A Portrait of Poverty


the face of poverty

Father and son sleeping their hunger away on a flower-pot ledge

Life paints a portrait of poverty in stark, broad, and undeniable strokes. No scumbling of grays to soften the edges, no “photoshopping” or “airbrushing” to infuse a romantic glow to lessen the pain, to hide the shame, and to reduce the human torment.

A father and child find rest on a narrow raised ledge made for flower pots to decorate this office building. They have walked the streets rummaging through garbage bins and trash cans for half-eaten hamburgers. The day was long and their foraging turned up mostly empty. The child now exhausted needs sleep and the father cannot leave him to sleep by himself out there exposed to the elements. So he stays. He rests with his child hoping the hunger pains would go away.

Some forms of poverty appear extreme. Other forms, as exemplified by the kids we help here at SAS Alumni International (SAS Ai), aren’t so extreme. Nevertheless, their bracket of poverty relegates them to a life sustained on an annual gross income of less than $1167 USD. These kids show tremendous mental drive, curiosity and love for learning. Out of responsible charity and generosity we recognize and acknowledge their need for a good high school education.

Our mission helps these bright and promising kids attend high school. We ask our donors to be generous. Together we can make sure such brilliant minds do not go to waste. Donate now to the scholarship fund. Open a monthly allotment of $45 USD using our secure credit card (VISA, M/C, and DISC) acceptance portal. You can donate any amount you wish; we appreciate it and a child will get an opportunity to attend high school with your generous donation. Thank you.

Former Classmate Comes to SAS Ai’s Aid


Cely Bautista

Celestina Bilaoen Bautista, SAS Class 1958

” Hi Tom, how and who will I give the donation here in the Philippines? I hope somebody is responsible here who you designated. Regards too and take care of your health coz it’s your wealth, di ba…”

Cely asks me to whom should she give her donation to the scholarship fund while she is in the Philippines on vacation, and how? I replied, please submit scholarship fund donations to:

Albert D Bunoan - PR Committee Member

Albert D Bunoan

Mr Albert D Bunoan

Field Team Director

Barangay Dardarat,

Tagudin, Ilocos Sur,

Philippines

Such a short sweet note from a friend. Meet Cely Bilaoen-Bautista, SAS Class 1958. After high school graduation she attended and earned her BSRN from San Juan de Dios College in the Philippines. She went on to work as a registered nurse for Montefiore Hospital. She’s now retired and lives in the Bronx, New York.

Her generous gesture and offer to donate to the scholarship fund touches me deeply. Like most of us, Cely lives on fixed income now too having retired. Yet, she supports the cause and mission of SAS Ai, Inc. Perhaps because she attended and graduated from this great school she wants these bright kids who come from poor families to experience the same excellent education she received. Admirable.

Cely knows the meaning of “poor”. She saw all forms of poverty framed within the context of her workplace. She saw squalor in the inner cities. She witnessed families literally trying to make it day-to-day when she lived back home in the Philippines. Cely is no stranger to the poor and her heart tells her it would be a crime to waste such brilliant minds; these kids need an education. They need help to attend high school.

She follows the message of generosity and charity toward those who have nothing. Cely gives to SAS Ai from her own need. That is the most admirable form of giving.

Thanks my friend for your generous donation.

Mr Charles Wilson Comes Thru With His Support for 2013


Charles Wilson

Mr Charles Wilson, SAS Ai supporter

Mr Charles Wilson is a quiet man, a soft-spoken, kind, gentle soul who would rather smile than say anything derogatory about anyone. About two months ago during a casual conversation, Mr Charles asked me, “How are the SAS Ai scholars doing in school?”

His question jolted me back quickly to about a year ago. I vividly remember him handing me a $540 dollar check he wrote to the SAS Ai scholarship fund. Yes indeed, I thought. Mr Wilson sincerely wants to know how the kids are doing.

“Let me tell ya, we placed seven of them in the honor roll,” I was almost out of breath. The pause that lapsed before I answered him concerned me. Mr Wilson is an accountant by profession and he deals with precision, accuracy and speed. Any hint of hesitation on my part to answer him wouldn’t bode well.

His face brightened as his joy became palpable. “That’s great,” he said. “How many kids did we sponsor last year?”

“We sponsored four of the brightest and neediest among 10 finalists,” I said proudly. “That was all the money we could raise for the scholarship fund. We wanted to sponsor 5 – but we fell short on the funding.”

