we are one

As I’ve been exploring the blogging world the past year, I’ve met (and this is very relative as I’ve not really PHYSICALLY met most of them) the most amazing, intimidating and inspiring people and I’ve shared with you some of them in the past entries (like my fashion blogger friend who motivated me to start this blog).

Before I graduated college, a teacher discussed one of the more influential e-commerce/ social media gurus in the Philippines, Ms. Janette Toral. I promised myself that if given the chance, I’d dispense of all hesitation and introduce myself so I did. I also found out that she’d be speaking for a cause later today at Vista Center, UGF Worldwide Corporate Center, Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong City. It’s a benefit seminar to raise funds for Yolanda Survivors. They’ll be discussing issues regarding youth empowerment especially as one balances personal and professional life. If you have time, drop by. It’s only for 1,000 bucks and you will not only get your money’s worth from the country’s diverse speakers but also you’ll be helping people from all over Visayas who are in dire need of aid. Win-win right?

Click on this http://trainings.ph/weareone-session4/ or this https://www.facebook.com/events/393339350799094/ for details.

From now on, I’d be be posting more seminars, speaking engagements and advocacies that she’s involved with to keep you guys in the loop too.

And to those who’ll be coming or donating, in behalf of WE ARE ONE. | One Nation, One Purpose, One Voice, a very sincere and hearty THANKS.

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doing the right thing

A fellow blogger, who also happens to be a really good friend of mine, shared this on Facebook a few minutes ago. I thought it was a story worth telling so here I am on my blog, writing about it.

Photo from Brent Tzu’s facebook account

Meet 98 year old Dobri Dobrev, a man who lost his hearing in the second world war. Every day he walks 10 kilometers from his village in his homemade clothes and leather shoes to the city of Sofia, where he spends the day begging for money.

Though a well known fixture around several of the city’s churches, known for his prostrations of thanks to all donors, it was only recently discovered that he has donated every penny he has collected — over 40,000 euros — towards the restoration of decaying Bulgarian monasteries and the utility bills of orphanages, living instead off his monthly state pension of 80 euros.

Sometimes you just know you’re doing the right thing even when no one else affirms it.

Because we live in a world where meritocracy is the rule of thumb, we forget the greatest contributions that we make to society, to people we hardly know are the things we do out of selflessness and utter disregard for social image. Here is a man who may have little financially and in material possessions but he chose to live a life that still cares about others. I’m not encouraging the rest of the world to crowd the streets and beg for money they can donate rather I’m hoping I can convince you to care. 

Our gestures don’t have to be big. They don’t have to change the world. We at least have to care enough to move towards a gesture, an action, a vision that involves making other people’s lives easier than they are now. This has a very special place in my heart because I’ve done humanitarian work since I was 13 and I’ve loved every minute of it. Because I love it so much, I thought it would be fun to celebrate my birthday, the 18th of this month, with my dad on a gift giving mission. It will be my little contribution to world.

I hope one day helping others out will be a part of everyone’s habit, something they do not as a burden but a vocation even when there are no cameras snapping, no cover stories and no obvious reciprocity other than fulfillment.

my superman dream

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We all have that Superman dream, that consuming sometimes suffocating vision of ourselves.

You know in your gut that’s all you wanna be and all you wanna have but you feel that saying it, pursuing it and living it is way out of your means or far from the expectations already set in front of you.

It would be easier to remain Clark Kent, pragmatic, reliable and plain rather than be the risky, over the top super hero you’ve always wanted to be.

Your dream betrays your reality. 

I’ve been there. God help me, there are days when I think I still am. On those rare, depressing days, I imagine myself already living my dream. It’s not to escape reality but just to remind myself that maybe in an alternate space or time or dimension, I’m already a humanitarian or a published author or a gallery owner or a world traveler or maybe all those. 

It reminds me that I can be whoever I want to be regardless of norms, expectations and standards. I can take a risk because it’s my life, my happiness to risk. I wish one day everyone will have the courage to do the same because we all deserve to realize our Superman dream.

Three Wishes

I refrain from posting depressing messages and pictures on my blog thinking this was originally my happiness haven but I just really had to post this one. It reminds me of why I love humanitarian work and why I do what I do. If I can help kids like these, foster them off the streets and into a more promising future then I will have exceeded my own expectations.

