SCHOOL OF DREAMS
MANILA, JULY 29, 2008 (STAR) FAMILY JEWELS By Michelle Dayrit-Soliven - As Filipinos, we have always prioritized the need to educate our young. For most who can afford it, it is to give their children the best education money can buy, to allow them to have a very comfortable life ahead.
But for the poorest of the poor, who struggle even to meet the most basic need — to eat and survive — education for their children as a ticket out of poverty is, in many times, a far-fetched dream.
Those thoughts came to mind while I was talking to Fr. Gerard Deveza, a healing priest and founder of the Healing Servants Foundation, Inc.
Fr. Gerard has been healing many children from having broken dreams because of not being able to go to school. His foundation has been able to sustain its projects since 2002 through private donations.
The idea to help children go to school came to him in prayer. He said, “Lord, thank you for the gift of healing that you have given me. Lord, in the many years that I have been into healing as my ministry, I discovered that there are many kinds of sickness in society. One of them is absence of knowledge. If people are not educated, they commit more mistakes. It would not only be a problem to individuals, but to society. If you want me to help others with this problem, then Lord, please help me. Please don’t make it difficult for me to do your work here.”
In the summer of May 2002, Fr. Gerard talked to his good friends, brothers Dr. Peter and Gerry Reonisto. He shared with them his ideas but he didn’t quite know how to start. The brothers listened to him intently. After a week, Gerry handed Fr. Gerard the papers incorporating The Healing Servants Foundation. Very first volunteers to help out were Lucy Lee, Dr. Nino Mabanta, Cocoy Laurel, Ding Mercado, Sam Uy, Tasha Sy, Marivic Chua, Tessie Reyes and the Gaspar family.
“Thank you Lord, my work has officially begun,” Fr. Gerard remembered saying after the foundation started operation.
Since his foundation is solely dependent on donations of big-hearted people, Fr. Gerard remembered how, in October 2002, he was able to touch many kind and generous souls.
Once, in his Mass in the Pavilion in Forbes Park, Makati, he told the parishioners about the story he learned while in Sorsogon.
“Some of our neighbors,” he said of his experience in Sorsogon, “get things from us without our knowledge but we know who they are. I can’t blame them. I called and talked to them. I didn’t reprimand them. But I asked them. ‘Why do you get things from us?’ They answered. ‘Hindi naman masama magnakaw kasi gutom kami’. When I heard that, I invited them for nine weekends, and I started feeding them. But first we gave the children Catechism classes and the adults, value formation. They were 25 families in all. I invited people from TESDA and DTI to give them seminars on livelihood like candy-making, meat processing, poultry, piggery and bakery.”
After the Mass, a lady approached him and said: “Father, I like the way you help people and I want to help you also. Can you come to my house tomorrow at 10 a.m.” She gave him her address and telephone number.
That same Sunday, as he was saying more Masses, Fr. Gerard received eight missed calls from the same number. He called the number. It was the same lady. She said to him, “Farther, I just want to remind you of our appointment tomorrow. This is Chito Madrigal-Collantes.”
Mrs. Madrigal-Collantes’ generosity went a long way.
With the land of the Servants of the Divine Healer (run by five energetic nuns as their apostolate), the school called the Divine Healer Learning Center in Cabid-an, Sorsogon was established.
On the other hand, the contribution of the parents and guardians of the students is to keep the school beautifully clean and green.
“When we started in 2003, we only had Kinder 1 and Kinder 2 classes for 43 poor children in our school. Since then, through various fund raising campaigns, we have expanded the school. For school year 2008-2009, we already have 218 students and we are now educating up to Grade 5,” Fr. Gerard beamed.
Fr. Gerard and his foundation have never stopped dreaming for their students and other poor children in the vicinity. With their dream of seeing them finish elementary, then high school, the healing priest has never waned in his interest to knock at the hearts of people who are willing to share. Seven thousand pesos of contribution is enough to send one student to our school for a whole year, he said. The contribution goes to school books, school supplies, uniforms, shoes, bags, food and, of course, salaries of teachers. “For this school year, if only we could get 231people to support our project, we are sure to run and maintain the school,” the priest said.
At the rate he’s going in helping others to help themselves, Fr. Gerard will surely get what he’s praying for.
(The Healing Servants Foundation is also organizing the First Tabang Fund Raising Golf Tournament on Aug. 13 in Canlubang Golf and Country Club, South Course. Come play for a good cause. For more info, call 0917-5382033 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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