Hello and Hi there,

It’s taken at least a couple hours to begin this post.  One of the adult volunteers suggested a while ago that I consider explaining how Hope for Haiyan came into existence. As a busy mom of three school-aged kids, business owner and entrepreneur, I let it marinate for some time and came to a couple things.  First, I wanted this to be as little about me as possible, and more about the youth and other volunteers that were embarking on this adventure with me. Secondly, this blog would not be perfect by any means, it probably won’t hit all the points a blog should, it might not be consistent or regular, or even grammatically correct, at least in the beginning stages.  But we’ll get there.  The blog’s main intent is to be a collaborative voice of the youth who do participate, regularly or not, in raising funds & awareness for victims of Typhoon Haiyan.  Even then, I procrastinated tonight by doing my nails for the first time in a month (I couldn’t bear the thought of posting my first entry without a proper manicure!), dipping strawberries in chocolate, unusual given I’m the only one home and I don’t even eat it.  But I’m finally ready.  So here goes. The unedited “short” or “long” version, let’s see what I come up with.  This is all brand new.  But grabbing a cup or a glass of your favorite beverage may not be a bad idea, just in case.


I’m Melissa Kephart and it’s nice to meet you.  I’m a Filipina born in the Philippines but raised in the United States, in the great state of Kentucky.  I came from a close knit Filipino family that learned, sometimes the hard way, how to assimilate into a brand new American culture. Formative years were spent relocating from city to city due to my father, a physician, getting transferred every so often.  Thus a resiliency was instilled at an early age that now helps me tremendously at this busy stage in life.  What I knew of my Filipino heritage came mostly from parents and siblings.  Relatives lived too far away and the cities in which we lived did not have a large Filipino population.  As family, together we grew, adapted, and had good times.  With the passing of both parents, and the advent of children, I felt a need to learn more of my heritage and to reach out.  I sought out my purpose and through a series of events became convinced it was clearly about giving back, the Philippines, and yes, legacy.  That was several years ago when the story began to unfold.  I often tell my colleagues, I’ve lived many short lives, each punctuated differently and absolutely necessary for my journey.  If any of you have ever watched “Evan Almighty” with Steve Carrell, a funny modern day film about  Noah’s ark, my story has had many of those funny serendipitous moments.

Evan Almighty



I see it in 2 parts:  the CALL TO ACTION and CONNECTING THE DOTS.


THE CALL TO ACTION.  When Typhoon Haiyan struck on November 8, 2013, the world was shocked and deeply saddened.  I remember my kids rushing to hug me when they saw how upset I was reading the news on the internet.  What could we possibly do that would make an ounce of difference to the lives of so many needing help? The day after, my husband Eric and I sat with our three kids at the kitchen table, and we brainstormed.  What would be needed to survive?  They came up with the best and super practical ideas!  Water. Clothes. Flashlights. Toiletries. Backpacks. Towels and wipes. Hand sanitizers. Rain ponchos. Pocket knives. Tarps.  That was the moment.  I realized that  my business had access to all of these things through its supplier network.  Since the business had not yet fully launched, we decided to first begin a campaign to raise funds, and then continue it by raising awareness.  The kids named it  Hope for Haiyan, and together we selected a couple products to sell for the fundraiser.  Armed with purpose, they created a flyer, a poster, and made the announcement to our church youth group. This was well intended and good.  They had a reason, outside of themselves, to seek to do good things for others.  They mentioned it to their friends, which naturally extended to conversations about forming a youth group.  Why not share this opportunity to grow with others who are interested?  Eventually the idea of incorporating a blog to help broaden our reach globally also came into place.  So that’s the rudiments of our story.  By the time the year ended, they had raised direct funds for UNICEF Philippines as well as a monetary donation that was given to the Catholic Relief Services (CRS).


CONNECTING THE DOTS.  Simultaneously and quite randomly,  Eric and I came across a CBS news video featuring a lady by the name of Elsa Thomasma who built a community center that helped save an entire village in Cangumbang during the typhoon.  This is often referred to as The Cangumbang Project.  Amidst so many devastating news reports, it was a welcome story to watch.  Seeing how the community welcomed Elsa, especially the children who visibly trusted this young lady was touching.  Such a wonderful story of generosity of self, community, passion, and dedication.  Another compelling moment came at the tail-end of this video as reporter Seth Doane said “When Elsa was raising money to build her center, along with her parents’ church, they called it the “arc project,” a nod to Noah’s refuge.”  We knew then we needed to connect the dots and get busy!  So we made the decision to add the mission to help typhoon victims to our business objectives.

See the video here:


Unity, not uniformity.  The youth helping youth.  Instill creative and compassionate leadership. Employ the law of the harvest.  Start small and build up to do epic things.  Sending care packages is small and achievable; building more evacuation/community centers is epic and entirely not impossible.

What we hope to become is a team of individuals who learn to collaborate, be engaged, have fun, and volunteer their time together for the shared purpose of helping typhoon victims in the Philippines.  Using “Think-Plan-Do” we encourage individuals to facilitate meetings  by being creative in their execution and delivery, and at the same time making sure we make progress towards our goal.  For example, the facilitator may mix up the order of their meeting, use different fonts and colors for their agenda handouts, schedule a meeting at a frozen yogurt place, and plan a fun team building activity while furthering our fundraiser goals.  We also hope to recognize and respect each voice while learning, age-appropriately, how to use social media for the purpose of helping others.  With supervision and feedback, we hope the blog will encourage the youth members to employ their writing skills and love of social media towards something that will have a positive impact on the world.  The youth are intelligent, creative and have a desire to be heard.  We’re excited to listen and watch the youth grow and become.


It’s now April 2014, and we’ve made progress with our monthly meetings.  We welcome all ages to come to our meetings.  We’re just now learning how to use social media, and a big thank you goes to a phenomenal lady volunteering her time by providing us with a workshop on that subject.  We’re focusing our efforts now on our fundraiser in June 2014 by selling the “coolest” yellow umbrellas.  These are available to be purchased through RAUKMODERN and 50% of the proceeds will go towards the Hope for Haiyan Campaign to assist the children in Cangumbang.


Planting seeds of hope is ultimately the crux of Hope for Haiyan.  It’s about doing our part in learning to become positive changemakers in the world by “Taking One Bright Step at a Time.”

Thank you for visiting our site!

With much gratitude,

Melissa Kephart


TyphoonHaiyan benefit concert 20131227_203405-1_resized_2
Benefit Concert for victims of Typhoon Haiyan
Hope for Haiyan Christmas Party
Hope for Haiyan Christmas Party
H4H Halloween Fundraiser
H4H Halloween Fundraiser
H4H Halloween Fundraiser
Founders: Mercedes and Melissa
IG-H4H-MKandCK (1)
With founding team member Christian



H4H ThankYou2017 TwitterPost