In Flow with Otto

The story of Sasha and Roma is heartbreaking. Two boys living on the streets of St. Petersburg. Sniffing glue the only comfort in their young life. This is a story Øystein brought back from a visit to Russia some years ago. Read the whole story on Øystein’s & Otto’s Blog

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summer for a 21-year old

The humidity in this country is beyond bearable. I found myself waking up in the middle of night, running to bathroom and taking a quick shower just to get through the next few hours without having a heat stroke. The only upside to this delirious experience is you can get creative as to how you spend the rest of the summer.

Here’s how I plan to enjoy mine.

  1. Get a natural tan by frequenting the beach . Cliche but summer is for  SWIMMING. Ladies, let those bikini bodies shine -or in my case maxi dress-covered body. 

    Suggested beaches: Caramoan, Calaguas, Atolayan and Aguirangan. They’re not as populated as Boracay but you will definitely admire the beaches and the natives.

  2. Time to catch up on my reading. I’m going to spend those lazy afternoons lounging as I read a paperback. Yeah yeah, I’m a geek. I already pre-ordered some of the books on my summer reading list.

    MY SUMMER READING LIST
     THE BEST OF ME, by Nicholas Sparks. Twenty-five years after their high school romance ended, a man and woman who have gone their separate ways return to their North Carolina town for the funeral of a friend.
     CALICO JOE, by John Grisham. In the summer of 1973, a fateful baseball play unites a dazzling rookie, a hard-partying and hard-throwing pitcher and the pitcher’s young son.
     NOW YOU SEE HER, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. Nina Bloom, a successful lawyer and loving mother who years ago changed her identity to save her life, is forced to confront the past and the killer she thought she had escaped.
    A GAME OF THRONES, by George R. R. Martin. In the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are mustering; Book 1 of “A Song of Ice and Fire.”
     DELUSION IN DEATH, by J. D. Robb. Lt. Eve Dallas tries to sort out the inexplicable events at a bar where, after 12 minutes of chaos, more than 80 people lay dead; by Nora Roberts, writing pseudonymously.
     THE LOST YEARS, by Mary Higgins Clark. A biblical scholar who made an amazing discovery is murdered, and it falls to his daughter to unravel the mystery behind his death.
     THE WANDERER, by Robyn Carr.  Hank Cooper inherits a beachfront property in Thunder Point, Ore., and finds himself with a community’s destiny in his hands.
     THE INNOCENT, by David Baldacci. When something about his latest mission seems wrong, the government assassin Will Robie refuses to kill. Now he’s a target himself.
     SEVERE CLEAR, by Stuart Woods. Stone Barrington travels to Bel-Air for the opening of a luxury hotel that, according to the N.S.A., may have attracted the attention of terrorists.
     DEFENDING JACOB, by William Landay. An assistant district attorney’s life is shaken when his shy 14-year-old son is accused of murder.

     

  3. Finally learn that Caribbean Seafood Pasta recipe. Nothing says summer like gorging on a really vibrant and lemony dish.
  4. Go on a spontaneous, absolutely no plans, one back pack adventure. It’s time to let loose and unleash the fun 21 year old I know is still in me. 
  5. Explore my creative side and take on a project that challenges my imagination. It could be that painting class I’ve been meaning to take since college or photography lessons with my dad and his friends or maybe just give in to the taunts of my sister regarding starting my own Wattpad account.
  6. Volunteer and give back. Now that the body, tummy and mind are all happy, it’s time to feed the heart. Find time to donate some clothes, help a beach clean-up, adopt a homeless pup or support social initiatives via your blog. Be creative, after all volunteering is never one note.

I remember when I was about 4, I spent my summer running around the front yard, picking mangoes which fell from the trees I climb, eating fried bananas and tagging along when my grandparents when visit the rice fields. That was my perfect summer. Now that I’m older and sadly incapable of climbing trees, my perfect summer is letting loose and creating a better version of myself .

What’s yours?

Whatever it is, make sure to have fun and enjoy the sun.

