Guam – After being rejected by FEMA for aid because her mom is not a US citizen like her, a daughter’s persistence has finally paid off as the family is now able to receive aid.
Maria Dizon is a young woman born on Saipan. Growing up, she was always active in various civic engagement activities, such as the Junior State of America, and Step Up program. When she’s not being a civic leader; she’s focused on her academics and even presented a science experiment amongst 1,700 young scientists from around the world. As she worked hard hitting the books, she was fortunate to attend the University of Portland, where she currently attends in order to further her studies. She plans to become an epidemiologist, with the goal of returning to her community, and contributing to the well-being of her people.
According to Dizon, she has a family back in Saipan, who has lost their home. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones who share the same fate. From her family, her mother has been living on Saipan for 27 years.
Being 5,000 miles apart, separated by the Pacific Ocean, Maria saw Super-typhoon Yutu’s devastation from afar. She reached out to FEMA in order to help her family and her community, start the recovery process.
Dizon states that she initiated the first call with FEMA on behalf of her family regarding whether or not she could apply for aid on their behalf. She did so because she was the only US citizen in their small family of two. The first conversation she had was not positive as she was told by FEMA to “go seek an immigration lawyer” while they denied her application to apply on behalf of her family.
While she was initially saddened by the news she received from FEMA, Dizon didn’t give up.
“With persistence and constant calling, I finally spoke to a representative who echoed the same sentiments that I did, that super-typhoon Yutu did not discriminate on your citizenship or where you are from.” According to her latest conversation with a FEMA representative, she is able to apply as a third party applicant, and remain as the point of contact for her family. Dizon adds that based on her last conversation with the FEMA representative, families who are intending to apply for aid, all they need is a Social Security number. “Please don’t feel discouraged, advocate for yourselves and your families” says the young woman from the Marianas.
Initially discouraged by the rejection from FEMA, Maria and other NMI students in Portland started a student club specifically for students from the Marianas. Maria has also created a GoFundMe page so her family and home community can get back on their feet as soon as possible.
Dizon says to those who lost everything in the Marianas that “We are always keeping you always in our hearts as Portland State students, and all the students from the CNMI all over the world. We feel that the sense of community and love and hospitality, is so strong, even in this time of trouble. We are carrying it with us even when we are out here. We are doing our best with our relief drive even in our respective schools.” With regards to those who are not from the Marianas, Dizon has a few words to share as well. “If you could help out, please, please donate to our go fund me and to just share and do what you can on your end. Thank you so much for all you do.”
If you would like to donate to the Dizon family’s go fund me page, click here.