Thursday, December 29, 2011

Nothing Short of A Christmas Miracle

Exactly twenty-eight days ago, I posted a plea to help me put together a library in an underprivileged school. It was my Christmas wish this year to help the poor children in this school to have what this book lover, author and writer enjoys most---a lovely library filled with books. 

I stated my desire, and the universe gladly conspired to help me. In less than 24 hours, I received several email messages and wall posts on Facebook of friends and acquaintances wanting to help.  Julie, my bus-mate in Grade School and classmate for many years in high school, immediately contacted me to help. What truly shocked me was a donation from someone who had merely attended my talk on Filipino Cuisine in the National Museum of Singapore in 2009.  His name is Carlos, a Filipino-American who followed my blog. He was touched by my little Christmas project. He immediately wired US$500 for anything we needed to purchase for the library. I was astounded.

The Library Project had taken a life of its own. Former colleagues at Ace Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising generously gave: Anna sent a financial donation, as well as my former boss, Carol, sent her daughters slightly used books.  My dear friend, Lory, shared my post on her Facebook wall. In turn, she got a donation of Encyclopedias and reference books from Boboy and Elizabeth Garrovillo. Lory also generously acted as a drop off point for books.  My dear friend in high school at the Assumption, Ava, donated books, puzzles, and even toys for the library. Former choir mate and co-pilgrim, Mai, instantly hollered from Singapore, “Count me in!” Weeks before coming home for her annual holiday visit to Manila, she immediately blocked off December 29 to help in the library build.  Rodney from Accupoint systems sent boxes of binders and many office tables.  Abby immediately committed to provide educational posters, and a helping hand for the library build. Rochelle, a classmate in grade school, bought children’s books. Publishing house, Adarna Books, kindly donated 20 books.  I even received messages from friend’s of my sister in the US and a friend’s friend in Iloilo promising to ship boxes of books. Librarians at the Ateneo offering to help their expertise to make this library sustaining.

Here I am receiving the donation of Filipino publisher, Adarna Books

My heart was deeply touched by the kindness and generosity of people.  I was amazed. 

It was no longer my little Christmas project. It was now a whole community chiming in to make it happen.  My friend, Manny helped me survey department stores and hardwares of Cubao, looking for kiddie chairs and tables.  Lory and her helper Pearl and driver Ray, all helped collect books.  The Sisters of the Religious of the Cenacle were not only praying for the success of the project, they too lent a hand. They kindly helped me receive donations.  Sr Yna joined me in an afternoon shopping for kiddie mats, maps, and reading books.  My dear Sr. Bubbles took time from her busy schedule to go book shopping with me. While I know what travel and food books I like to read, I had no idea what were appropriate reading, math, science, and even the right Filipino bible to buy. Sr Bubbles took the task to heart, carefully selecting the books to purchase. 

Sr. Bubbles, Mai, Sr Mel and I preparing the day before the Library Build

The day before the designated library build, Mai arrived with two laptop donations. She could no longer join the build due to a pressing family commitment the next day, but she came to help. Mai genuinely wanted to help. It didn’t matter if it meant paying a P600 taxi ride each way to see me.  Along with Sr Mel of the Cenacle, they made neat piles of the donations. Together, all three of us devised a game plan for the next day.  With piles and piles of books, binders, desks, chairs, and wall stickers, I was overwhelmed by the task ahead. Mai and Sr. Mel coached me for the next day.
Thanks too to my parents for sharing their driver to help me purchase the kiddie chairs and tables. It took a visit to six hardware stores to get the right chairs for this library. 

Some of the donations neatly organized by Mai and Sr Mel

On the day of the build, today at 6:30am, my cousin Dino, his friend Felicia and my friend, Abby, and I all headed to Pandi, Bulacan. The teachers and parents of the school helped clear the room. Then we moved the bookshelves.  In a few minutes, my friend Julie and Chua clan arrived. Like the Three Kings, they arrived bearing gifts.   Julie told me she was coming with five children and seven adults.  But the sight of a line of men, women and children all holding boxes of books, toys, and school supplies was phenomenal.

