January 22, 2018
Admiring the optimism of the indigent Filipino
By Jonas Trinidad
Tzu Chi University (TCU) student Lungelo Thabethe is no stranger to indigent families. Back in her native home of South Africa, she sees people living in poverty all the time. But when she went to Taiwan to study at TCU, she admits to nearly forgetting what poverty looks like.
Upon traveling to the Philippines as part of TCU’s cultural exchange curriculum, she finally remembers how the poor live their lives. In all three cases she and her schoolmates visited in Pasig City and Cainta, Rizal, she saw something remarkable.
“Even though they live in [poor] conditions, they’re still very nice to everyone. They try to make good of any situation and keep a positive outlook in life,” Thabethe shares.
Local children greet the delegation from Taiwan with smiles and their playful demeanor. TCU student Jenny Huang encounters with such children back home are rare. Armed with a camera, she hopes to share the moments she captured with friends and family back home.
“As the car moved, I tried to take picture of every alley and saw children running around. I myself love children, so it’s sad to see so many children from indigent families. I want to share [my blessings] with these people,” says Huang.
Tzu Chi volunteer Catherine Cheng stresses that the home visit on January 22 is an integral part of the students’ education.
“It’s important for [the students] to join this visiting activity. In this world, there are so many disasters, as well as people we need to help,” says Cheng.
First on the list is one-year-old Aira Joy Fernandez. The students arrive at her home in Barangay Santolan, Pasig City only to realize that she’s currently living with relatives in Antipolo City, Rizal. The reason for this is that her father is suffering from tuberculosis. Aira Joy, still at risk from traces of the tumor removed from her back last year, doesn’t need another disease on top of her current one.
Second is nine-year-old Jennylyn Dela Cruz, whose home stands on the eastern banks of the Manggahan Floodway. She suffers from hydrocephalus and requires maintenance medicine.
Lastly, they visit 11-year-old Adrian Marpuri of Cainta, Rizal who has been battling tuberculous meningitis for over a year. The students can see the child’s bones already peering through the skin, the handiwork of the disease that has given his mother so much grief.
“It’s difficult because you think about your finances all the time. I don’t have a steady income aside from side jobs such as doing laundry,” says Adrian’s mother, Ailene.
All three families receive a care package consisting of ten kilos of rice and a bag of dry goods. Social workers accompanying the TCU delegation have also made arrangements for their long-term care.
“Seeing that people like them care gives me hope. I also realized that I’m not the only one with a problem like this,” says Ailene.
Other TCU students have also visited other cases in Manila and San Mateo, Rizal. Through this exposure to the plight of Filipino families, the students will be reminded to use their skills in helping the needy. Even as these families remain strong and positive in the face of challenges, the next generation of role models of society can help them get stronger through compassion.
“As a youth, we need to work hard, love people, share [our blessings], and be grateful,” adds Thabethe.
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