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.

 

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Education Leads to Good Jobs


EducationJobsA television commercial promoting the merits of finishing high school ran for many years, if I remember correctly. Most famous of all in the series showed a young man shopping for a wallet. He comes to a store supposedly owned and run by a Chinese gentleman and a Chinese woman. The customer asks, “Do you carry wallets?”

The man and the woman make eye contact. Their facial expressions both register a palpable sense of skepticism about the customer, as if to say, “Will he be able to pay for it?” They speak in Chinese; no subtitles. The man goes to the back of the store to retrieve a wallet.

Returning to the waiting customer he hands it over to him. It’s a narrow, teeny-weenie wallet. The Chinese man and woman were both holding back bursts of laughter and guffaws. The customer’s facial expression turns from being nice and polite to incredulity. Checking the wallet the young man says, “Why, this is too small,” squinting his eyes directed at the man.

The film narrator takes over the scene at this point and delivers the punch line even as the Chinese proprietors laugh hilariously. “High school graduates make 22% more in wages than their school dropout counterparts. Get smart. Finish your high school GED today.”

Very powerful commercial promoting high school education. For a great majority of Filipinos today, this ad is not necessary to convince them a good high school education is important. Parents want their children to finish not only high school but college, pawning everything they own to finance their children’s education. Filipino parents know that with education come good jobs.

We feel the same way as parents do about education. We believe that bright young minds ought not go to waste just because their families are too poor to send them to school. This is our mission:  to help these bright kids finish high school with financial aid. Won’t you join us by donating to the high school fund? Thank you.

We Beg You


We are on our knees

We are on our knees

“If you want something bad enough, you can endure rejection; begging is not demeaning.” We are begging for help. For the sake of our kids’ schooling we are down on our knees.

Registration day 2014 is upon us. The registrar tersely reminds us we can’t enroll our kids without the tuition paid up front. We want nothing more than to enroll our kids for school year 2014.

Please help us with the tuition. You can open a $10 dollar monthly allotment – a sum that won’t break the bank. Go to our DONATE NOW page and transact your $10 dollar monthly allotment.

We are at the 11th hour of our fund-raising drive. Please be generous.

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.

My American Friend


Bamboo Shoots

“But what will happen to the Pandas?” my American friend asked.

I still remember one hot summer day (during Cuaresma – Lent in the Ilocano language) we spent in the Philippines. Our ship moored dockside at Alava Pier, NAS Cubi Point for a couple of days of rest and recreation en route to the Indian Ocean. Sunshine drenched the countryside and the weekend beckoned.

“You want to come with me to the public market?” I asked a shipmate buddy who was folding his freshly washed laundry.

veggies

Squash and katuday flowers, eggplants, camote, ginger roots and bittermelons

“Why? What’s there to see?” he replied never taking his eyes off the linen he splayed in front of him.

“You might be surprised,” I said, quickly grabbing my baseball cap to leave. I thought I’d share some Filipino culture with my American friend. And the public market would be a good place to begin such enculturation.

“Wait,” he said. “Give me a second and I will go with you.” I knew he was just trying to be nice. He probably figured I needed company.

Carabao

Getting ready to haul stuff

Before long we were off to the public market, dodging weaving tricycles, avoiding wobbly ox-carts piled high with rice straw, and politely turning down independent shish-kebab merchants lining the sidewalks hawking their wares.

Entering the open bazaar we first came upon the fresh vegetable stalls. “Whoa… are those things what I think they are?” he exclaimed pointing at a stack of freshly cut bamboo shoots. “They look like 16 millimeter projectiles.”

“You’re right. Them’s bamboo shoots – not projectiles,” I shot back.

“But what will happen to the bamboo plants if you take the shoots? What will happen to the Panda bears who eat bamboo? Who buys that stuff anyway? What is wrong with this picture?” My friend went on and on. He was Mr questions. I smiled contentedly. Here’s our cultural teaching moment.

Sausage

Sausages – Sorizo – Longaniza

We walked deeper into the center of the bazaar. The air became staid. Different odors met our nostrils, some sweet and some downright repugnant. Then we came by the salted-fish merchant stall. “Eeeeks…” even I felt repulsed by the fish left fermenting in those huge gray clay jars.

My friend loudly protested. “What in the heck is this place? Let’s get out of here. I’ve had enough of this &%^#!” (the euphemism is my choice since his very words are unprintable here). I felt embarrassed for my friend but what could I do? We hurried back to the ship.

Inabraw

Vegetable stew – Inabraw

Since it was already past noon, we stopped by the Exchange Cafeteria for a cup of coffee and some lunch. I paid all charges; a peace-offering. My friend couldn’t stop telling me how much he enjoyed the Filipino food items I ordered for lunch. He said the vegetable stew tasted like something he ate in Thailand, and the soup was reminiscent of the seafood soup he ate in Vietnam. He went on and on about how much he liked the fish lightly battered and cooked in sun-dried tomato sauces. I listened intently.

Bagnet

Bagnet for Sitsaron (Chicharon)

I told him about the basic food ingredients used, the seasonings and spices that made the dishes tasty. I told him also that he saw all those ingredients in the public market place when we went there earlier.

He took a gulp of chilled coconut juice but largely remained silent. I wondered what he could have thought. “Didn’t he like the food?” I silently asked myself.

Then he said, “I have concluded that Filipino people are good cooks. And I can eat this food all day.”

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.

Sharing


Heart in hand

We learn to give from our hearts early in life

“Here’s a chocolate chip cookie. Share it with your sister,” my mother’s voice still rings loud and clear in my head to this day.

She issued such commands lovingly that out of my deep respect for her I would follow them to the letter. Whether we remember it or not, our parents, elders, grandparents, aunts, uncles taught us some form of sharing early in life. In my old age I give and share not so much out of respect and obedience to my mother’s wishes but because it is a privilege to give.

As a youngster I’d walk a kilometer for a chocolate chip cookie. I squirreled away into my secret vault a stash of chocolate chip cookies, to keep it away from cookie beggars and snatchers. My mother knew me well and would remind me, “Share your chocolate chip cookies.”

In her wisdom my mother helped me acquire better habits. Over the years I’ve grown to appreciate my mother’s early influence. One day she caught me hoarding candy and other consumables. She calmly informed me, “You can’t eat it all and besides you can’t take it with you.”

Yes, we cannot take it with us. Let us share what we have with others, specially those in need, while we still can.