Bucket List: the CHEERful Way

I haven’t written for this blog in a while. Summer brought me so much to do and enjoy that I lost track of my entries, sorry. So here’s what I’ve been up to, I’ve been listing down the things I wanna do the next few years ( a bucket list is what they call it). Here’s what I have so far:

  1. Travel to Africa, South America and the more impoverished parts of Asia as a humanitarian volunteer.
  2. Be an ambassador for the United Nations (Seriously, it’s been a lifelong dream.)
  3. Meet the current UN SEcretary- General and the world’s transformative leaders
  4. Study another language. (French or Spanish)
  5. Get my own written work published. 
  6. Hit a thousand followers on one of my blogs. (I wish, right?)
  7. Improve my drawing and painting skills.
  8. Fill a gallery with pictures I took, artworks I’ve made and drafts of literature I wrote. (This I could share with my sister who pursues the same hobbies.)
  9. Pursue my love of cooking.
  10. Design clothes and accessories made from local materials or a start a restaurant with a modern Filipino theme
  11. Set up my own foundation in the Philippines
  12. Buy then design my own house (somewhere overlooking the ocean). 
  13. Build a library (not with my own 2 hands of course). Hoard more books and meet their authors.
  14. Get a tattoo (with my dad). (Of what? I haven’t made up my mind yet. Where? I’m thinking Japan or Hawaii.)
  15. Go on a trip without a plan, with only one backpack, no phone or any means of communication for a month.
  16. Travel around the world then settle in a foreign country for a year. (I’ll make another bucket list for each country I visit.)
  17. Have a meaningful religious experience through a pilgrimage
  18. Test the adrenaline junkie in me. Try skydiving, surfing, bungee jumping and drag racing.
  19. Have a passionate, romantic summer with a hunk in the Maldives
  20. Learn self defense, preferably the less obvious ones like Kray Maga.
  21. Get toned! Abs everything. 
  22. Rock out to a Maroon 5, The Script or Lawson concert and get invited to the after party. (Tickets for Joe Brooks, Chester See, Colton Dixon, Alex Goot, Tiffany Alvord and Sam Tsui concerts, also a must)
  23. Watch as the models walk the runways of Paris, Milan and New York fashion week.
  24. Get a make over every year.
  25. Plan ADVENTURES with my closest friends like watch a Lakers game with Erwin or visit the Hogwarts castle in UK with my little sister.

I know I’ll have crazier additions later one but for now, I’m happy with this list. I read somewhere that writing them down, visualizing your goals and dreams make them more likely to come true. So here it is written and posted.

*PS The CHEERful way may be a little confusing if you’re not aware that my close friends call me CHEER. 🙂

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the human connection

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“The way the world looks don’t have a thing to do with what’s going on with its people” -Gap Creek, 1999

Often we are lured to believe that the world is getting by fine because it sure looks that way. We start our mornings with a quick walk to Starbucks, buy what we think is an inexpensive venti cup of coffee, take our tablet out to check our emails, browse through our favorite online shops and decide to finally buy that Miu Miu dress that’s worth half a month of salary. An approximately 5-minute ride away from the coffee shop is a family of twelve sharing one pack of boiled noodles, drinking what looks like a cup of coffee except you can’t really tell because too much water has been added to it. You can almost hear the dad’s sighs outside their small shanty made of cardboard boxes and reused coco lumber. Their rent was due but he was mugged last night by some teenage robbers who smelled of alcohol. In his desperation he tried to fight back, it almost got him killed. Now he sat by the steps of the river right outside their house, he was trying to have some quiet time before the loan sharks came or before the landowner kicked them out. He was really tired and confused, he thought he should run away. Maybe if he did, the loan sharks wouldn’t bother his wife and kids. Maybe she can go back to her estranged mother if he left. Her mother never liked him. He’s decided. He’ll run. The morning after, police doing their early rounds found his body floating in the river.

***

Author’s Note:

Another sob story? Maybe, but I know him. In fact, we all know him. We met him at some point, not that we noticed. We’re often busy with our expensive smart phones, talking about our new house or window shopping or just admiring how amazingly advanced the world is. This days I often wonder if this is what the world has come to, caprice covers up human connections. We become too absorbed with what we have or we want to have that we don’t notice or choose to consciously ignore  our brothers and sister who are asking us for a little push.

