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Sociology professor demonstrates global caring with disaster project

January 2, 2014

KOKOMO, Ind. — As Indiana University Kokomo students helped their neighbors recover from tornado damage locally, sociology professor Ligaya McGovern showed them the need for global compassion as well.

Ligaya McGovernLigaya McGovernMore than 6,000 people in the Philippines, McGovern's homeland, died as a result of the November 2 Typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest typhoon on record.

"This gives us a connection, a global display of our common humanity," McGovern said. "Students saw the need to help, even though these people were far away."

McGovern, together with J.R. Pico, lecturer in Spanish, and Rain Robinson, a student who is also involved with the Filipino American Association of Central Indiana, organized a donation drive and an ethnic food festival in order to send supplies to the Philippines.

They brought in two standard shipping boxes full of supplies, which McGovern sent to colleagues at St. Scholastica's College, where she earned her bachelor's degree. The Benedictine nuns who manage the college also have a hospital, and can make sure the supplies go to the victims as needed.

"I hope this can be the beginning of a relationship between our campus and theirs," McGovern said.

As a sociologist, she compares the outcome of the tornado, where there was a warning system in place, to that of the typhoon, with no warning system. McGovern had planned to go to campus the day of the tornado, but stayed home after seeing the warnings.

"The government in the Philippines needs to plan immediate disaster response, and a warning system for people who live close to the coast," she said, adding that human factors, including illegal logging, also contributed to the magnitude of the disaster.

"We have good warning systems here, and they save lives," she said. "In the Philippines, there was no storm surge warning system, which would have allowed people to evacuate to safety. There was no natural barrier to stop the water, because of the deforestation. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from this disaster, to lessen the impact in the future."

McGovern's academic work focuses on the impact of globalization on the people of third world countries. Recently, she was honored by the National Women's Studies Association for two of her books, Globalization and Third World Women: Exploitation, Coping and Resistance, and Globalization, Labor Exports, and Resistance.

Currently, she is seeking grant funding for her next project, studying the migration of doctors and nurses from Third World countries to developed countries. India and the Philippines are the top exporters of medical professionals, while the United States is the greatest receiver.

"I am finding that doctors and nurses are migrating from the countries with the greatest need, to the countries with the least need," McGovern said. "That leaves the Third World depleted of its medical professionals. This is an important issue to study."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 09/09/2014