July 8, 2015 Sheila Casey

An Encounter to Remember

An Encounter to Remember

It’s been three months since I was took on the role of Associate Producer for Alay Foundation’s filming project. At first I was hesitant accepting this volunteer position as I am still studying –  but in the back of my mind I knew the possibilities it might hold for me.  Although my goals once I have finished my studies are to go abroad, the position was an opportunity I could not pass up.  After 13 years of work in the public sector I know now that public service is a part of who I am and that Alay Foundation’s work in the community is yet one more way for me to serve.

I decided to accept this role because I learned that the project has a deeper purpose and is not just routine work to be performed. Meeting with the founder and president, Dr. Guy Sobrepeña, for the first time enlightened me about the mission and vision of Alay Foundation. Knowing that the foundation’s program focuses on women’s health, awakened in me a curiosity for what can I do to help achieve the goals of this filming project. I even asked myself, why was I chosen to be part of the said project? Maybe it has a purpose, a deeper purpose. As I was reading my job description of Associate Producer, I became committed to the responsibilities assigned to me and eventually forgot that this was a volunteer position.

I needed to make a lot of preparations for this job like: arranging my schedule in school; manage my time frame; prepare myself mentally, emotionally and physically as well as assessing my capability on doing my task and be able to give a quality output. Along the way, I realized that being chosen to do the job meant giving my superiors trust and confidence in me that I can deliver output that they are expecting to me.

The experience of going from barangay to barangay in San Jose City was not difficult for me to do as well as coordinating with the barangay officials – my previous work in the public sector saw me performing the same responsibilities. Establishing relationships with officials and the public was very familiar to me.

But after meeting interviewees for our filming project I can only say the encounter was indescribable!  The mothers with so many children to care for and teen-age moms melted my heart as if I was in their situation myself. I internalized what it would be like to be a mother just like them in such poverty.  What if I were in their situation?  How can I give proper health care, education and guidance to my 13 children when I, myself, did not finish my studies and do not have a job? How can I meet their needs and wants? How can I cook a delicious, nutritious, and complete meal for them, if I only have PHP100 for a day from their father’s income? How can I give enough love and attention to each one of them if I have to attend to the needs of my youngest children and still do all the household chores?   How can I be a good mother to them if I myself cannot take care of my body and health?

My encounter with Nanay Perlita and Nanay Lucy of Barangay Kita-Kita was heartbreaking.  Both had experienced the loss of some of their children because they could not provide for their health care needs. As a mother of four, I cannot imagine losing a child. The tears in their eyes while remembering the loss of their children crushed my heart as I tried my best to hold back my tears and to look strong in front of them. I need to do that because as an interviewer I have learned to not get too carried away from the interview. With Nanay Evelyn, I felt great empathy for her. She’s pregnant with her 7th child. Her face is pale; she looks like uneasy; she’s toothless and her blouse is dirty. Obviously, she’s not able to take care of herself.

I find the three mothers are very strong-willed women because they still manage to smile through the tears on their faces, accepting their situations; still choosing to move along with life, devoted to their children and families. They are resigned to what they have become but are hopeful for their children.  Even though they are not able to give them a better life they are seeking help and are hopeful that by being part of our filming project it might help them and their families in some small way.

I understand, now, why I became part of this project because my encounters with the women in these communities has changed my perspective and awareness of my health care needs and valuing myself as a woman.  Equally, I learned from my interview with Ms. Sylvia Ordoñez, (Executive Director of KDF) that health care is a gender issue and that as a woman and mother, it is imperative to have good health facilities where women are able to deliver their children safely.  And especially for those women living in a poor communities, the need for reproductive health literacy is a must and providing them correct information and awareness like family planning are tools that they can use.

After filming our project, I felt that this is a calling for me to help women and mothers by devoting myself to educating on, and bringing awareness of, sexual and reproductive health.   With Alay Foundation’s Maternal Program we have a real opportunity to empower women. I look forward to working with the women in our community and to more unforgettable and life-changing encounters with them. As an empowered woman I believe that, at the end of the day, our health is as important as providing love and care for our children and partners.   I believe that when we make health our priority we are only adding to the security of our families and communities, strengthening both as we do.

 

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