Tzu Chi Foundation’s 12th batch of Livelihood Training Program comes to a close through a ceremony on June 8. The event is held at the Jing Si Hall in Quezon City and attended by Tzu Chi volunteers, supporters, and the family of the total 40 student graduates.
Mary Julie Sereño was a consistent honor student in her elementary and high school years, but after her father lost his job as a seaman due to an accident, her dream of going to college had been dashed.
Filled with grudge and disappointment toward her parents, Sereño, who is the eldest among a brood of 4, became a stubborn child. At the age of 18, she was already married and pregnant to her first son. Her relationship with her parents had also gone sour. Out of her resentment, Sereño admits that there have been times when she would talk back and argue with them, completely forgetting her manners.
But things changed when Sereño enrolled at Tzu Chi Foundation’s Livelihood Training Program at the Tzu Chi Great Love Campus in Sta. Mesa, Manila. The 4-month course trains out-of-school young women with skills on garment sewing, merchandising, and computer encoding. Their education also consists of Chinese culture and by the end of the program they can effortlessly recite the multiplication table in Chinese. But more importantly, the program teaches them moral values such as respect for all beings, discipline, filial piety, and helping the needy which shaped their character.
“What I have learned the most is the message of the song “Today of Each Day,” shares Sereño. The said song is among the many that Tzu Chi volunteers have taught them throughout the duration of their training. “The song says that it’s not yourself that you should celebrate on your birthday; but that you should thank your parents because they are the ones who gave life to you.”
Realizing her mistakes, 26-year-old Sereño is now on better terms with her parents. On June 8, her mother, Ma. Concepcion, attends her graduation alongside Sereño’s husband and two sons. As she receives her diploma onstage, Sereño happiness cannot be contained.
“I have long dreamed to study,” she tearfully shares after the program. “That’s why I am very grateful to Tzu Chi because they helped me achieve my dreams, little by little. This is really the answer to my prayers – that someone would spend time to educate me.”
46-year-old Ma. Concepcion is just as emotional as her daughter. “I want to thank Tzu Chi because despite the fact that my daughter has children of her own already, they still gave her a chance to study and finish a course,” she says.
“It means a lot to us because it will give her an opportunity to work. That’s very important right now, because how will they support their children if they don’t have a means of income?” Ma. Concepcion adds.
19-year-old Star Poro, also one of the graduates, shares the same sentiment.
Single-handedly raising her 1-year-old son, Poro worked as a saleslady in Divisoria to support him. But with her son’s needs growing every year, she needed a more stable source of income.
That’s when she heard about Tzu Chi’s livelihood program.
“Those who graduated from the program said you would land a job at the end of the training,” Poro says. “So I enrolled for my son; so that he won’t end up like me and so that I can give him a better life.”
Sereño and Poro are among the total 40 students who graduated from Tzu Chi’s Livelihood Training Program on this day. They compose the 12th batch of graduates since the program’s inception in 2010. The ceremony this year is held at the Jing Si Hall in Quezon City and gathered the students’ family members, as well as Tzu Chi volunteers and supporters, and some of the training program’s alumni.
Prior to the closing program, many of these young women have almost given up on dreaming, hampered by the lack of confidence on their abilities.
Judylyn Ramirez spent 4 years idle in their home in Barangay Fortune, Marikina City, filled with dread to go out into the world and work.
“I didn’t apply for any job because I don’t have the courage to. I was only a high school graduate,” shares the 20-year-old trainee. “People would always tell me that with a high school diploma, it would be hard to find and land a job.”
Hence, when a flyer, announcing that Tzu Chi’s Livelihood Training Program is opening for a new batch of students, reached her palms, she grabbed the opportunity, knowing in her heart it could change her life forever.
Indeed, it did.
“Now, I am much more confident to apply for job posts because I have earned employable skills that the aunties and uncles (Tzu Chi volunteers) have taught me,” she happily says.
After this day, her fellow trainee, Heraclia Pamisa is also looking forward to a better future. The 28-year-old native of Bukidnon left her hometown in search of greener pasture in Metro Manila; but ended up as a housemaid for 6 years.
“Throughout those years, I lived in a house, doing the same chores every day. I was never able to challenge myself with other work or task. But with the help of our aunties and uncles (Tzu Chi volunteers), it’s not just skills I learned, I also gained the confidence that there are many things I can do aside from performing household chores,” Pamisa, a garment sewing student, shares.
An equal opportunity at life – this is the gift of Tzu Chi Foundation’s Livelihood Training Program for the less-privileged students.