LITTLE HERO

Manila, April 28, 2003 by Joanne Rae M. Ramirez The Philippine STAR - Sometimes, great acts of courage come from the smallest of men.

Now, we are taught by our faith to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, but in the face of an inferno, to what extent are we willing to show that love?

Twelve-year-old Jenston "Tonton" Diaz, who saved two lives in a Baguio blaze six years ago, is living proof of that love and courage.

On Feb. 25, 1997, a large fire broke out in a small town in Baguio. In one house, two six-month-old twins were trapped beneath the burning walls. Without hesitation, then six-year-old Tonton rushed into searing heat amid fire and rubble to save his neighbors, the twins. The twins were saved, but their rescue left Tonton with third-degree burns on the head and shoulders. Tonton continued to suffer pain and bear the scars that radically changed the quality of his life.

But God does not sleep. Tontonís plight was brought to the attention of Marion Maurer, head of Philippinische Kinderhilfe, a German-based charity organization that has been aiding underprivileged Filipino children for years. She was touched by Tontonís astonishing bravery and saddened by his injuries, which left him badly scarred.

The charity organization arranged for Tonton to be under the care of Prof. Gunter Germann, head of Verbrennungsklinik, a well-known clinic for burns and plastic surgery in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

After Tontonís plight was brought to its attention, Singapore Airlines (SIA) presented the brave little boy with two round-trip tickets to Germany. His operations will be conducted free of charge while Philippinische Kinderhilfe will shoulder the post-operation treatment cost at 400 Euro per day or approximately $420 per day.

SIA also provided air tickets for Tontonís grandmother, Elisha Colastre. Tonton will continue to receive a battery of treatments including four skin transplant operations within the next 12 weeks and psychological counseling. He arrived in Frankfurt, Germany via Singapore Airlines last March 23 and proceeded with the first operation three days later.

"Tonton is a shining inspiration for us at SIA, so much so that the staff in our Germany office even pooled money for his hospital care during their Christmas party," reveals David Lau, SIA Philippines general manager.

"Tontonís selfless act of heroism has become a fervent reminder of the triumph of the human spirit. We look forward to his speedy recovery," adds Lau.

* * *

The Philippinische Kinderhilfe (Philippine Child Assistance) was established in 1999 by Marion to help impoverished Filipino children. She was inspired to set up the charity group after a trip to the Philippines in 1997, during which she witnessed the misery of the street children in Manila.

Since then, Maurerís main objectives have been to keep the children healthy and well-fed and allow them to receive a decent education. For this purpose, she collects donations and organizes sponsorships wherein interested parties can serve as "parents" to the children, by pledging an amount monthly for their care.

Today, the association works at nine different locations in the Philippines. Since the establishment of Philippinische Kinderhilfe, 175 children have been granted scholarships. Marion Maurer visits the Philippines three to four times a year for the distribution of donations in the name of the organization.

(You may reach Marion Maurer at tel. no. (06083) 1454; fax no. (06083) 9301030; mobile (0170) 7341110; or e-mail: SpaceMama@t-online.de)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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