September 15, 2021
How a Tzu Chi scholarship changed these students’ lives
By Joy Rojas
Of the 493 Tzu Chi scholars who received their Taiwan rice and grocery benefits at the Buddhist Tzu Chi Campus (BTCC) in Sta. Mesa, Manila, last September 4, three were already familiar with the genuine compassion and relief that the foundation and its volunteers are known for.
Christian Samodio, 22
3 years Tzu Chi scholar
Christian Samodio’s first encounter with Tzu Chi was years ago when his father suffered a stroke. At the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines in Quezon City, where he sought medical assistance for his father, he was moved by how people were being treated with kindness and care. This inspired Samodio to volunteer with the foundation. “It feels good to help others,” he says. “It really uplifts the spirit.”
A Tzu Chi scholar for the past three years (it was Tzu Chi volunteer Eleanor Bucad who told him about the program), he continues to give of his time and efforts. He and fellow scholars were part of relief operations last November when Typhoon Vamco (Ulysses) left low-lying areas in Marikina and Rizal submerged in flood and river water.
A third year elementary education major at ICCT Colleges Cainta, the 22-year-old Samodio has volunteerism in his blood. Before the pandemic, he taught children in his community’s daycare center and Bible study at church in Gulod Malaya, San Mateo, Rizal. These days, he tutors a student part-time and does laundry for the student’s family every Saturday. “My boss is so nice,” he says. “To help me with my studies, they had Wi-Fi installed in their home so I could study there.”
First a scholarship, now free internet access: Looks like things are falling into place for Samodio to finish college. “I’m grateful to the people who the Lord has used to help facilitate my studies,” he says.
Raniel Denosa Balmoja, 21
10 years Tzu Chi scholar
Now on his last year as a broadcasting major at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Raniel Denosa Balmoja has been a Tzu Chi scholar since seventh grade. The blessing came after surviving the trauma and devastation of Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy), a super storm that dumped nearly 18 inches of rain on the national capital region in just 24 hours.
“We were not prepared for it,” says Balmoja who lives in flood-prone Tumana, Marikina, with his family. Once the flood subsided, Tzu Chi volunteers helped bring affected communities like his back on their feet with hot meals, medical missions, and a massive “Cash for Work” cleanup drive.
Aged 9 at the time of Ondoy, Balmoja was 12 when he applied for a Tzu Chi scholarship.
“It’s not all about the assistance,” says this son of Marikina shoemakers. “It’s also about building morale. We socialize with other scholars and immerse ourselves in other activities in the foundation—values education, environmental awareness, community works.” The last inspired him to become an advocate for volunteerism, something he intends to pursue after college. “I plan to give back to the organization, not because of indebtedness but as a sense of gratitude for what they have contributed to my life for the past 10 years.”
When he graduates, he will be the first in his family to finish college. “I think I want to be an artist,” says this 21-year-old graphic designer. “At the same time, I want to be part of community development.”
John Denzel P. Rimando, 22
7 years Tzu Chi scholar
The son of a domestic helper and an on-call house painter, John Denzel P. Rimando has seen his parents struggle to support him and his three siblings on a daily basis. Still, whatever financial problems they have didn’t stop them from donating regularly to the Tzu Chi volunteer assigned to collect pledges in their Malanday, Marikina neighborhood.
That’s when his luck would change. When the volunteer told him about Tzu Chi’s education assistance program, Rimando applied, and became a Tzu Chi scholar in Grade 9. Seven years later, he’s on his fourth year as a Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurship major from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Marikina.
“What a blessing God and Master Cheng Yen have given me,” says the 21-year-old. “The scholarship helps students like me who are striving to reach for our dreams.”
His in particular is to succeed in the makeup industry. Rimando was in senior high when a teacher suggested he try makeup. Despite zero knowledge, he proved a natural and is now using his talent as a freelance hair and makeup artist for weddings, debuts, birthdays, and other special events.
The ultimate dream, however, is to open a makeup restaurant, where clients can get free makeup kits and tutorials. “As an entrepreneur, you have to be innovative,” he says.
Such an ambitious goal wouldn’t be possible if he wasn’t a Tzu Chi scholar—or didn’t have the support of his loved ones. “I don’t think I would reach fourth-year College if it weren’t for the scholarship,” he says. “In my family, it’s tough to survive from day to day. But Mama told me not to worry; eventually, we will overcome whatever challenges we face.”