“I want to show the world – the universe rather – that I am confidently beautiful with a heart.”
This was the famous line that Pia Wurtzbach said during Miss Universe 2015 in which she bested 79 other contestants from all over the world, and earning the Philippines its third Miss Universe crown. Having a heart here means offering one’s self to serve others. Pia mentioned that she wanted to be a voice that influences the youth, and one who can raise awareness of causes such as HIV.
Having a heart is a trait that a lot of Filipinas have, and some of them happen to be very close to us.
Jhoan Ayos and Theresa “Tere” Benitez from the Manila-based Portfolio Service Center for Asia Pacific are perfect examples of Filipinas who generously extend their hands in service of those who need help.
Jhoan: Serving for Ysa
The story of Jhoan starts with a tragedy. Jhoan unfortunately lost her daughter to hydronephrosis and an unknown stomach disorder in 2019. While losing a child is definitely heartbreaking, Jhoan witnessed the outpour of help that she received.
This is what pushed her to start Project Ysa, named after her daughter Ysabella Aria.
“While in the hospital, I saw how much help is needed. So after losing Ysa, I promised I will do my part in helping, especially sick children. It’s also my way of paying forward since I received so much help from my family and friends.”
Project Ysa usually works with Hands of God Charity Works and has pooled funds in order to sponsor diapers for pediatric patients in the Philippine General Hospital and the National Children’s Hospital. Project Ysa has also helped fund a car safety seat for a child patient with hydrochepalus, as well as financial assistance for less-fortunate children in the hospital.
Jhoan was also among the first ones to organize a relief drive for victims of the Taal Volcano eruption in January 2020.
Despite the pandemic limiting social activities, Jhoan, through Project Ysa, continued to make ways in order to help.
Project Ysa held an online concert called “A Night for the Warriors”, a program Jhoan led in order to continue supporting the Hands of God Charity Works which in turn provides continued support for its beneficiaries.
Asked for a message for other women, Jhoan said, “Use your struggles and turn them into strength. We have a lot of silent battles in life that we are winning every day. If we could have the courage to share these to other people, we can inspire them, and we can empower them too. Our experiences can be a testimony that even the hardest battle can be won, and turned into something beautiful. Don’t be afraid to share what you can. Your time, your idea, and the smallest amount you can share can go a long way.”
Jhoan is looking forward to holding more programs in order to continue to help out sick children and to support the partners of Project Ysa.
Theresa: A Beacon of Hope in Bicol
Tere is not one to openly share about her community services because she likes to stay away from the spotlight, but has graced us in order to inspire our colleagues to do their part in helping out the community.
Tere started helping out at a very young age.
“I was a member of the Girl Scout of the Philippines back in high school, where I was exposed to community services. We would go to remote areas to teach kids, and would raise funds and donate proceeds to less fortunate kids in the remote areas in our city,” Theresa recalls.
As a way of giving back and with the desire to instill the value of sharing to her son, Tere’s community service started in 2011, when she opted to celebrate her son’s 3rd birthday with the orphans at Tahanan ng Pagmamahal, and it has since become a tradition to hold an outreach program every December. She participated in feeding programs for orphanages, day care centers, or indigenous groups; organized relief efforts for victims affected by calamities; and donated uniforms, school supplies or grocery items.
In recent years, her focus shifted more to education, and her main goal is to be able to provide mini libraries to different day care centers in the remote areas in her province. To date, Tere was able to fill up a bookshelf with very helpful books and educational materials and toys for the beneficiaries of a public day care center. Through this project, she aims to instill the importance of education and bring hope to the young generation that no matter how difficult life is, we must dream big, and that there are people out there who are willing to help them achieve their dreams.
Earlier into the pandemic, noting that there was a need for bond paper in the production of learning materials for public school students who were forced to be on a modular learning setup, Tere, together with her niece, friends and relatives, organized a Bond Paper Donation Drive and were able collect and donate 168 reams of bond papers to forty-three elementary schools in Camarines Sur and Albay.
Then, towards the end of 2020, the Bicol Region was rampaged by typhoons week after week. Though affected, Tere stood up to lead relief drives to the typhoon victims within their community.
Asked for her motivation in helping, Tere said, “The smallest of acts have the biggest impact to other people. I help in order to inspire other people, especially the less fortunate, to dream big. One day, when they are able to fulfill these dreams, they will then have the means to give back and help others. It’s a cycle that I would like to start.”
Once this pandemic is over, Tere dreams to continue her yearly community outreach, and to work on fulfilling her mini library goal for more day care centers.