This is not to defend the incapability of others to cope but a recognition that sometimes despite all the gusto one has to succeed they just fail. In instances like these, we have to find in ourself the disposition to contribute to the progress of others. Find that lost human connection through those who are in most need of it.

the girl I am

When I started working with kids at a nearby elementary school, tutoring them on Science and English, I wasn’t exactly sure why I was doing it. I thought maybe because I love kids and I enjoy the company of my friends who were also volunteering their Friday afternoons and even Saturday mornings. But more than seven years later, tens of other volunteer projects and a lot of struggles along the way, I was still doing it. Sometimes routinely and with little thought to what was right in front of me but mostly excited to work with people who you know you can make happy.

Now I do it on my own, with other volunteers, with my dad, just about anybody who shows interest and I’m still enjoying it. So it probably was not just the friends.   I don’t just focus on children related projects now. I’ve been on medical missions, feeding programs, political education seminars, leadership camps and many others depending what that community I’m working for needed. Guess what? I’m still really happy so it wasn’t just about being with kids.

So what was it?

I’d like to think that it’s because I believe in and love people, not just one race, a social class or a specific group but people (or humanity) in its entirety. I have great faith that when pushed in the right direction they will always choose what is right and best for themselves and everyone or everything around them. It’s highly ideal, believe me I know. I’m obsessed with history and I face pragmatic decision making everyday of my life (considering I’m in the field of business) so I’ve had my fair share of doubts. But if there’s is one thing that I’ve also learned from all that, it’s that ideals are not a bad thing. Believing in people and trusting them no matter how cruel they may seem or how much they’ve disappointed you is the best way to show them that there is still someone who sees the value, the good in them. If no one will have the courage to start believing in something, like the good in people, no one else will. Then what will become of us?

For years, I’ve put in the work to show that I have faith in impoverished communities,  forgotten or explicitly ignored by many. I made it my personal mission to show them that even if they’ve been dealt a lower hand, there is always hope to turn things around. I assured them that I was gonna be there to help them until they needed it (it was not just me though, I had a solid support system). But I always warn them that my help can only go so far so they too have to make an effort. They too have to believe in what they can do and act on it.  Seeing nanay engaged in her own business she runs from home while she took care Jr., tatay finally getting the medical care he deserved, kuya landing a scholarship for college without the guilt of his parents voting for a politician come election day because they owed the scholarship to him, ate finally learning how to use a computer, those are my daily success stories. I am the happiest when I know they don’t need me anymore except when I get invited to birthdays and christenings.

It’s not just them though. My belief in people extends to those who are graced with more in life. They, too, have contributed greatly to why I enjoy doing this job so much. I get to witness first hand how people, no matter how others argue them to be greedy and self centered, can be so compassionate and open to help. Most of time we attribute poverty and the demons that come with it to apathy but mostly it’s lack of knowledge and fear. I know in my gut that people are willing to help, whether they’re aware of that willingness or not. Most of them do not know how much need there is and that they are capable enough to help. You see, these are not taught in the classrooms or echoed in malls and coffee shops. This is not a trend that we follow on twitter or a page we like on Facebook.

A lot of people feel detached because they don’t feel poverty or illiteracy or poor health services. Even if they do feel it, we have already created a stereotype of who can help and who can’t. Teenagers  think that all social workers or volunteers are like Mother Therese, holy in every way. Volunteers don’t care for clothes or the new program on ETC (or Jack TV or CBS). They’re do-gooders they can’t relate to. I wish we could reshape that and show that volunteers can love fashion and photography and sports (like me). They’re diverse people. Helping out is not a CATEGORY or a STEREOTYPE, it’s a choice, one which is available to everyone. You can do it in any way too. Bake cookies and sell them for a cause. Talk to your school janitor and ask him if he’s doing fine. Take pictures of places you think are in need of help, post them on Facebook  Be creative because you never know what one act can contribute to a greater change. 

