Charity Begins at Home


Juzel Ann Macanas (right) with her Mom upon receiving her award certificate

“Dear Sir,” her email message to me began.

“I will not be able to attend the scheduled scholar’s meeting with Mr Bunoan because…”

I paused reading her email message. For a long moment my mind painted the word “Excusitis.” This can’t be.

“I have a scheduling conflict,” the email message continued.

And why is this young lady sending me this email message? I am chair of the scholarship committee and I work closely with Mr Albert Bunoan, VP Fld Ops, taking care of our scholars’ needs. It was a courtesy email message.

It turns out that our scholar-email-message-writer and 10th grade honor student, Ms Juzel Ann Macanas from Barangay Libtong, was scheduled to work with Libtong’s Local Community Charity organization that same day. She was slated to help distribute food to the homeless and hungry on that same day as our scheduled scholar’s meeting.

the face of poverty

Father and his child try to sleep away their hunger

My answer was simple and immediate:  “Juzel Ann – Go distribute food. Attend the next meeting. Let Mr Bunoan know.”

How impressive is that?

Juzel Ann Macanas, SAS Ai scholar actively involved in community volunteer charity work for the needy.

How many young people would bother to do such thankless volunteer work, much less surrender their precious leisure time? Not many I’d venture to speculate.

What Juzel Ann is doing with her free time, helping feed the poor, is noteworthy. It bodes well for her future. This same act of charity serves as a testament to the effectiveness of the financial aid program wherein she is a beneficiary.

Charity begins at home.


Things were going great and then. . .

After her husband died, she suffered a severe stroke

After her husband died, she suffered a severe stroke sending everything into a tailspin

In pursuing our mission to help bright kids from poor families finish high school, we come across many special applications or requests for financial aid. One such request came across our desk for consideration earlier this year. We can relate to this story. All of us are just one paycheck away from being homeless.

Maria, (we changed the names to keep the privacy of the parties involved) and her husband Taliofero operated a small cafe-diner. The place was no bigger than four office cubicles joined together, furnished with four tables with four chairs each. The simple menu included many local dishes affordably priced and targeted toward a clientage composed of the local government workers, school faculty and staff and a few students from wealthier families, who carry sizable lunch money allowance. Bottom line, business was booming. Maria was able to send her daughter Donna to private high school.

Then the unimaginable happened. Taliofero had a massive heart attack while cooking a batch of Dinuguan (a local blood pudding delicacy with pork innards). Their sense of loss and grief exponentially doubled as Maria suffered a stroke soon after they buried Taliofero. Utterly devastated, the family began to sell some of their belongings, jewelry and home furnishings to help run the business and to survive. Although it was touching and inspiring to see Maria and Donna try everything to mitigate the ravages of physical handicap and erosion of morale, the situation was nevertheless a portrait of raw despondency and frustration. Creditors repossessed their home. They moved back to Maria’s mother’s house.

Donna was going into her last year of high school. She had been an honor student all three years earlier and actively involved in the school paper as assistant editor. Donna’s bright and shows tremendous potential. But now, out of money and essentially broke, she faces transferring to the public high school. They applied for financial aid so Donna can graduate at the same high school wherein she started.

Our committee didn’t take long to decide. Donna will graduate this year from St Augustine’s School.


“I believed Cha…

“I believed Charity began and stayed at home, until a complete stranger helped me and my family get unstuck from a freeway exit ramp because our car had blown a tire, ran out of gas and was disabled…”

Especially for a minority immigrant like me and my family, the early sixties in the Southland were precarious days to be traveling on the road – to put it mildly. Serving in the Navy I was moving my family from Sanford to Jacksonville on a permanent change of duty station orders.

It rained sheets during the drive that day reducing visibility down to a couple of feet. Hesitantly, I parked my old Chevy off to the side of the road. I figured at least I, my wife and baby would be safe since we’re not moving. But we weren’t to be spared. A small pick up truck grazed our rear end, jolting us a bit but not too roughly. It was a hit and run. The pick up truck quickly disappeared into the mist.

