Yes, there is Santa Claus

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

NOBODY sees Santa Claus. But he exists as certainly as love, and generosity, and devotion exist. And you know that they abound to give to your life its highest beauty and joy…” (an excerpt from New York’s Sun veteran newsman, Francis Pharcellus Church’s, answer to the query of an eight-year-old girl).

A SANTA CLAUS is nothing but a mascot garbed in padded shirt and pants with a fake beard, mustache, and eyebrows. And oh, they have to put on curly wigs for the total effect.

He merely serves as merchandising prop for malls and department stores. But there’s one Santa Claus at Ayala Center Cebu that is the embodiment of the gift-giving icon.

Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus
ICON WITH A PURPOSE. Flemming and Elisabet Hansen embody the gift-giving icon Santa Claus. As Mr. and Mrs. Claus, they take the jolly good work a step higher with the Rise Above Foundation that gives year-round happiness to poor people. The NGO provides good nutrition, health care, among other benefits. (Arni Aclao)

His name is Flemming Hansen and he comes from Denmark. With him is his wife, Elisabet Hansen, from Norway. Together they make people happy and cheer up kids not only on Christmas time but all throughout the year.

The couple came to Cebu 10 years ago to establish the Rise Above Foundation, a non-secular, non-profit, and non-government organization (NGO) whose only purpose is to help poor Filipinos “rise above” their miserable existence by providing good nutrition, proper hygiene, health care, and most of all educational opportunities.

“Our mission is to change the present state of people who are trapped in poverty and help them start a new life. We believe that as we create opportunities, and the people are uplifted to ‘rise above’ their present situation, then they will have a chance to prosper and achieve their dreams,” Flemming said.

For the past decade they have helped build schools and sent thousands of children to school. Very soon, they will be building a community center in Guadalupe equipped with modern educational facilities. This is made possible by the help of a local construction firm which donated one third of the cost of the building. The foundation has adopted the town of Tabogon as the recipient of relief goods donated by Canada, Denmark, and Norway.

They are now helping 1,500 families rebuild their homes.

Through the foundation’s effort, a technical team from Canada is arriving this week to help restore the roads to Tabogon.

The foundation has done so much already, but according to Elisabet there is still much to be done.

“We are already in our 60s, but we are never tired of helping these people. As we wake up in the morning, we look forward to bringing joy to the people. This thought is what gives us strength and inspiration,” Elisabet confided. “We are not only blessed with 11 successful children who are very supportive of us, we also feel so blessed that God has given us this rare opportunity to serve our fellowmen,” she added with a hint of emotion.

During weekends until Christmas day, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus will be giving goodies to kids who will visit Ayala Center mall. Hansen does receive requests for Christmas presents from the children and some of them even brought lists with them. When asked what Santa Claus whispered to these kids, Elisabet replied with a smile: “Santa told them, ‘Just pray’.”

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. But nobody sees him. The most real things in this world are those that neither children nor men can see,” F rancis Pharcellus Church answered eight-year-old Virginia.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 16, 2013.


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