Emergency Student Fund provides relief for an Eastern Michigan University student affected by Philippines typhoon

by Debra Johnson, Published February 05, 2014


YPSILANTI – Carren Balgoma knew the powerful tropical typhoon that devastated the Philippines in November could likely jeopardize her future at Eastern Michigan University.

But, that didn’t happen, thanks to a $6,000 Emergency Student Fund award from The Institute of International Education, an organization that provides financial assistance to students facing emergencies in their home countries.


Carren Balgoma, senior majoring in accounting at EMU

Balgoma, a senior at Eastern, is working towards her bachelor’s degree in accounting. She depended upon the financial help from her mother and other sources to help pay for expenses while in school. 

“I lost my father when I was ten years old, so my mother has been providing for our needs since then,” said Balgoma. “My mother owned a rice field in Romblon, Philippines, and worked as a rice farmer, but the typhoon destroyed the rice fields. Naturally, I was concerned whether I would be able to continue my education at EMU.”

During the typhoon, Balgoma lost contact with her mother for more than a week.

“When I saw the news about the terrible devastation in my homeland, I was very worried about my family,” said Balgoma. “Losing contact with my mother and seeing all the people suffering was really upsetting to me, but I’m thankful my family survived.”

Julia Wells, an international student advisor in the Office of International Students (OIS) at Eastern Michigan, was also concerned that typhoon Hiayan would have an overwhelming impact on Balgoma and her family.

“I met with Carren to discuss how the university and the OIS could support and assist her, such as addressing any well-being and emotional concerns that might arise from having to deal with a family crisis overseas,” said Wells. “It was during this time that Carren shared the news of the loss of support from her family and her worries about continuing her education at Eastern, despite the tragedy in her country.”

Wells was familiar with the Emergency Student Fund award opportunities after working with a Syrian student who received the scholarship in 2012.

The Emergency Student Fund scholarship, funded through the Institute of International Education (IIE), provides assistance to students whose sources of support were affected by a natural disaster. The scholarships provide the resources to students so they can continue their studies, and not have their academic careers interrupted as a result of the financial situation in their home country.

The Institute of International Education is an independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919 designed to advance international education and access to education worldwide. It is among the world's largest and most experienced international education and training organizations.

“I am so grateful for the support I’ve received from EMU and IIE,” said Balgoma. “I thought I wouldn’t be able to continue my studies this year, but now I hope to finish my degree in December 2014. This scholarship is a huge relief for my family and me, and when I finish my degree and start earning an income, I will definitely give back so others can also get help through this scholarship.”

For more information, visit the Institute of International Education homepage.

Debra Johnson

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