“How about this year 2013, how many do you plan to sponsor?” Mr Wilson continued to query.

“Four of the brightest and neediest kids. We don’t know yet how many finalists we will have. Four seems easier to shepherd, care for, and service from purely a management standpoint.” I  paused and waited for his reaction.

Mr Wilson supports the SAS Ai mission. Why else would he be asking so many questions… I thought to myself.

“Good talking to you. I’ll see what I can do come April.” He got in his car and drove off. That was two months ago.

This last Sunday, Mr Wilson approached me in the church parking lot. He smiled and brimmed with excitement. His eyes couldn’t hide his being pleased. “Hey there Mr SAS Ai,” he said waving at me. “Got something for you.” He walked briskly toward me.

I stood by my pick up truck’s open door. Mr Wilson handed me another $540 dollar check written to the SAS Ai scholarship fund.

“For 2013,” he said. “Let’s help the kids get launched!”

“Thanks Mr Wilson,” I said, my eyes misting. “Education is Freedom!”

“Amen,” he said. When I looked up he was gone.

He Heard and Listened to the Clarion Call


Saratoga

Clarion Call – “Education is Freedom”

I know of a man who heard and listened to the clarion call. Since the beginning he knew only of spartan surroundings, growing up in a large family of modest means. All his brothers and sisters competed for honors in school. Not to be ignored he earned his fair share of achievement medals and academic awards.

His mother worked hard as the family’s primary bread-winner. His father’s waning health and strength bound him to the wheelchair. This young man, who was once faintly recognizable amongst siblings heaped atop one another, survived the ever-changing family dynamic to emerge a success in his own right.

He heard and listened to the clarion call. An inner voice cried out:  Education is Freedom! Come away, come away. Set sail for distant shores and cast your net in the deep waters. After graduating from Santo Tomas University with his Chemical Engineering degree he landed in Chicago where he set the world literally on fire. Feverishly working his way up the ranks, he earned patents on several chemical concoctions bearing his signature. He ascended the leadership ladder steadily and became the Director of Research and Development at L’Oreal, the perfume giant, until his retirement.

Polon

Engineer Apolonio Villanueva III (BSEChem)

Meet Engr Apolonio Villanueva III. He and his lovely wife Emilie (Nee Valdez) originally from Baguio City live in Chicago, he having happily retired from industry and she from the medical field. Engr Polon (as we fondly call him) thinks very highly of SAS Ai’s mission to help bright and promising kids who come from poor families get a good high school education at SAS thru financial aid. So much so that he supports the scholarship fund for these kids. And we thank him for his donations.

Today, many former SAS graduates work, live, and have retired all over the world. Many are doctors of medicine, engineers, accountants, government workers, teachers and politicians. They heard the clarion call and listened to it. More importantly they acted on it.

The clarion call rings out once again. Listen. Education is Freedom… come away and help send these bright kids to high school with your donation to the scholarship fund. Every bit helps. Surely, with your gift you are making one child feel most fortunate attending high school.

Meet Mike and Karen Sobiecki, SAS Ai Sponsors


Karen and Mike Sobiecki

Karen and her husband Mike Sobiecki think highly of SAS Ai’s effort at helping bright kids who come from poor families get a good high school education, They sponsor SAS Ai scholars,

He led a crack platoon of skilled military men while serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War. She worked for a law firm as executive assistant. Finishing his stint in the US Army, Mr Michael Sobiecki worked for Chrysler Motors and rose to Regional Director of Executive Marketing and Sales.

After Mass last Sunday I asked him if he’d already retired. “Too young to retire,” he quipped with a big grin on his face.

Mrs Karen Sobiecki is the more thoughtful, demure one. She smiled brightly and told me, “Don’t believe everything he says,” she winked. “I think he should go back to work.”

I thought, “Hmmm… so Mr Mike is hanging out at home… by himself most of the time… hmm….” I called him up later in the week and asked if I could drop by to talk to him about something.

He said, “Yeah sure. Come on by and I will have a cold one ready for you.”

Mr Mike and I talked about SAS Alumni International’s mission of helping bright kids who come from poor families get a good high school education at SAS thru financial aid. I explained to him what “poor” meant, and what “bright” meant: A gross annual family income of $1167 USD or less and a GPA of 85% and above .