We waited an hour more for the rain to subside then resumed our trip. It never occurred to me to inspect the car for possible damage before moving on. Coming closer to Jacksonville we entered the exit to Cecil Field. While in the curve the car blew a tire careening into the guardrail. I had no time to panic; the car was slowing down. It was out of gas. The hit and run punctured our gas tank. The gas spilled as we drove along. There were no phones.

To get help we waited for a highway patrol officer to come by. There were no such police vehicles on the road. In the quickly darkening twilight a pick up truck pulled up behind us. The gentleman driver hopped out from the cab, extended his hand to shake mine. Grinning he said in a deep Southern drawl, “Howdy! Ya’ll need some help?”

To make a long story short the gentleman took care of all our needs, getting a tow truck to tow our disabled car to the nearest shop, driving us to Cecil Field to check in at Navy Housing, and buying us a hot meal at the local A & W. After he was satisfied we would be okay, he bade us farewell. “If you’re ever in the Lone Star State, look me up in the phone book. The name’s Billy Bob Berenson.”

You Can’t Take It With You

Cash Stash Under Mattress

Cash Stashed Under Mattress

Each and every night, after counting her money, she went into dreamless sleep, her ears insulated from the sounds of the world. She had no worries, no fears; just sheer joy in knowing that she had a pile of money at her disposal.

No situation fazed her. She luxuriated on an aire-ride bed taking delight in the fine layers of Turkish quality linen. The rustle of brocade covers combined with the lightness of the goose down stuffed pillows titillated her imagination. The silk sheets provided her with maximum opulence.

As was her nocturnal habit, she counted her cash in the dim candlelight. No bright lights for this lady. That would compromise her privacy. She confidently stashed her cash underneath her mattress. No bank ever won her trust. She contentedly went to sleep each night – the captain of her own destiny.

Out in public, when asked for a small donation for a charitable cause, she would quickly break into a satisfied grin and haughtily declare, “Well, I’d love to help but the money is at home. Really. I don’t carry cash. Maybe some other time.” And off she would go on her merry way.

Her obituary suddenly and unexpectedly showed up in the Church weekly bulletin. Our secretly wealthy lady passed away in her sleep. The emergency responders came to gather her remains. On their way out one of the technicians noticed a dollar bill on the floor but kept on walking.

The next day, the cleaning lady came to clean the apartment as scheduled. She saw Ben Franklin’s image on a hundred-dollar bill lying on the floor by the bed. She remembered the deceased woman very well. There was a time, when she started working there, that she begged the rich woman for a small loan so she could buy some groceries for her family. Of course her plea went unanswered. It was as if the deceased woman was deaf… or feigned deafness.

The cleaning lady went about doing her cleaning routine. Lifting the mattress to tuck in the new sheets, she discovered the deceased woman’s wealth and riches. Money… dollar bills stacked up four deep. The money … inanimate paper… lifeless green bills… just lying there. What good are they to the dearly departed woman now?

A Living Legacy

St Augustine School Girls Department Circa 1958

St Augustine School Girls Department Circa 1958

Founded in 1910, St Augustine School (SAS) started out as a mission school erected and run by the Belgian nuns and priests (CICM) who came to Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, Philippines to help spread the Good News. A short history of the school may be found at the SAS Ai WIKI. The last 103 years has seen the steady ascent of SAS as the premier private school of Ilocos Sur province. SAS Alumni work, live, set up private practice as doctors, engineers, certified public accountants, registered nurses, and do entrepreneurial commerce internationally.

Today’s global economy makes the job market keen and competitive. We have bright, promising and highly motivated kids in the community who come from very disadvantaged families and thus are financially unable to attend SAS high school.

It is so that these kids may get an opportunity to finish high school at SAS that our non-profit organization SAS Ai dedicates and commits its efforts. We solely rely on public financial support. To this end we humbly ask you to please generously donate to the scholarship fund. This is the only way we can fund these kids’ high school education.