Many rolled their eyes and made fun of me because I often said that I’d rather work long hours in far flung communities than have a stable, high paying, 8-5 job in a nationally known company. It’s not because I hate marketing or operations or the corporate industry, I don’t. In fact, I also find it fun and challenging just not as rewarding. It’s not the career I’d be eager to tell my friends about or the job I’d be ecstatic to wake up to every morning. I’m naturally a hard worker and I put a lot in what I do so I wanna work for something that means as much to me. I care less for pay checks and cars and bonuses. I want to work on something that builds- communities, character, people. When I realized that was what I wanted, I mustered enough to pursue it and stick with it. Hopefully, I can be the person I always thought I was gonna be.

global piggy bank: saving smiles

I read a post this morning that made my heart drop a thousand miles below sea level. It’s not that it’s the first time I’m hearing of it, I actually hear it often considering it’s in my line of work but I realize how numb I’ve become since I started. This reminded me of my humanity and the humanity of what I do. Please read it and find it in your heart to reflect for today.

Filipino horror story

 By Korina Ada D. Tanyu

Philippine Daily Inquirer

Nena rises at 4 a.m. to cook a pack of instant noodles for her four children. Her live-in partner, Jojo, has gone to ply his tricycle route. He makes only about P300 a day and is still paying for the loan he took out (at 5-6 rates) to buy the tricycle.

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While cooking, Nena worries about her youngest, 5-year-old Jamjam. He has been losing weight, having recurring fever, and coughing incessantly for the past two months. Lagundi syrup is of no help. She took him to the health center, where he was given carbocisteine. Still, he continued to cough and lose weight. She also took him to the  hilot, thinking of  kulam. Nothing happened.

Three days ago, she noticed that Jamjam was having difficulty breathing and was relieved only by nebulizations at the center. She and Jojo decided to consult a physician, but they worried about how to get to a hospital. The nearest is privately owned, and the consultation fee is at least P500, aside from the costs of the lab tests. On the other hand, the nearest government hospital is in Manila. The fare from Cavite to Manila costs P100. They calculated that they needed P200 just for the fare. (Jamjam will sit on Nena’s lap so he can ride for free.)

Nena was so worried about her son that she borrowed P500 from the loan shark.

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At 6 a.m., mother and son are on their way to the government hospital in Manila. At 8 a.m., they are in a queue at the pediatrics clinic counter. But the nurses tell Nena that the quota of 60 new patients per day has been filled. Nena begs the nurses to include Jamjam in the quota. We’re sorry, say the nurses. Our patients also came from far places. Come back tomorrow.

Nena sobs. She has only P400 left. If she takes Jamjam home, she will have only P300 for tomorrow, unless she borrows money again. They can stay overnight at the hospital, but where will they get food? And her family will worry if they don’t come home. She can try the nurses again, but then again…

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In the waiting area, Nena notices an unguarded backpack.  Patawarin  sana  ako  ng  Diyos(May God forgive me), she tells herself. But she decides against taking it.

A news report is blasted from the TV set in the waiting area: Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile,  nagbigay  ng  pera  sa  mga  senador  nung  Pasko! The report says all senators, except four, got P1.6 million each for Christmas.

A doctor walks through the hallway of the clinic and surveys the row of patients in the waiting area. Her gaze falls upon Nena and Jamjam. She raises her eyebrows and quickly approaches them.

The dialogue, in Filipino, is quick:

“Ma’am, how many days has your son been having difficulty breathing?”

“Doktora, three days already.”

“No other symptoms like a cough?”

“It’s been two months since he began coughing and losing weight. He’s lost almost half of his weight. And there’s fever.”

The doctor examines Jamjam, then calls a nurse and asks for oxygen. She tells Nena that her son’s condition is worrisome and he has to be taken to the emergency room.

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Nena asks the doktora what will happen to Jamjam, and begins to cry.

Jamjam is hooked to oxygen support and put on a wheelchair. Another doctor takes mother and son to the emergency room, where several other doctors attend to the boy. One attaches an IV drip on Jamjam’s arm. His blood pressure is taken—several times. The mother senses that something’s wrong.

“Doktora, what’s happening?”

“Nanay, we can’t find your son’s blood pressure. His breathing is bad. We need to put a tube in his lungs so he can breathe. Do you have money for the respirator? If none, you will serve as the machine that will help him breathe.  Magbobomba kayo.”

