“The best way to find your self is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Gandhi
When the Couples for Christ (CFC) staff invited former Answering the Cry of the Poor (ANCOP) scholar Kiah Viray to apply as social worker for CFC, the 21-year-old immediately grabbed the opportunity.
It was the perfect chance for Kiah to give back to the organization which enabled her to complete her degree in Social Work from Universidad de Manila (UdM).
Ten years ago, Kiah never even thought that going to college was possible.
When Kiah was in grade 5, at the age of 11, her father, a carpenter, passed away. Her mother had to find work to support the needs of Kiah and her sister Nica. Although they don’t have rent expense since they live with relatives in Sampaloc, Manila, her mom’s work as a babysitter to Kiah’s twin niece wasn’t enough to enable the sisters to pursue a college education.
“Dumating sa point na gusto na niya [mom] akong patigilin. Pero ako yung taong ‘di ko ma-imagine sarili ko na mag-stop ng studies. Ganoon din ang kapatid ko,” recalls Kiah. (It came to a point when she[mom] wanted me to drop out from school. But I’m the type of person who can’t imagine myself doing that. It’s the same case for my sister.)
In high school, going to college was not part of the family’s plan due to their hardships. Kiah only tried her luck at UdM because it offered free education to residents of the city.
Kiah preferred a Physical Therapy course but wasn’t able to make it to the program cut-off. She took a course in Social Work instead, and planned to shift during her sophomore year.
However, Kiah’s professor challenged them to stay until the second semester of their sophomore year before they decide to shift. And that’s when a remarkable turnaround happened in her life.
The major shift
During the second semester, Kiah and other Social Work majors had to go on an immersion with indigenous people for Cultural Anthropology class. Kiah’s group was assigned to visit the Mangyan community in Bulalacao, Mindoro Oriental.
The immersion entailed a substantial amount as their individual contribution for the expenses. “Ang laki ng budget namin per tao,” says Kiah. (We had to come up with a big budget allotment per person.)
She had to stretch whatever amount her mother could come up with for this school requirement.
Serendipitously, Kiah’s aunt, a member of the Handmaids of the Lord, introduced Kiah to ANCOP’s Project Implementation Team (PIT) during the first semester. She was interviewed for possible scholarship but was told not to expect anything yet.
“Hindi pa raw po sure kapag hindi pa nakakahanap ng sponsor,” explains this Youth for Christ (YFC) member. (Nothing is definite until there is a sponsor.)
And as proof that Providence always provides, Kiah was accepted as an ANCOP scholar with her first financial support arriving just as she was about to leave for their immersion in Mindoro. She was able to complete the amount needed for their immersion.
The immersion in a Mangyan community became life changing for Kiah.
She vividly remembers: “Ang food lang nila everyday ay saging at kamote. Nagdala kami ng bigas at de lata. Sabi nila, bihira silang makakain ng ganoon. Sa amin, maliit na bagay lang ito. Pero sa kanila, malaking bagay na. Doon ako namulat.” (They eat banana and sweet potato every day. We brought rice and canned goods for them. They said they seldom eat food like that. For us, it’s just a small thing. But for them, it’s already a big thing. I became more aware about life.)
That encounter became an eye-opener for Kiah. Her ANCOP scholarship may have been a blessing from above, but Kiah realized that her blessing was not meant for her alone.
Lift others as you rise
Her family was her initial motivation.
“Si mama palaging nagsasabi sa akin na ‘kailangan mong makatapos kasi meron ka pang pag-aaralin’. Hindi madali magpalaki ng dalawang bata na mag-isa lang. Kaya gusto kong maibalik naman ang ginawa nila,” expounds Kiah. (Mama always tells me ‘you have to finish your studies because you still have to support your sister’s education’. It’s not easy to bring up two kids as a single parent. Thus, I want to be able to payback what they’ve done for us.)
But through their immersions, she realized something more.
Kiah reflects: “My course also opened me to realities of life. Ipinakita kung ano ang dapat. Kung ‘di man ako makatulong nang biglaan, at least kahit pa-isa-isa, makakatulong ako through my course and through my family.” (My course also opened me to realities of life. It showed what should [be done for society]. If I can’t help people big time, at least I can help one person at a time through my course and through my family.)
Kiah didn’t expect that sharing during an ANCOP alumni meeting in May 2016 could help fulfill her wish of giving back the blessings she received through her scholarship. She was a bit conscious during that meeting because most of the alumni who shared took up Education, while Kiah was the only one who majored in Social Work.
But that difference caught the attention of the ANCOP staff which became instrumental to her landing a job as ANCOP Social Worker in charge of 716 scholars, monitoring the scholars’ benefit package, reviewing reports, and training the PIT. On top of that, she’s also reviewing every weekend for the Social Work board exams.
Kiah’s job enables her to serve as the sole resource provider of her family and allows her sister Nica to pursue a course in Culinary Arts.
Give back because you’ve been given much
Kiah says she is happy working at ANCOP because her colleagues treat her like a family member: “Hindi itinuturing na iba.” (I’m not treated like an outsider.)
Her job allows her to fulfill a purpose not just in her family, but also in the community by making it livable.
Kiah admits that there are also down times at work, such as when she receives scholarship termination reports because a scholar stopped going to school, got failing grades, or suddenly got married.
Thus, Kiah shares her nuggets of wisdom to the current scholars: “Maging open sa family. Ito ang unang support system. Kung may pinagdadaanan sa studies, ang unang makakaintindi ang parents nila na handang gumabay at makinig sa kanila. Kung hindi man makinig ang parents or di available ang parents, nandiyan ang mga PIT na pwedeng pagsabihan ng challenges sa school. Parents din ang mga PIT kaya alam nila ang experience ng mga bata based sa experience nila sa mga anak nila.”
(Be open to your family. They are your first support system. If you’re going through some challenges in your studies, your parents will be the first ones to understand you and are ready to guide and listen to you. If your parents are not available or can’t understand you, the PIT is there and you can share to them your challenges. The PIT are also parents who understand the situation of kids because of their own experience with their children.)
And to those who are going through rough times in their love life:
“Para sa mga may love life sa college, naniniwala ako na True Love waits. Hindi natin alam kung ano mangyayari sa mundo at hindi natin alam kung ano mangyayari sa relationship nila kaya ang priority dapat ay mag-aral. Pwede rin namang gawing inspirasyon ang relationship nila.”
(For those in college who have a love life, I believe that True Love waits. We don’t know what will happen in the world and we don’t know what will happen to your relationship. Therefore, prioritize your studies. Your relationship can also serve as your inspiration.)
Truly, Kiah has come full circle for she can now share the pearls of wisdom she harvested from years of hardwork as an ANCOP scholar. She is now able to give back because she finds compassion and has remained faithful to her values which benefit the common good.
By Noemi M. Pamintuan-Jara
Do you want to help other students like Kiah? Contact ANCOP today at Landline (+632)709-4868 local 49, Mobile (+63) 915-118-4552, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to ask about their Education Programs! Read more about ANCOP at cfcancop.org