Jolita wears the cultural dress of the Dumagat indigenous community at a ceremony where she received recognition as one of 10 Outstanding Elders of the Philippines.
Jan 13 2016

Elder hailed as ‘unsung hero’

Jolita wears the cultural dress of the Dumagat indigenous community at a ceremony where she received recognition as one of 10 Outstanding Elders of the Philippines.

Jolita wears the cultural dress of the Dumagat indigenous community at a ceremony where she received recognition as one of 10 Outstanding Elders of the Philippines.


By Loretta Shea Kline, managing editor for Unbound

Sponsored elder Jolita helped three generations of women in the Dumagat indigenous community give birth. For her efforts, she received recognition as one of the Outstanding Older Persons of the Philippines.

Look closer. See potential, not poverty.

That message leads our invitation to sponsor a child or elder through Unbound. You’ll notice it on our website, in our videos and in our materials.

The children and elders sponsored through Unbound, their families, sponsors, and the staff members and volunteers of Unbound around the world live that message every day. In the Unbound community, we choose to look closer — to see beyond the circumstances of poverty to recognize the potential and dignity inherent in every person.

While it’s intuitive to think about potential in children, society sometimes dismisses the elderly as having little to offer in terms of what they can do for themselves and others, especially if they have few economic resources. The Unbound community sees it differently, as illustrated by the story of a sponsored elder from the Philippines.

Jolita, a member of the Dumagat indigenous cultural community, recently received an award as one of 10 Outstanding Older Persons in the Philippines. The award recognized her work as a farmer and her volunteer service as a midwife to three generations of Dumagat women.

The Coalition of Services of the Elderly Inc. sponsors the award to recognize the contributions of older persons to society. COSE is a non-governmental organization working with older people living in poverty, and seeks to create bridges between older people and younger sectors of society.

The staff of Unbound’s Antipolo program nominated Jolita for the award. Antipolo coordinator Malou Navio wrote in her nomination that Jolita estimates she’s helped more than 400 women give birth.

“For her, life is so precious,” Malou wrote. “For her, assisting women at birth is saving life and life-giving.”

There were no financial rewards for Jolita, as she offered her services as a midwife free of charge to those who needed her.

Tristan John Cabrera, communications liaison for Unbound in the Philippines, said Jolita’s care was especially needed in the remote area where the Dumagat people live and where there’s a lack of health workers and services.

“She treats life so beautifully,” Tristan said. “That’s why, in her mind, we need to share it with all the people around us.”

In accepting her award, Jolita, who is 83, said, “Thank you so much, Lord, and to all the people who helped me out to be included in this awarding of most outstanding elderly event.”

In its materials about the award, COSE said it believes that it’s important for older people to “share their experiences and wisdom, and to teach us all about our own aging.”

Jolita is sponsored by Patricia in Georgia. People who sponsor elders through Unbound help ensure that their sponsored friends have material support like food and health care. But they do much more. Through their sponsorship, they nurture the potential of older people to make their lives and the lives of their communities better.

Through recreational activities, the arts, visiting and caring for people who are sick or homebound, growing food for themselves and their neighbors, participating in literacy programs and mentoring young people, elders throughout the Unbound world strive to fulfill their potential and make a positive difference in the lives of others.

They inspire all of us who have the privilege to know them, including their sponsors and the Unbound staff.

“I really admire her because of her hard work as a farmer,” Malou said about Jolita. “And she never refuses to assist women of the tribe in giving birth. …

“To us in Unbound, she is one of the unsung heroes.”

Be inspired by an unsung hero. Sponsor an elder today.

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