The Morning Eclipse

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


*Note: Sight For Kids is a project by the Lions. It helps young children get free eyeglasses.
*FYI: Lions is an international civic organization that has numerous projects aiding eye-related projects. Projects can also include other works like the recent donation to the Philippine General Hospital of 150 million Pesos.

MY EYE-OPENING SIGHT FOR KIDS PROJECT by Ryan Cokieng, Pasay Mabuhay Lions Club

My community background

I had a limited exposure to civic activities. Most of my energies were focused on my Scouting projects and my college organization trainings but I was proud to say that in both cases I was able to help the students of my school from high school up until my collegiate years.

However, my small adventures were just a teaser for the Lions’ philanthropic projects.

First brushes with the Lions

I first heard of Lions from my mother when she was explaining my grandfather’s charity work. She told me he was part of a big civic organization called Lions. I didn’t think much of it then for it was all very vague and uninteresting.

Several years later, I heard that my uncle was running for governor. This really confused me! The only governors I knew were public officials. This was when I got to hear more about the organization. The campaign brought a lot of excitement in the family and my uncle spent endless days out touring the provinces. He eventually joined my grandfather in the Lions’ elite club of district governors.

So in the years prior to my club membership, Lions was just this big group that regularly did projects and helped the poor. I even thought it was an exclusive all males club! It was no different from Rotary and it was even lesser known.

The invitation from my uncle

Doing community work wasn’t a physically taxing thing. Perhaps the greatest and most difficult sacrifice was the time. Everyone was working in my family. Taking out one whole day of work will pile up the papers and push back the appointments and meetings planned earlier.

To be honest, it took some encouragement from my uncle before I could let go of my daily routine. He was asking for one whole day from a very hectic and tightly-packed week. Eventually, I gave in and joined our Sight For Kids project for Cuneta Public Elementary School.

Trip to the school

My first project didn’t start out well. I had prepared for the trip but somehow Pasay’s roads weren’t as wide as they’re drawn on the maps. Going around the vicinity of LRT Baclaran station was a challenge! I had to snake through shanties that were spilling over the roads and slowly roll over the barangay-made road bumps. They’re actually humps but they had to make them so small and high. We also mustn’t forget. There was the continuous stream of people trying to squeeze by beside my car while I was exhaustively trying to slip through the mini maze of Pasay! Luckily, I managed to get through unscathed and received directions from the orange-clad enforcers.

All in a day’s project

When I arrived at the school, I sat down and started to observe our past president conduct the project. Beside me sat four grade three students. They looked very neat in their pressed school uniforms and their gel-combed hairs. These were young restless boys! They wiggled and played in their seats. Every few minutes, one just had to run around. It was as if I was back in my grade school.

However, when it came to their shoes, that’s when I started to see the difference. Not everyone wore leather shoes. Some couldn’t even afford a pair. They wore their rubber slippers to school and simply took it in stride. When it came to writing, several of them couldn’t even properly write their names. With their eyes, plenty of them were going to school with inadequate eye glass grades and I even encountered plenty who didn’t have a pair. How could they read the lessons on the board?

In my conversations with the older students, I then learned that classes were now being held half a day. Each batch was alternating their schedules to compensate for the limited number of classrooms and teachers. These children were receiving only half the attention and half the education that private schools had to offer.

It wasn’t just glasses

It was a realization for me. Lions wasn’t just giving out free glasses. The organization was giving these children a chance to improve their future. Eyesight was already indispensable for all and even more valuable for these students. Their poverty now didn’t matter. If they could study well, thanks to better vision, then hopefully their education would get them good jobs in the future. Material wealth was attainable but the wasted opportunity simply due to poor eyesight was such a loss!

Lessons for life

Through Sight for Kids, I learned that leadership could spell the success for any project. When I went to help in the implementation, half of the work had already been completed by my uncle and the district officers. They coordinated with the local mayors, they spoke with the school authorities and they had already mustered the resources and personnel necessary for the project. I was happy to contribute my part to their earlier efforts.

Second was the value of education to the working class’ upward mobility. In my work, I got to hire people and I had seen the quality of education that the public schools were providing. Their inability to perform some of the most basic tasks of researching, typing, due diligence and simple hardwork really disappointed me. For each person, I had to exert extra time and patience to train and teach him. If public education was just upgraded, then we would get better equipped people for our workforce. Fortunately, there were diamonds in the rough that did come out from time to time.

Lastly, there was a real need for more civic involvement from the well off families. Before this project, I was not a believer of outreach projects. I felt a man’s wealth was a fair reward for his hardwork. It was a bit selfish and a belief that needed to be rattled. It was in the schools that I saw the young eyes of my employees. I couldn’t believe that one day; some of these children might be working for me. I had plenty of complaints about the public schools and yet I was only starting to do my part. The schools needed so much help and these were the better funded ones! The young well-off kids of Bel-Air, Alabang, Corinthians and others, needed to see how behind the rest of the Philippines was. I was sure that each project would touch their hearts and show them the bigger, less polished world we’re in.

Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Never tire.



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