Hegland: Saipan came out stronger after Soudelor

The LienHoota Dance Group gives a lively dance performance to the crowd’s delight during last Saturday’s SOU’ Fest 2016 at the Marianas Business Plaza parking lot. (Joan L. Taitano)

The LienHoota Dance Group gives a lively dance performance to the crowd’s delight during last Saturday’s SOU’ Fest 2016 at the Marianas Business Plaza parking lot. (Joan L. Taitano)

Throngs of people descended to the Marianas Business Plaza parking lot last Saturday to commemorate the first anniversary of Typhoon Soudelor.

Spearheaded by the Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts CNMI, SOU’ Fest 2016 was a memorable evening punctuated by inspiring remarks, good food, exciting games, and lively entertainment.

Seeing the crowd in attendance during SOU’ Fest 2016, CARE director Jenny Hegland was “touched and pleasantly surprised by the public’s support.”

“SOU’ Fest 2016 was not only created to commemorate the first anniversary of Typhoon Soudelor, but it also to celebrate the culture and heritage of the island.”

When asked if SOU’ Fest could become an annual celebration, Hegland responds, “For now SOU’ Fest 2016 was just a one-time event, but there’s always a possibility of this event to occur again in the future.”

Various local food vendors offered delicious food to the community, while local artists such as LienHoota and Avalei Ori Dance Group offered the audience exciting dance numbers. Some government agencies such as the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., Division of Youth Services, and National Weather Service Guam also offered the public information that might be of help when disaster strikes.

Some of the highlights of SOU’ Fest were the performances from Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ press secretary Ivan Blanco and 2016 Miss Marianas Peachy Quitugua during the Karaoke Showdown.

The event closed with the local band, Uprooted, featuring A.J. Mettao and other local artists. The band performed original songs that stemmed from their personal experiences during Soudelor. They offered songs of hope and strength for the people of Saipan amidst the havoc Souledor wrought last year.

HANMI donates $5K to CARE

The Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands donated $5,000 to the Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts during SOU’ Fest.

HANMI chair and Marianas Resort Spa general manager Gloria Cavanagh said, “There are still families that are living in tents and their houses awaiting repairs. This is just a small amount but it’s a start.”

Aside from the $5,000 that HANMI is going to donate, Marianas Resort also donated an additional $500.

Since being devastated by Typhoon Soudelor last Aug. 2, 2015, necessary upgrades to houses are being implemented so as the disastrous aftermath is not as severe. “We’re going to work around the clock to make sure the houses that are going to be built are sustainable and typhoon proof,” said American Red Cross NMI Chapter executive director John Hirsch.

During SOU’ Fest ’16, the Crisis Counseling Program provided necessary aid to the victims of Typhoon Soudelor. The CCP was started with the goal of providing aid to victims of the typhoon.

The CCP has been in motion since September of 2015 and ever since then, thousands of people have already received aid. “We’ve been working since September last year. There are still a lot of people in need and right now the Community Guidance Center is helping us,” said Jayra Manglona, a CCP team leader.

Unfortunately, the CCP will end by September but efforts to provide aid would be continued by the American Red Cross and CARE. “We are in the phase down process and we’re passing down the torch to long term unit and recover to American Red Cross and CARE,” said Jeff Tomokane, another CCP team leader.

Torres, Lt. Gov. Victor Hocog, Hegland, Hirsh, and Office of the Governor public information specialist L.J. Castro were just some of the known personalities who attended SOU’ Fest 2016. (With reports from Erwin Encinares)

JOAN L. TAITANO Author

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