A Story of Resilience and Empathy

People who have been through a lot and came out victorious are walking examples of fortitude, patience, and hope. Moreover, these people turn out to have the heart and passion to serve and help others because they know exactly how it feels to desperately need help.

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Meet Cyril. She introduced herself as Cyril Sta. Romana y Moratilla, a 23-year old dreamer, survivor, and volunteer who currently works at a multinational BPO in Makati. As an undergraduate, she was very active in a theater organization in University of Makati as an expense manager. It is a backstage role which she enjoyed doing. Later on, it became one of her inspirations in volunteering for various organizations in Metro Manila. Like a play, doing volunteer work changes lives, both yours and the community you are helping. ”We do theatre play not for fame but to make a change, change the lives of the people who are watching our show,” she said. It occurred to her that the best measure of the effectiveness of a play is how it makes an impact to the lives of the audience.

Life was a rough ride for Cyril. Her family has been through a lot of unfortunate situations. Her mother got mild stroke, was amputated, and had gone through many surgeries which caused them to be in much debt. Her eldest sister had to drop out of school twice and their house was razed by fire. Despite everything, Cyril was able to uphold a grateful heart. “I am thankful that our family is still complete, we survived those challenges, and God Jehovah is always there for us,” she said.

At first, she encountered challenges while volunteering. Her first experience was with 2KK (Tulong sa Kapwa Kapatid) at UP Diliman where she almost got lost inside the campus. There were also times when she had to go by herself to the activity area in Payatas. She was lucky enough that some residents guided her to the correct direction then. She also found it very challenging to connect with other volunteers. It took her a while to build trust and confidence to communicate with them.

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Her most unforgettable and life-changing volunteer experience was with Project Pearls in Tondo. She was surprised the first time she saw “Happy Land Tondo” because of how dirty and messy the place was. It almost looked like a dumpsite. She saw kids playing at the canal and electric lines tapped over each other resembling a spider web. If one household is on fire, all others will be affected. She was even more moved when she saw the happy smiles of the mothers carrying their babies. She saw the optimism they have regardless of the kind of life they are in. It was in that moment that she felt and saw hope. Before the activity, she had many issues with work, herself, her family, almost everything. After the activity, she came out with a thankful heart, thanking God and her parents for all that she has. Cyril gave two words as advice to those who want to volunteer: be human.

I consider Cyril a seasoned survivor. Perhaps the reason why she found fulfillment in volunteering is because she can relate to the difficulties experienced by the marginalized. She knows how it feels to have nothing. She knows how difficult it is to try and seek for help when no one is willing to, because they are also dealing with their own problems.

When asked about her future plans, she said she wants to start an organization for the street children, abandoned people, those who live at remote areas, as well as the elderly. While helping people is what she usually aims to do, her primary goal is to awaken the desire in those who are in need to help themselves. “I want to make a change, an impact, encourage the people around me to volunteer and awaken the minds of those people we are helping. What I mean is that they should not just depend on the help of others. If they want to change their lives, they have to step forward, they have to do something. Let us stop making excuses.”

by Jhala Grace Salas, iVolunteer Philippines

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