Fil Am ‘Haiyan’ Volunteer, Mentor Honored by Illinois Comptroller

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – A Filipino American, who went to the Philippines to help in the Typhoon Haiyan disaster relief and rehabilitation, and another Filipino American, who helped promote Filipino culture across the Midwest thru dance, traditions, music and food, were among the 28 Asian Americans honored by Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger on Monday for their achievements and service to the community during the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration at the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago, Illinois.

In addition to the individual honors, Munger presented also the 3rd Annual John Vietnam Nguyen Asian American Youth Leadership Award to the Khmer Support Giving Circle. A rising community leader from the Uptown neighborhood, Nguyen was in his sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin in 2012 when he drowned after saving the life of another student. In 2014, he became the first Vietnamese-American honored with a street name in Chicago.Ms. Munger and ABC7 Chicago TV Anchor Judy Hsu also received Youth Leadership Awards during the ceremonies.

Walbert Castillo, a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying news-editorial journalism, traveled to Ningbo, China, to teach English, led a service trip to the Philippines in response to the Typhoon Haiyan disaster as Philanthropy Chairman of the Philippine Student Association and presented a full-length Typhoon Haiyan documentary as a facilitator at the Filipino-Americans Coming Together (FACT) conference.

When Typhoon Haiyan struck in 2013, Castillo organized a service trip to the Philippines, travelling with students from UIUC and provided aid to those affected by typhoon, which killed 6,300 people.

“I created a documentary that captured the struggles Filipinos faced and portrayed the beauty of post disaster relief efforts. By giving individuals an opportunity to share their experiences, I discovered an outlet where I could give a voice to the voiceless to help rewrite their truths. This eventually helped me discover my passion for journalism. From delving into an emotional journey with a student’s murder to covering the #BlackLivesMatter movement in Ferguson as a USA TODAY correspondent, I discovered the importance in conveying people’s stories through documenting their actions,” according to Castillo’s essay he submitted to Comptroller Munger.

On the other hand, Joshua Delson is an undergraduate student in Bachelor of Science in Computer Game Development at De Paul University in Chicago, Illinois when he got himself involved in volunteer work, promoting Filipino culture thru dance, traditions, music and food.

Delson had participated in APAHM (Asian Pacific American Heritage Month) celebration events at Daley Plaza, Thompson Center and Lunar New Year celebration at Hyatt Hotel, all in Chicago, Fourth of July parades in Darien and Downers Grove, both suburbs in Illinois, as a performer, mentor to younger kids and volunteer with the PACF (Philippine American Cultural Foundation), a non-profit organization for charitable, civic, cultural, humanitarian, educational, religious and social services based in a Chicago suburb.

The awarding ceremonies featured cultural performances by SoriBeat (Youth Pungmul Program & Ensemble), the Chinese Mutual Aid Association Lotus Flower Dancers, and Chicago singer-songwriter Mer. In addition to Comptroller Munger’s remarks, ABC7 Chicago TV Anchor Judy Hsu spoke about the importance of her heritage throughout her career. Comptroller Munger presented her with a proclamation congratulating her 15 years of work at ABC7 Chicago.

The 28 honorees and their nominators included: Farah Andani, nominated by the Indian American Community; Walbert Castillo, the Filipino American Community;

Alec Chang, the Chinese American Community; Viana Chau, Vietnamese Association of Illinois; Maleeha Chughtai, Chicago Desi Youth Rising; Joshua Delson, the Philippine American Cultural Foundation; June Floyd, the Korean American Community; Jessica Halim, Indonesian American Community; Aleena Ismail, Brunei American Community; Arsheen Kanji, Iranian American Community; Kate Ma, TAP-Chicago (Chicago Taiwanese American Professionals);

Jazmine Madhani, nominated by Burmese American Community;

Yujin Maeng, Korean American Resource and Cultural Center; Iqra Merchant, Sri Lankan American Community; Kenji Negi, Japanese American Service Committee;

Christopher Rattanasamay, Lao American Organization of Elgin; Eric Silignavong, Lao American Association of Northern Illinois; Christina Sou, Cambodian American Community; Sean Sundrani, Pakistani American Community; Rafi Surani, Bangladeshi American Community; Liliane Tran, Chinese Mutual Aid Association;

Ashley Tsuruda, nominated by Apna Ghar, Inc. (Our Home); Danielle Watson, Asian American Law Enforcement Association; Irene Wong, Chinese American Service League; Jenny Xu, Chinese American Service League; Kristine Xu, Xilin Association; Farhan Zargar, Maldives American Community; and Nurai Zhakypbaeva, KINETIC.

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