We believe Education is Freedom. These children have known nothing but poverty, hunger, and even hopelessness throughout their lives. But they are the future. Investing in their high school education makes possible the ushering in of a living legacy – the next generation of teachers, scientists, doctors, engineers, civic leaders, clerics, fathers and mothers raising healthy families, and highly competitive overseas workers.

This holiday season, we ask you to please consider making your charitable contribution count. Invest in these kids. Help make their dreams come true. Give them an opportunity to finish high school. A $50 dollar tax deductible donation can help send a student for one month of schooling with the funding spread to cover tuition, books, school supplies, and school uniforms. You can even open a monthly allotment using your VISA, MASTER CARD, or DISCOVER card. Any amount you want to donate is truly appreciated and will help tremendously.

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Our Kids Remain Hopeful

Outside classroom activity for our scholars is sponsored by two visiting members of the board

A little lunch of noodles and rice after a scheduled meeting comes under outside-classroom-activities for our scholars. Two visiting members of the board (who wish to remain anonymous) sponsored this luncheon meeting.

School registration is a couple of weeks away. Our Field Team goes through its busiest time throughout the school year. They gather the kids, take them to the local school uniform shop to be measured for their uniforms – skirts and blouses for the young ladies and pants and t-shirts for the young men. The kids are also measured for their pair of shoes – a pair of rubber shoes for the young men and a pair of patent leather flats for the young ladies. Then we have the athletic wear.

Later in the week, Field Team Director, Mr Albert D Bunoan gathers them for a luncheon meeting to discuss new policies from the scholarship committee that may affect their school practices. They go through introductions and an overall “kick off” for the school year. The lunch is simple enough: noodles and rice, rice crackers and sodas. This year two vacationing members of the board sponsored and donated funds for the luncheon meeting.

Here at corporate our Treasurer, Estrellita G Purugganan busies herself assembling the funding package. She remains hopeful we will be able to sponsor at the very least two, new scholars this year in addition to the current 20 whom we are sponsoring through several grades of high school. Director Albert Bunoan assures us his Field Team has already processed applications submitted by solid candidates for financial aid this year.

Our main concern remains the same. Will we have enough funds to launch school year 2013? The reason our small non-profit group raises funds all year round in a never-ending cycle of asking, requesting, and pleading for help from generous folks like you. We are asking you to donate to the scholarship fund via our secure online acceptance portal. We accept credit cards (VISA, MASTERCARD, and DISCOVER). Any amount you wish to donate helps a child attend high school.

It is never too early or too late to donate. We use the scholarship funds all year round to support the schooling of our scholars, pay for tuition, books, school uniforms, school supplies, athletic wear, lab fees, computer use fees, USB storage device for computer work, and school projects. Help us by donating to the scholarship fund today.

May Your Heart be Filled With Joy and Gladness

teouched heart

If you feel a hollow in your heart, it is there waiting to be filled with joy and gladness by acts of kindness toward others

“When you give, give expecting nothing in return…” so the Good Book says. Peace be with you dear friend. We are still trying to raise enough money to send our kids to school that begins this coming June 2013. These are the bright and promising kids who come from disadvantaged families and who are eager and desirous to finish high school. A disadvantaged family makes less than P50,000 (Philippine pesos) or $1167 USD annual gross income.

Go to our secure online acceptance portal and use your credit card (VISA, M/C, DISC) to transact your tax-deductible donation. You can also open a monthly $45 dollar allotment if it makes it easier on your budgeting process. It costs $540 a year to send one kid to high school. Any amount you wish to donate helps send a promising child to school. Our program holds the sponsored child accountable for maintaining good grades, and the child’s family for making sure the child gets time to study.

To find out what the $540 USD annual cost covers go to our SAS Ai, Inc. website. While there, meet our scholars and those who volunteer to run the program. Consider your donation as an investment for the future. Consider your donation as an act of kindness toward those who can’t pay you back. Consider your donation as necessary in helping a child realize his or her childhood dream. Consider your donation as liberating these children from poverty – because education is freedom!

Thank you dear friend for your donation and support. May your heart be filled with joy and gladness.