Life is a series of tests. There will come a point in one’s life when his or her perseverance will be measured through trials. But the lessons from such experiences will make one’s life on Earth meaningful.
Living in the slums of Tondo is never easy for Agnes Solamo, her husband Vicente, and their six children. The Php250 per day Vicente earns as a scavenger isn’t enough to provide for his family’s needs.
Every day has been a struggle until a kind-hearted woman came to help.
Social worker Analiza Trono from Anak-Tulay ng Kabataan (Anak-Tnk), a Philippine-based NGO that has been helping children living in extreme poverty since 1998, informed and helped them to be enrolled the Long Term Care Assistance Program (LTCAP) of Tzu Chi Foundation. The family has benefitted from the program for one year now.
“We referred these families to Tzu Chi Foundation and they are very deserving because they are very cooperative in this community,” says Trono.
Agnes volunteers in Anak-Tnk whenever she has free time. She helps in repacking relief goods for calamity victims and the feeding program for children and elders.
Due to poverty, her family was forced to eat “pagpag” or leftovers from fast food chains and restaurants. Local scavengers go to fast food chains to collect and recook food waste to sell to their neighbors. Her 13-year-old daughter, Vanessa, was hospitalized after consuming “pagpag.”
“I was rushed to the hospital and my stomach really felt bad,” says Vanessa.
Her heart torn into pieces because of that incident, Agnes promised to never let her children eat “pagpag” again. Now among the LTCAP beneficiaries, the family has been managing to save for other expenses like clean food and her children’s allowance for school. She has urged her family to go vegetarian after knowing its wonderful effects to the body and the environment during the monthly Charity Day.
“I want to thank Master Cheng Yen for these blessings of rice, which is a necessity for me and my family. I have also learned a lot from Master Cheng Yen, especially the one about being vegetarian,” shares Agnes.
“Now that I am a Tzu Chi Beneficiary, our life has gotten better. Before, we always have to think where to get our next meal,” adds Agnes.
Extreme poverty also forced Analie Estrada, 35 years old, and her family to eat “pagpag.” She used to scavenge with her ten-year-old daughter Diana to sustain their family’s needs.
“I remember when we used to scavenge and, after we worked so hard for it, someone just stole it all from us. I was so sad. (working the whole night and looking for things to scavenge and sell and someone just stole it all away),” says Diana.
Since being referred to Tzu Chi by Anak-Tnk, the Estrada family has been benefiting from the LTCAP for two years already. Of the 40 kilos of rice the family receives every month, she sends 10 kilos to her relatives in Nueva Ecija.
“Every time my daughter receives her monthly rice assistance, she shares it with us,” shares Analie’s father-in-law, Joselito Estrada.
She repays the compassion that other people give to her. They don’t have to scavenge anymore now that their burden has grown lighter, thanks to loving souls around them. The family saves used plastic bottles to donate to Tzu Chi’s environmental advocacy.
“Now we enjoy the rice that is blessed by Tzu Chi Foundation. We don’t need to scavenge any more. Thank you so much, Tzu Chi Foundation,” adds Diana.
These piles of garbage are scattered into the pathway on the way to Agnes Solamo and Analie Estrada’s house. Most of the residents do scavenging as source of their daily income. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Agnes Solamo shares to two Tzu Chi volunteers her hardships on raising her children with the Php250 per day income of her husband Vicente as a scavenger. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Tzu Chi volunteer Jennilynd Romero plays with Agnes’s grandchildren. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Cerisse Marie Sogillon, who works in Anak-Tulay ng Kabataan’s teaching program, teaches a nursery song and dance to her students. 13-year-old Vanessa Solamo is one of them. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Agnes cooks the vegetables she bought at the market. All in all, it only costs her Php73. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
The Solamo family’s lunch consists of cabbage, carrots, and tofu. The family is fond of eating vegetable dishes and aware of their importance in improving their health and protecting the environment. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
The family eats their vegetarian meals together with a Tzu Chi volunteer who helps Agnes’ grandson with his plate. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
The family thanks Tzu Chi Foundation for the drastic change it has brought to their lives. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Two Tzu Chi volunteers note the condition of Analie Estrada, especially now that she’s expecting a baby in five months. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Ten-year-old Diana Estrada helps in preparing the food for the children in Anak-Tulay ng Kabataan after their class. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Analie gives a bag of rice to her father-in-law Joselito who just arrived from Nueva Ecija a few weeks ago. She gives 10 kilos of rice to Joselito’s family in the province to help lessen their food expenses. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Analie and Diana hold a plastic filled with recyclables. Estrada family saves their used plastic bottle and donate it into the foundation every Charity Day. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
The Estrada family expresses their gratitude to Tzu Chi for the assistance. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】