Mr Sobiecki looked absorbed and very interested; he said nothing and remained motionless. I thought I had bored him stiff with my presentation.

Breaking the silence he said, “Yes, I recall having to stay overnight in Olongapo City in the Philippines during the ‘Nam war. I slept in a hut but the folks were super-hospitable. Did you know they offered for me to sleep on the only cot bed in the house?”

“That’s Filipino hospitality for you,” I proudly beamed.

“I’ll never forget that gesture of kindness,” he continued. “In the morning they prepared for me some eggs, garlic rice, and marinated fish. That fish was sure bony! Hot dang, but it was good! How could they eat that kind of fish, bones and all.” The smile on his face registered pleasant memories.

“They don’t chew it,” I gave my smarty pants reply.

After a couple of cold ones, I stood up to leave. “Nice talking to you buddy,” he said shaking my hand. “Drop in anytime. Hey – see ya in Church Sunday!”

As I cleared the foyer and out the front door, I heard him following me close by. Halfway down the walkway I heard him say, “How much does it cost to sponsor a bright student? I think Karen and I just might sponsor a bright scholar!”

The rest is history. Mr and Mrs Michael Sobiecki are proud sponsors of SAS Ai scholars. They have never regretted their decision. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for their generosity and support. We need more folks like the Sobiecki’s.

SAS Ai Expects the Best from Its Scholars


AlbertPrez

Field Team Director Albert D Bunoan talks to SAS Ai President and CEO Atty Romeo J Somera, CPA during a luncheon meeting with the scholars

SAS Ai, Inc.’s scholarship program geared to help bright, promising kids who come from poor families attend SAS high school and graduate is not an entitlement program. To do its stated mission SAS Ai, Inc. is under no obligation to extend this assistance program. But it does so because SAS Ai believes that Education is Freedom.

When SAS Ai recruits, processes and qualifies an applicant for financial aid and finally selects the applicant as a sponsored scholar, SAS Ai fully expects only the best outcome from the contract. The sponsored student promises to abide by the scholarship rules, keep up good grades or better throughout the school year, and show steady improvement in all aspects of academic growth and social development. In turn SAS Ai registers the scholar to attend SAS, provides school uniforms, shoes and school supplies, assigns the scholar under the care and watchful eye of the Field Team to check his or her progress.

Such an arrangement demands accountability from all parties. In essence this keeps the scholarship program worthy of support in the eyes of the donors. No other scholarship program works within such a structured, manageable and successful process.

SAS Ai takes pride in their record. Maintaining maximum transparency in their financial dealings with the school, with donors, vendors and other business entities, SAS Ai conducts its business openly.

Support our mission by donating to the scholarship fund. Help us send bright kids, who come from poor families, to SAS high school in school year 2013.

Donate Now!

Living Free… really?


Overacting

The man’s in need, the dog’s for feed – but the cat, look out, she’s into over-acting!

It was at the airport that I saw this display of an excellently choreographed  begging technique. The cat caught my eye. She’s flat on her back, feet splayed, paws outstretched, her facial expression unmistakably of deep hunger. Not a single passer-by failed to stop, notice, smile, grin, admire, and give.

While this ensemble may amuse and entertain, what really lies behind this life of begging? An investigation followed and found out that:

  • The man was down and out of his luck, was homeless with no family.
  • He and his pets are on the move and have run out of funds temporarily.
  • The man is happy with his life – no responsibilities, no bills, no financial obligations, no taxes, and they can move freely when and wherever
  • On a good day all three members of the begging team can come up with $500, with the cat fetching the tidiest sum of $200-$250, followed by the dog at $150-$175 and the man at $120-$150.

What a life, eh? Living free, or free-living, or living for free isn’t for everybody. What do you think – would you consider this kind of lifestyle?

Personally, I prefer responsibility, the daily challenge of making it by hard work, prudence, competitiveness, and accountability. I need the satisfaction brought by making it through the day with a minimum of hassle, the least amount of self-inflicted mistakes and mental errors. I need my daily triumph over life’s many challenges.

Nightfall finds me in the comfort of my dwelling and with faith bursting out of my heart I gratefully lay my head on a soft pillow, sleep through the night, secure and confident that God will wake me up in the morning in time to enjoy my cup of fresh hot coffee, ready to face life once more – and win.