Sharing the blessings

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Monday, August 29, 2011

THE first Filipina Muslim to win the prestigious Zonta International Young Women for Public Affairs (YWPA) Award is donating part of her US$4,000 prize money to uplift the lives of poor Muslim women and children in Mindanao through education.

“Amid the celebration of the Eid’l Fitr, I lament and continue to be disturbed by the problems affecting the Muslim society in the Philippines, especially the sad plight of Muslim women and children. I am donating part of the US$4,000 prize from Zonta Foundation, which was given to me for my educational advancement, to the Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library (Kris) to finance its literacy programs,” said 16-year-old Arriza Ann Sahi Nocum.

An administrator of Kris, Nocum believes that her work with Kris stood out among the 1,200 Zonta clubs across 64 countries that reviewed the thousands of teenagers nominated for the world annual YWPA search.


A freshman at the University of the Philippine, Nocum was nominated by the Zonta Club in Quezon City under Ms. Teresita Buencamino for her involvement in the Kris advocacy where she leads volunteers in the collection of books, write articles and letters to donors, manage the website and facilitate book-readings and other programs for Kris.

Put up by her Christian father Armand Dean Nocum and Muslim mother Ann Sahi Nocum in 2001, Kris has established five libraries all over the country, which are located in a suspected Abu Sayyaf jump-off point in Manicahan, Zamboanga City; a slum area in Quezon City; and a library in a resettlement area for Typhoon Ondoy victims in Rodriguez, Rizal.

She had also set up the foundations of two proposed libraries near a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) stronghold in Tungawan, Zamboanga del Sur.

Kris has also given 101 scholarship grants to poor but deserving kids in terror-stricken Mindanao and has donated tens of thousands of books, school supplies, computers, as well as provided free use of computers to public schools all over the country. One recent scholarship was the kids who swim to school in mangrove community in Layag Layag, Zamboanga City.

CAGAYAN DE ORO. Sixteen-year-old Arizza Ann S. Nocum shows off the certificates given to her by Zonta International after having been recognized as one of the five international recipients of Zonta’s Young Women for Public Affairs, the first Filipina to have given this distinction. Nocum says she would donate part of her $4,000 prize money to her Muslim-Christian advocacy, the Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library, in the spirit of Eid’l Fitr. (Contributed photo)

Although Nocum thanked many donors here and abroad – including her parents who made donating to the Kris Library a form of “tithing” – she wished more people would help Kris so they can put up more libraries and donate books to poor areas in Mindanao.

A UP Oblation scholar taking up industrial engineering, Nocum said she would channel her donation to the bright but poor scholars of Kris.

“It feels different when you’re a scholar,” Nocum admits. “As a scholar, you have an obligation. For me, that obligation is to my country as an ‘iskolar ng bayan.’ As for those poor children whose scholarship I can now provide for, I will visit them every so often and expect them to finish their studies such that they can someday fulfill meaningful roles in their communities.”

Nocum says Mindanao has the highest dropout rates, maintains the lowest scores for national achievement tests and is therefore severely in need in terms of education.

With her plans, she dreams that her scholars will “transform into Mindanao’s change-makers” in the future.

Nocum received her certificates and check from District Governor Georgitta Pimentel-Puyat and Zonta International President Dianne K. Curtis at Zonta District 17’s International Conference last August 27 at Sofitel Philippine Plaza.

“Her application struck me the most. Coming from Cotabato, I know for myself how much attention Mindanao needs right now. She is the first from District 17 ever to be an international recipient and thus the first Filipina to win the YWPA Award. We are very proud of her,” Puyat says.

Nocum first won the Zonta Award District Level, besting other finalists from District 17 which is comprised of the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. She was awarded with an initial grant of $1,000.

Nocum also achieved the brilliant distinction of being one of only five international recipients from all over the world winning at the International Level. Each international recipient received US $3,000.

Aside from the Philippines, the Top 5 in the world came from USA, Ghana, India and Switzerland.

“This award and my donation do not spell the end of my commitment to Zonta and to public affairs. It is only the beginning,” Nocum said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 30, 2011.


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