We three kings: Melchor


and Gaspar, Chua edition...

Dino and I explained the school and this little project.Then, we all got to work. Kids put together the floor mats. Little hands arranged books into shelves.  Along with their parents, they started applying wall stickers.  The men did the tough work of assembling the Do-It-Yourself office furniture.  Despite the difficulty of putting it together, the guys never complained. They laughed and remained patient till the end.

Play and help, at the same time!

Audrey at work

Smiles all around

Super-meticulous Chua girls stacking storybooks

A few minutes ago, we were all strangers.  But instantly, that changed. We were all friends laughing and working together.  Audrey and Abby laughed as they posted up posters.  The glue tack made little Audrey giggle. Her dad told me, “You know she was so excited. Before she went to sleep, she said, ‘Daddy, we will make a library tomorrow!’ The best part was we were all having fun!

Wall sticker fun with Abby 

Belle helping her dad and the guys piece together this office table
Instant Reunion with my classmate, Julie

Love is in the details...

Dino was perplexed. “I thought we were just bringing the donations!”  The parents of the students told him, “Sir, it is embarrassing that they donated already and they are even fixing the library.”  Overwhelmed by the transformation happening before his very eyes, Dino was astounded.  So were the teachers and parents present.

I coerced Dino to take a stab at stickering

Everybody reads!

Notice the shelf behind our two young volunteers:from no encyclopedia to more than 4 sets of Encyclopedias donated!

I looked around me. It made me smile. How could I not smile? It was truly a happy place. The chairs were bright yellow and green. The walls had adorable dogs, balloons, and pastel colors.

I also had stickers made with my chosen quotes on reading. My favorite is the one from Dr Seuss. It is a testimony to my life as a reader and a travel writer.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. 
The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
Oh the places you go... Indeed, Dr. Seuss!

The tireless guys demonstrate COOPERATION to complete these tables!

Men at Work

By half-past noon, the last drawer was done. The last sticker was applied. We all gathered together for a group photo.  We were all sweaty but happy with the results of our hard work.

The super helpful Chua Clan with the new library
All together now...volunteers, students, teachers, parents

Just like a hurricane, the Chua clan quickly boarded their caravan of vehicles and disappeared. But definitely it was the opposite of a path of destruction. Before I could process what just happened. Three students of the GK Caring Jesus school entered the library.

The first students to check out the library

They were drawn to the storybooks.  Anselma, John Castle, and Rona all grabbed books. Then, they read aloud.  Lost in the world of words, they were happily entertained. I was close to tears. 

heart-melting moment: Anselma, John Castle, and Rona enjoying the library

They played with the wooden blocks (made by disabled craftsmen from Tahanan Walang Hagdanan /House with No Stairs).  I challenged them to read the words I put together using the blocks. They aced my pop quiz. Then, they started forming their own names with the blocks.

R-O-N-A... spells RONA

The students, the teachers, and parents are all so grateful for this new haven of books.  Dino was speechless and in awe. He thought I had cleverly staged this Maida’s Touch production. Not at all. I too, am humbled. I cannot take credit for this.  It has taken a village to create this library. Angels appeared along the way, from old childhood friends, people who read my blog, and trusted loyal friends.  I cannot explain it other than it being a nothing less than a miracle.  As I learned from a priest’s homily this Advent Season, “It is faith that allows us to believe that something great is coming. It is faith and God's grace that allows a string of yeses to happen, resulting in miracles.”

Dino and I, witnessing the miracle happen before our very eyes... (Dino's sticker masterpiece is the dog above).

It was my crazy YES to the stirrings within me to embark on this library project. I had no idea if any one would volunteer to help or donate. But it was the series of yeses that made this miracle to happen.  While I may no longer believe in Santa, I still believe in the kindness of people. I believe in the goodness of people. I still believe in miracles. One just happened to me today. 

Merry Christmas, to you all. Thank you for your kindness, generosity, and share in making this world a better place.  A blessed and miracle-filled 2012 to y'all!

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