November 25, 2023
Tzu Chi launches scholarship program in Davao
By Ben Baquilod
Tzu Chi Philippines launched its Davao college scholarship program on November 19 in Davao City, welcoming 35 pioneer scholars from the University of Southeastern Philippines (USeP).
The momentous occasion commenced with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between Tzu Chi and USeP, led by Tzu Chi Philippines Deputy CEO Woon Ng, Tzu Chi Davao Officer-in-Charge Nelson Chua, USeP President Dr. Bonifacio G. Gabales, Jr., and Office of Student Affairs and Services Director Dr. Jose Alther M. Rivera.
“I am proud to tell you that this is the first MOA that I signed as the new president of USeP,” said Dr. Gabales. “This is really special and we feel the sincerity and the values of the foundation that you like to instill in our scholars and the USeP community.”
Tzu Chi Deputy CEO Woon Ng thanked USeP for being the newest school partner of Tzu Chi’s Educational Assistance Program. “We are not stopping because we believe that there is so much work to be done, especially in those areas that have less access to resources,” she said.
Davao is the latest expansion to the areas covered by Tzu Chi’s scholarship program. Today, Tzu Chi sponsors more than 1,000 scholars from Metro Manila, Pampanga, Cebu, Iloilo, Bohol, Leyte (Palo, Ormoc), Zamboanga, and Davao.
One lucky addition to Tzu Chi’s nationwide roster of scholars, and a pioneer Tzu Chi scholar in Davao is Alisaikar “Alvan” Kimar, a student of Bachelor in Secondary Education Major in Mathematics. Becoming a Tzu Chi scholar is an unexpected blessing in his poverty-stricken life.
Alvan’s father earns only 200 to 250 pesos a day as a pedicab driver, while his mother passed away when he was 3 years old. “It’s hard to grow up poor, even harder to not have a mother to take care of you,” Alvan said.
Due to his father’s modest income, they are accustomed to going to bed at night hungry, without dinner. Since high school, it has also been his habit to borrow money from his classmates when his father couldn’t give him an allowance.
Since childhood, Alvan has experienced discrimination due to his religion. “When my friends know I’m a Muslim, some of them start to treat me differently. I feel hurt when I’m discriminated against because of prejudice,” he confessed. “But I try to explain to them that we are humans too. We are just like you.”
Initially, Alvan thought he might again experience judgment and rejection when he applied to the Buddhist foundation, but the opposite happened. “When the volunteers visited me for a home visit interview, I didn’t feel different. They were so kind, and they treated me like an equal. I didn’t see on their faces the discrimination I felt in the past,” he said.
After the first two initial interviews, Alvan knew in his heart that he had found what he was looking for. Upon learning of his successful application, he couldn’t contain his emotions. “I feel extremely happy. It feels like my heart was exploding because of joy,” he said. “I knew this is really for me. Tzu Chi is God’s gift to help me finish school.”
What makes the scholarship more exciting for Alvan is the opportunity to practice his love for volunteer work. “When I knew that Tzu Chi advocates volunteerism, I said, ‘Wow! This is really it!’” he marveled. Alvan, together with his fellow scholars, is set to have their first outreach acitivity on December 3.
Equally excited about volunteer work and other learning opportunities as a scholar is Arabella Nicole Monterola, a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education student. “I’m excited to attend our monthly humanities class,” she said. “I’m curious about the lessons I will learn that will help me as a student, an individual, and a future educator.”
Just like Alvan, Arabella had her share of hardships growing up. Born of teenage pregnancy, her mother left for abroad after giving birth, and she was left under the care of her grandparents. When her mother came back five years later, Arabella learned that she now had a new family. Since then, Arabella has stayed with her grandparents and her uncles and aunties.
“I didn’t take the event negatively. Instead, I turned it into a positive experience. It empowers me to strive for greatness,” she assured. “I know I can do it.”
Today, Arabella is a student leader in her school. To help finance her schooling, she does part-time job as a tutor.
With Tzu Chi scholarship now providing her with a generous allowance and other school needs, she is thankful that she’ll have more time to focus on her studies and achieve her aspirations in life.
“Thank you for the warm embrace and for accepting me despite my flaws,” Arabella smiles. “I know that this is one of the ways through which I can fulfill the hierarchy of needs and achieve self-actualization.”