More than meets the eye

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star

While there are people who shamelessly dip their fingers in the nation’s coffers and make life miserable for millions, there are those who dip into their own coffers and give more than just a portion of their time to make life better for a multitude. The latter includes women from the Zonta Club of Metro Rizal, a non-profit organization that aims to empower women around the world.  

Through its “Gift of Sight, Gift of Love,” project, the group is helping others see the light — literally. Francis Sevadra, 37, saw hope when Zonta Club of Metro Rizal made it possible for him to have a corneal transplant. Francis is suffering from corneal dystrophy, a form of genetic, often progressive disorder in which abnormal material accumulates in the cornea. He has undergone three corneal transplants, two on his right eye and one on his left.

According to Francis, his eye disorder started to manifest itself when he was in second grade. “Parang natatakpan ng puting ulap yung dalawang mata ko. Nahihirapan ako makakita kaya pag sa school, umuupo ako malapit sa blackboard (It’s as if white clouds cover my eyes. It’s hard for me to see things clearly so, in school, I sit near the blackboard.),” narrates Francis.

The Zonta Club of Metro Rizal is helping Francis again find a cornea donor. “We hope that Francis will be able to undergo another corneal transplant for his left eye within the year,” says Zonta Metro Club president Elizabeth “Beth” Encarnacion. (Relatives of donors may contact Zonta director Lilith Castillo at 0917-8974827.)

Beth says that when she talked to Francis, he told her he wanted to have normal vision in order to be a better provider for his family. “It would help him make his son’s dream to become an engineer come true,” says Beth.

The Zonta Club of Metro Rizal is part of Zonta International. Established in October 1991, the Zonta Club of Metro Rizal has since implemented various projects in order to help and empower people, especially women and the underprivileged. The group is composed of 23 women who are wives, mothers  and entrepreneurs but have dedicated a lot of their time for the organization and its projects.  These women are part of a network of more than 30,000 Zonta International members in more than 1,200 clubs in 63 countries all over the world.

The Zonta Club of Metro Rizal also conducts seminars on flower arrangement, the making of assorted sauces, cosmetology and reflexology, tocino-, tapa- and longganisa-making, gift-wrapping, and jewelry-making. Housewives Clarita Macawile and Nora Acidre now have small flower shops in Parañaque City after attending the flower arrangement seminar headed by Dir. Lulu Sotto.

As a goldsmith, Beth Encarnacion’s pet project is jewelry-making. Last February, 70 indigents attended the jewelry-making workshop she held in Brgy. San Antonio, Makati City. Two indigents who attended the training were sent to Beth’s Kuwintas Jewellery workshop and trained by Beth herself.

“Aside from those who get the chance to be employed in my company, some of those who went to our seminar now make jewelry in their homes and sell them in the market. While they may not have expensive materials for their jewelry, the money that they earn still augments their family’s budget,” shares Beth proudly.

In addition to various training and seminars, Zonta also firmly believes in the power of education and how students can bring positive change to the community. This is why Zonta Club of Metro Rizal has two projects dedicated for high school and college students, namely, Z Club and Golden Z Club.

The Z Club and Golden Z Club help high school and college students develop leadership skills, promote career exploration and encourage members to participate in their community through projects such as zero waste management, seminar on drug abuse prevention, and exhibit on global warming. This school year, a total of 3,551 students from Makati High School benefited from the Z Club program.  An additional 4,500 college students from the University of Makati participated in the Golden Z Club program.  

In addition to livelihood and education projects, Zonta Club of Metro Rizal takes pride in its three flagship projects: Medical Mission, Hapag-Asa and Special Olympics.

In its more than two decades of service, Zonta Club of Metro Rizal continues to look for ways to help and empower people. According to Beth, the group’s biggest achievements include helping students graduate and helping several families uplift their status in life through skills training programs.  

(You may e-mail me at [email protected].)

‘Ninoy, hindi ka nag-iisa’

Thirty years after he was gunned down at high noon at the Manila International Airport, former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino Jr. was lovingly remembered by his children Ballsy Cruz, Pinky Abellada, President Noynoy Aquino, Viel Dee and Kris Aquino (represented by sons Joshua and Bimby) and honored by his friends and admirers at a private Mass organized at the Meralco Theater in Pasig City.  Due to the heavy rains of the past days, the family thought it was better to hold the Mass in an enclosed place rather than by Ninoy’s gravesite at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.

Meralco chairman Manny V. Pangilinan and president and CEO Oscar Lopez graciously offered the Meralco Theater as a venue, since a musical celebrating Ninoy and Cory’s lives was originally scheduled on that day, but was postponed due to the weather.

In a rare public display of emotion, Ninoy and Cory’s eldest daughter Ballsy thanked those who attended the Mass, her voice breaking down.

“Mahal na mahal namin kayo,” she told them.

The Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ, Fr. Manny Domingo, SDB and Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ.

Thirty years later, Ninoy, hindi ka pa rin nag-iisa.

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