How far can your P50 go?
() - September 26, 2010 - 12:00am

Some people derive their ultimate joy in helping others. They obtain a certain kind of high by making sure that kindness rules their world. Take for instance Fr. Gerard Deveza.

Fr. Gerard is a self-effacing healing priest. More than healing people’s sickness — both physical and emotional — he ventures into healing their dreams. Of late, he aids in healing the lives of children from imminent destitution by providing them education.

In Cabid-an, Sorsogon, where he was ordained as a priest, Fr. Gerard founded in 2003 the Divine Healer Academy (formerly Divine Healer Learning Center). The academy now has 292 students from Kinder to first year high school. All these students are studying for free. Aside from free tuition fee, the underprivileged students at the Divine Healer Academy also get for free their school supplies and bags, books, school uniform and shoes.

“I dream for our students. I want them to have a better chance in life in the future,” Fr. Gerard humbly says.

Humility, aside from kindness, also makes up Fr. Gerard’s spiritual fortification. “I cannot build a school on my own, that is for sure. But kindness of people can build a school. Kindness of people can build other people’s dreams,” he says.

So with a humble heart and a resolute will to make better the lives of the poor children in Cabid-an, Sorsogon, Fr. Gerard knocks on doors of his friends, even on the gates, so to speak, of the people he does not know. They open their hearts for him, knowing fully that they are opening doors and gates of opportunity for the schoolchildren of the Divine Healer Academy.

It all started, Fr. Gerard recalls, when, in 2002, one of the sisters of the congregation Sister Servants of the Divine Healer asked him if he could sponsor a child to any school in Sorsogon. He said yes right away. 

He was set on sending just one child to school when the nun told him there were 25 other schoolchildren who would need financial assistance. He felt an opportunity to help was presented to him by God and he did not think twice. He sought permission from the nuns to turn into a classroom their old convent in Cabid-an. That act of kindness spawned to become the Divine Healer Academy now where the 292 students get the best quality education and utmost guidance from the four sisters of the congregation and the 14 devoted teaching staff.

At the moment, Fr. Gerard continues to dream for them and for the other poor children of Sorsogon. Included in his vision board is to increase the number of students to 500. He’s confident that a full high school can be achieved by the students who are enrolled in the Divine Healer Academy in time. But Fr. Gerard dreams of something more: a college for his students.

This early, he is knocking on people’s hearts to share P50 pesos to send one child to college. Whatever he and the members of his Healing Servants Foundation collect will be deposited in the bank.

P50 may just be “barya” to others. But can you imagine what it would amount to if, say, a million kind souls gave P50 each to this cause? That P50, to the poor children of Cabid-an, Sorsogon, is their ticket to dreamland, to a place where they are assured that they have a fair chance to dream bigger for themselves and for their loved ones.

This early, the reception to Fr. Gerard’s project is “shocking.” People from all walks of life, disclose some members of the Healing Servants Foundation, voluntarily form different groups to collect P50 each and make their bid to become silent partners in building hopes and dreams for the schoolchildren of the Divine Healer Academy.

“So, how far do you think can your P50 go?” asks Fr. Gerard.

“A long, long way,” I say. “My P50 today is the college education of a student tomorrow.”

 Now, that’s a miracle. 

*    *    *

Helping people is a form of prayer. It brings one closer to divinity as it rekindles in one the kindness that is the birth right of the human spirit.

The kindness of stranger was recently displayed by Barbara Kintz, a 57-year-old American businesswoman, for the students of the Divine Healer Academy. She learned about the school from some members of the Healing Servants Foundation last year, when the foundation was at the thick of distributing assistance to the residents of Metro Manila and other provinces gravely affected by typhoon Ondoy, which hardly hit the country exactly a year ago today.

Barbara did not think twice of helping, not only by sending financial aid but also by giving her time to see the children in Sorsogon. She came to see the students bringing them computers and a large flatscreen TV. More than that, she brought them hopes and dreams.

“My love for children, especially the children in need, is what brought me to the school,” says Barbara, who has been happily married for 40 years, with two sons and three grandchildren. She used to sort mail and deliver letters in all the departments in the pet food company she worked for in the US. After many years of hard work and dedication, Barbara is now the vice president of the same company, which, by the way, she now owns with two other partners.

“The little time I spent with the children was very rewarding to me. My heart was filled with happiness when I saw how grateful the children were to receive even such a small gift as lollipop,” she recalls.

Barbara came to Cabid-an with her niece, Christen Hummel, a 23-year-old teacher in Pennsylvania; and her 24-year-old fiancé, Christopher Hudak, a nurse. Christen and Christopher also had the most rewarding time of their lives when they were in the school. Christen taught English and Science to students from Grade 1 to Grade 6 while Christopher engaged the children about first aid like wound care, burn care, fire safety, earthquake safety and dehydration. He also helped establish the school’s first physical education program, teaching the students how to play basketball, baseball and volleyball.

“At school, the children were great. They were more than respectful and they seemed very eager to learn. They were the most excited children to be at school that I have ever seen,” says Christopher. “We were also able to visit some of the students and their families at their homes and we were welcomed with open arms.”

“I shared with the bright and dedicated students of Divine Healer Academy that if you have a dream, you can reach that dream by hard work and dedication,” says Christen.

She adds, “The experience was very eye-opening and humbling. By the end of my three weeks in Sorsogon, I realized all the things that I took for granted. These children work so hard every day. They walk to school with smiles on their faces and are eager to learn. I am trying my very best to use my resources and continue to help the students at the school. I want to bring them joy, like they brought me joy.”

Indeed, helping people is a form of prayer. Barbara, Christen and Christopher know in their hearts that the schoolchildren of Divine Healer Academy changed their lives. And they vow to aid in helping change the students’ lives, too. 

Now, that’s a miracle in the hands of kind and loving strangers.

(If you wish to help send a student to school with your P50, please call Fr. Gerard Deveza at 0917-5382033. For your new beginnings, please e-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com. You may want to follow me, too, at www.twitter.com/bum_tenorio. Have a blessed Sunday!)

CHILDREN DIVINE DIVINE HEALER ACADEMY GERARD HEALER SCHOOL SORSOGON STUDENTS
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