Since they married, couple Aida and Jonnel Cornito have raised their children in one small room under Aida’s parents’ house in Barangay Linao, Ormoc City. They share the house with Aida’s four other siblings and their respective families.
“We didn’t have any privacy,” recalls Jonnel, 46.
In 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the Leyte province.
Aida, who was working for Ormoc City’s local government, came across Tzu Chi Foundation when the latter offered to build a temporary housing village for the typhoon survivors in the city. As a city social worker, she was assigned to assist Tzu Chi in their project.
When the city administration eventually changed hands in 2016, Aida lost her job. Tzu Chi Foundation came to her rescue and employed her. Her family also moved in one unit of prefabricated shelter inside the village on the same year. The new house was warmly received by the family.
“We have our own home here. The living environment is good and there is no pollution. The air is clean and fresh, and we have a sense of privacy,” says Jonnel.
Aida’s tasks in Tzu Chi involved administration works and conducting home visits to ailing villagers as well as Tzu Chi’s medical beneficiaries outside the Tzu Chi Great Love City.
Her vast experience in government procedures has benefitted Tzu Chi a number of times. For instance, Aida processed Tzu Chi’s building permit for the construction of the multipurpose building inside the Great Love City.
Meanwhile, on weekends, she spends her time volunteering for Tzu Chi’s different activities inside the village. These include helping out in organizing the village’s Weekend Market, conducting recycling collection, and on the occasion of disasters, holding relief aid distributions.
She is aware that her tasks were sometimes going beyond her call of duty but she did not mind. If anything, it had given her work a deeper meaning.
“Before, when I was still working for the LGU (Local Government Unit), I treated it only as a job. But when I got here in Tzu Chi Foundation, it’s different because I learned to feel for the suffering of my needy fellowmen,” says Aida, 45.
Seeing Aida happy with her newfound purpose makes her children happy as well.
“She’s really working hard to care for the ailing villagers especially when they need to be brought to the hospital,” says Christian Renier, 23.
Aida’s youngest, 13-year-old Caleb Thomas, meanwhile, is proud of her mother.
“We’re very happy that our mother is able to help the needy. We are proud to have her for a mother,” he says.
After witnessing the suffering of many people, whether brought by illnesses or disasters, Aida realized the need for everyone to come together to help the needy. Wanting to teach them to give, Aida introduced Tzu Chi’s Bamboo Coin Bank concept to her family.
“She told my children to put a peso every day into the coin bank because those coins you save every day is a big help to those in need,” recalls Jonnel.
Today, saving a coin – whether a peso or five – for charity has become a part of the family’s routine.
But for Caleb Thomas, donating once a day is not enough to help everyone he wanted to help. Hence, he made it a point to save a portion from his school allowance and drop any amount on the coin bank twice every day – one after he wakes up and another before he goes to sleep.
“It would be a big help to the ailing people. With these donations, we can buy their medicines and the other needs of their families,” he says.
A meaningful job and a new home – these are the material gifts Aida had received from Tzu Chi. But what she is most grateful for is something that cannot be seen but can only be felt with the heart.
“They gave us good teachings and values so that we can do good deeds for people every day,” ends Aida.
Aida Cornito’s family enjoys their privacy and the peace in their own home at the Tzu Chi Great Love City. Before moving into the village, the family lives in a small room under Aida’s parents’ house, which they share with her siblings.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
One of Aida Cornito’s tasks as a Tzu Chi staff is joining home visits to the organization’s medical beneficiaries inside and outside the Tzu Chi Great Love City.【Photo by Light Li】
On weekends, Aida Cornito helps in Tzu Chi’s activities inside the village as a volunteer. This includes helping organize and run the village’s Weekend Market. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】