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.

 

Graduation: Personal Labor Comes to Fruition


SAS Ai Class 2014

SAS Ai Class 2014

Our volunteers who run the everyday business of the SAS Ai financial aid program experienced their labor’s just reward at the graduation ceremonies of our first 2014 class of scholars. They remembered a group of kids, some shy and timid, who joined us in the program last 2009-2010. They were no more than young, tender saplings, newly graduated from intermediate school, filled with dreams and high expectations. They enthusiastically dove in, head first into the school year.

We all remembered the times when some of them faltered, slowed down by the dizzying array and sheer volume of high school work. Pop quizzes, periodic tests, quizzes, exams and research assignments, writing projects, athletic intramural sporting events, and vocational shop classes all added to the burden. But true to their promise they slugged it out and prevailed making all of us so proud. Four of them placed in the honor roll with one finishing as the class salutatorian. At the graduation reception, they stood beaming with pride along with their parents, teachers and mentors. Amid the flurry of activity from the paparazzi, they all thanked our donors and program supporters.

“We thank you all, our dear benefactors, donors, and sponsors.
Without your generous help we couldn’t have finished high school.
God bless you, your family, your health and your work.”

A few members of the Board of Trustees based abroad made it to the Philippines during the graduation ceremony. Joining in the celebration they saw how our newly graduated scholars extended their gratitude and appreciation as they spoke with all the dignitaries and guests. Talk about some happy campers. Our scholars looked so grown up. Where has the time gone? With smiles and grins and small conversations later, our volunteers, donors and supporters all agreed: “It was all worth it – all that sacrifice and labor.”

And so it is.

Become Involved; Join the Mission


Bo-te-te - toxic but good eating

Bo-te-te – toxic but good eating

The Good Book describes the Kingdom of Heaven as like a fisherman, who throws his net into the waters and catches all kinds of fish. He goes through his catch, separating the good eating fish to one side, while setting the not-so-good for eating fish on the other side. And so it shall be on judgment day. I paraphrase of course.

Reading these stories about the Kingdom-of-Heaven-being-at-hand in the Good Book and reflecting on it, I am thinking that yes, the Kingdom of Heaven is here and now. The master fisherman throws his net in the waters catching all kinds of People. Well, people come with different characteristics and make up. For example, some people can feel the need to support a cause while others cannot and won’t. Some remain unmoved and sit on the fence. Still, some people are so turned on they will go the extra mile and begin to promote the cause bringing in more support. These advocates would be like the yeast, in another Kingdom of Heaven story – the change agent the woman added and mixed with the dough making the dough rise and double in size.

And it touches me so deeply to see our supporters and volunteers in action. Friends who donate to the program, complete strangers who sponsor these bright kids through high school, and those who champion our mission. I am speechless; how do they do it? What moves them? I take a deep breath, inhale the spirit and think. Indeed the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

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 Thank Our Donors


Cely Bilaoen Bautista SAS Class 1958

Cely Bilaoen Bautista SAS Class 1958

Mrs Celestina Bilaoen Bautista (left) – we call her “Cely” – supports our mission to help bright kids from poor families finish high school with financial aid. She staunchly believes that education is freedom.

She’s a retired registered nurse (RN), having worked in the Bronx hospitals of New York city for many years. Earlier in her life before finishing college and earning her Nursing degree, she attended and graduated from St Augustine School in Tagudin, province of Ilocos Sur, Philippines. Cely is a member of the famous SAS Class of 1958.

Never one to forget her humble beginnings, Cely is no stranger to hard work and self-reliance. She remembers the goodwill of others bestowed upon her specially when she was first starting her Nursing career. Her success story is our success story. She loves these disadvantaged kids. She backs her hope for their success with her continued support and donations to the high school fund.

Thank you Cely and may God bless you always.

A Call for Help


Rocel Ann

Rocel Ann Vinluan – SAS Ai

Hello. I’m Rocel Ann Vinluan, a junior high school student at St Augustine School in the town of Tagudin, province of Ilocos Sur, in the Philippines. I am one among several kids who come from disadvantaged families being helped by SAS Alumni International (SAS Ai) finish high school. Beginning this school year 2014, three more kids – bright kids – are starting high school under the same financial aid program I am in.

My father left us several years ago to work overseas. We never heard from him again. He never sent any money to support us. My mother hired out as a maid for a family in the city, leaving me and my siblings to live with my grandmother. My grandmother has a junkyard and she sells old tires, engine parts, and used corrugated roofing. I help her out by cleaning the house, doing the laundry, baby-sitting my younger siblings and doing the janitorial work around the junkyard. I earn my keep and grandma is very happy with my work.

My mother tells us she sews dresses at night for extra income. I get a daily allowance of PhP5.00 (five Philippine pesos, or 12 cents USD). It’s enough for a small sandwich for my lunch. Daily I walk the 2 kilometers to school and back. I cannot afford the tricycle fare. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to attend high school.

SAS Ai relies solely on public donations to fund our schooling. They need financial donations badly to keep the program going. Any amount you wish to donate helps. Your donation of $50 dollars (USD) pays for a month of high school for one student. To donate please click this link DONATE NOW. Thank you..

 

Help Wanted


helpwantedSubtleI have seen that “Help Wanted” sign tucked in on window pane corners, behind glass doors, on menu boards and on mall bulletin boards and store fronts. Once I inquired inside a pet store posting a Help Wanted sign. But after I was immediately met, literally face-to-face, by a Gigantor Great Dane, I turned around and walked out.

We have had our Help Wanted sign posted on our Facebook page, BLOG page, on our official websites for all the world and fellow SAS alumni to see. We haven’t had many replies, not even inquiries out of pure curiosity. Our plea for help is largely being ignored.helpwantedCustomers

What could we be doing wrong? How can we improve our signage? Our message?

Could it be that our sign doesn’t communicate exactly what we need? (Photo at right courtesy of The Huffington Post)

We need help in raising awareness of our mission to help bright kids who come from poor families get a high school education through financial aid.

We need help raising donations for and contributions to the scholarship fund. Our only source of help comes from your generosity. Please… we need your help.