Aug 19 2015

Elder shows us what it means to be a humanitarian

Sponsored elder Rogelia in the community garden she helps tend in Payatas, Philippines.

Sponsored elder Rogelia in the community garden she helps tend in Payatas, Philippines.

Today on World Humanitarian Day, we bring you a story about a woman in the Philippines who devotes her life to caring for others despite her own challenging circumstances.

By Loretta Shea Kline, managing editor for Unbound

At Unbound, when we think of humanitarians we naturally think of our 260,000-plus sponsors, whose support gives children, families and elders a chance to see beyond crushing poverty to a future of possibilities.

We also think about our more than 1,500 colleagues in the field — local staffers who regularly face adversity and danger in the course of their work.

And we think of the individuals and families in our program who struggle heroically to put food on the table, access education and make their communities better places to live.

On World Humanitarian Day today, I’m reminded of those I’ve had the privilege to meet in my role telling stories of the Unbound community. One description I read of World Humanitarian Day, which was designated by the U.N. General Assembly in 2008, said it’s “an opportunity to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work around the globe.”

While that spirit is present in every community where Unbound works, my thoughts turned to one I’ve had the honor to visit, and a woman there who embodies what it means to be a humanitarian.

Webster’s dictionary defines a humanitarian as “a person devoted to promoting the welfare of humanity, especially through the elimination of pain and suffering.”

That describes sponsored elder Rogelia and her volunteer work in the community of Payatas in the Philippines.

Payatas is one of the approximately 140 barangays, or zones, comprising Quezon City, which is the most populous of the cities making up the national capital region of Metro Manila.

The government has divided Payatas into two sections and is developing it for housing, business, light industrial, civic, educational and recreational uses, according to our local staff. The area where Unbound works is near the vast Payatas dumpsite where many people have built informal settlements.

Collecting and separating recyclables from the dumpsite is a major source of livelihood for Payatas residents. More than 1,000 of these informal settlers are sponsored members in the Unbound program.

Rogelia is among them.

At age 73, she cares for two granddaughters with disabilities and still makes time to visit the sick and the homebound elderly in her neighborhood.

“I’m thankful God gave me more strength,” she said.

She’s also president of the local Unbound elder group, which tends an herb and vegetable garden for the benefit of sponsored elders and other Payatas residents.

Rogelia showed me around the garden on my visit to Payatas earlier this year, pointing out a wide variety of plants used for medicinal purposes and nutritional sustenance. The garden is a beautiful spot for the elders to relax, enjoy the greenery and get away from the stresses of living in Payatas, where the sights, sounds and smells of the dump are ever present.

“It (the garden) is a very big help for us and to the community,” Rogelia said. “It is also part of our exercise daily.”

Besides caring for her granddaughters, neighbors and the garden, Rogelia has helped with blood pressure and cholesterol checks for fellow elders and facilitating prayer services for deceased sponsored members.

On World Humanitarian Day, we celebrate Rogelia and others whose spirit of service inspires us daily.

Sponsor a child or elder in honor of World Humanitarian Day.

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