To rent the machine, Nena needs at least P2,000. Jamjam also needs antibiotics. Some of the lab tests are free of charge, but the others are not. Nena thinks of the P400 she has left. She can’t call Jojo, she has no cell phone.

The doctors lead Nena to a social worker, who assists her. She manages to contact Jojo, who promises to bring the needed money before the day ends.

In Cavite, Jojo turns to his brother for help. But his brother, who has three children and another on the way, can lend him only P500. Jojo understands, and thanks his brother profusely. He looks at his watch, thinking that his prized possession will probably fetch another P500 from the loan shark. But the loan shark gives him P2,000: “Here. For your son. Pay me when he gets well.”

The father takes the money, knowing that this “generosity” comes with a stiff price. With P2,500 in his pocket, he heads to the hospital.

The doctors have inserted a tube in Jamjam’s mouth and down his trachea; one is helping him breathe with a bag. Blood extractions, as well as x-rays, have been done. Nena brings the blood samples to the lab and pays for the lab work with her P400. She still has to buy antibiotics and medication to raise Jamjam’s blood pressure, but her money has run out. She has to wait for Jojo to come. Unknown to her, the doctors have given Jamjam medication from donors.

The doctors tell Nena that Jamjam has tuberculosis complicated with severe pneumonia; the infection has spread through his blood. They ask her if anyone else in the family has TB. Nena has no idea. They tell her to have all the family members tested.

They also tell Nena that despite the medication, Jamjam still has very low blood pressure. They urge her to seek the help of local politicians. It’s the election period, after all.

But all these are a blur to Nena. Her mind is as chaotic as the emergency room. She is waiting for Jojo to come. Jojo will tell her what to do. Where is Jojo, anyway?

A doctor approaches Jamjam and listens to his chest and heart.

CODE! Doctors and nurses instantly surround Jamjam. A doctor pounds the child’s chest with a fist.

Another doctor tells Nena what is going on. Her son’s heart has stopped beating and they are trying to revive him. If his heart does not start beating again after 30 minutes, they will stop all efforts of resuscitation.

Nena suddenly feels that the weight of the world is upon her. She cries. She prays.  Diyos  ko!  Ang  anak  ko!  For the first time in her life, she shouts her prayers, hoping that from earth, her screams will be heard by God in heaven.

Thirty minutes pass. We’re sorry, the doctors say.

The nurses remove all the devices attached to Jamjam’s body. Nena embraces her child and shakes him, hoping he is just sleeping.

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Just then Jojo runs into the emergency room, looking for Nena. He sees her crying. He sees a lifeless Jamjam. He breaks down and weeps.

A week later, Nena and Jojo bury Jamjam in the public cemetery. Along with their son, they bury all their hopes and dreams for him. And then they face the future buried in debt.

Korina Ada D. Tanyu, MD, 27, is a pediatrics resident at the Philippine General Hospital where, she says, she and her colleagues encounter similar stories every day. She wishes that such situations will not happen to anyone, but realizes that with the way things are, these will only disappear in her dreams.

I started volunteering because I was an idealistic teenager who thought that there was value in pursuing goals outside of caprice and self wealth.

I thought I can change world but this story made me realize that for every 10 people I bend over backwards trying to help there are thousands more with even greater suffering. When all these is gonna end, I cannot say but what I am sure of is that the more people who are aware of these, the more people who are willing to help, the better it is for them.

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I believe so much in the good of humanity that I am sure when they see how difficult life is for their brothers and sister (maybe not of blood, race or social status but of heart and soul), they will do something about it. All it takes is a nudge in the right right direction. So this is me nudging you, hoping that in you own way you can reach out and help out.

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PS I am serious about this. I have been doing this for 4 years now and any help is welcome. Just contact me or my dad. 🙂

PSS The global piggy bank: saving smiles idea is that when one volunteers they add to the global piggy bank in the currency of smiles. By the time everyone is in on it, we’ll be able to accumulate all the smiles and the bank will be full of happiness. I got that from a bedtime story I read when I was younger so forgive the child like rhetoric. 🙂