IAM Helps Member Rescue Family in Philippines


Jesel Simpson’s photo of the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines that she sent to her husband, IAM Local 735 member Nabuoku Maat El.

When IAM Local 735 member Nabuoku Maat El of Nashville, TN, received word that one of the worst storms in recorded history was bearing down on his wife’s hometown of Naval, Biliran in the Philippines, he went into an immediate panic.

IAM Local 735 member Nabuoku Maat El with his wife Jesel Simpson and 19-month-old daughter Jezel (not pictured: 2-month-old daughter Jecel). Nabuoku’s family is fighting for survival after Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines.
IAM Local 735 President Bill Benson presents Local 735 member Nabuoku Maat El with a check from the IAM Disaster Relief Fund to help cover Nabuoku’s travel expenses as he attempts to travel to the Philippines to rescue his family from the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Pictured left to right, IAM District 711 Business Representative Tim Wright, Benson, Nabuoku Maat El, and IAM Local 735 Vice President David Evans.

His wife Jesel Simpson and daughters 19-month-old Jezel and 2-month-old Jecel were there.

“I was talking to her on the phone when the first storm hit,” said Nabuoku. “We talked until the battery went dead. She told me the second storm was coming.”

Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall near Guiuan, a small city in the eastern Philippines, the morning of Friday, November 8. The U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center reported maximum sustained winds of 195 mph, with gusts up to 235 mph.

For the next few days following that initial phone call, Nabuoku heard nothing from his wife. He spent his days worrying, glued to television news reports, checking for updates on Facebook and making countless trips to the local Red Cross to check search and rescue attempts and tracking. An estimated 5,600 people were dead or reported missing.

After eight days, Nabuoku finally received a text message, immediately followed by a quick 60-second phone call. His wife and daughters were okay, but were homeless, surviving on the side of the road with no food or water.

Nabuoku, overjoyed that his family had survived, immediately shifted his efforts towards getting them to safety.

When he turned to his union, his IAM brothers and sisters were more than ready to help. The IAM donated money from the IAM Disaster Relief Fund to help cover Nabuoku’s travel expenses to make the trip from Nashville to Cebu, a makeshift refugee camp where his wife and daughters have since been transported, and bring his family back to the U.S.

“Nabuoku wants everyone to know how very thankful he is for the outpouring of concern and support he has received from his union,” said IAM District 711 Business Representative Tim Wright. “Jesel is awaiting his arrival and holds out hope until then.”

The IAM Disaster Relief Fund has distributed over $212,000 to members in need over the past year. The funds are made up of voluntary contributions from IAM members and lodges and are distributed directly to IAM families on the basis of need.

“Please consider donating to the IAM Disaster Relief Fund,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “When disaster hits, true solidarity is having someone or someplace to turn to. And that’s what our union is all about.”

Checks (in any amount) should be made payable to: IAM Disaster Relief Fund, and mailed to: IAM Community Services Department, 9000 Machinists Place, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772. For those wishing to make tax-deductible contributions, please click here.

For questions, contact IAM Community Services Department Director Charlie Micallef at 301-967-3433 or email at cmicallef@iamaw.org.