Eastern Iowa woman spends Christmas volunteering in Philippines - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Eastern Iowa woman spends Christmas volunteering in Philippines

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) - It's a Christmas like none other for a Cedar Falls woman.

Michele Devlin is spending the holiday volunteering with the American Red Cross in the Philippines, where 7,000-8,000 people are dead or missing after a typhoon wiped out much of the country in November.

"When I was getting ready to leave the other week, I thought, 'Wow, you know, maybe I shouldn't have gone over Christmas. Maybe this wasn't the right time to really go,'" she said. "I have to say, since I've gotten here, I've loved every minute of it. It's been the most incredible experience."

Devlin has volunteered with the American Red Cross for about 20 years, though her international travels with the organization started about three years ago.

She's currently one of five Americans at a base camp in Tacloban that consists of 35-40 volunteers from across the globe.

"It's probably the most different Christmas I've ever had in my life, but in a really good way," she said.

"I cannot tell you the number of times that we've had children, we've had moms, dads, elderly people, come up to us and say, 'Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, have a great year, thank you for being here, thank you for coming and helping us,' and then they would collapse in our arms and weep, literally, out of gratitude, out of grief, out of joy that they have not been forgotten," said Devlin.

Devlin said she has a little more than two weeks left in the Philippines before she'll return to her job as a professor at the University of Northern Iowa.

She encourages people to support the American Red Cross and its mission to help those in need.

For more information on how you can help, click here.

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