mesa, Ariz. and had to watch helplessly as her family and the rest of the city was torn apart by Typhoon Haiyan.

It was almost two days before she knew what happened to them.

"I don't want to sleep. I don't want to close my eyes because…at that time, I don't know…I hadn't heard from them," she said as she choked back tears.

Her sister and many in the city have walked 12 miles and waited in a three-hour line to get three minutes on the internet to let everyone know they're OK.

"What she's trying to say is they're alive but they're hungry…Her baby is sick," Smith said.

Smith worked as a medical assistant and is packing up supplies and leaving for the Philippines to help in any way she can.

"I want to volunteer, I want to help people. Knowing that my family is there and alive-I want to help people," she said determinedly.

She said some are discouraging her from going because of the devastation. But she's determined.

"I'm going there no matter what," she said.

Smith said she plans to stay there for at least a month. Since transportation is hard to come by, she's going to buy a bicycle to get around.

She says others with family in Tacloban have asked her to please look for their loved ones while she's there.

The U.S. has now pledged $20 million in immediate aid for the Philippines.

To make matters worse, a tropical depression is sweeping through bringing even more rain.

Relief efforts have barely begun four days after the storm.

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