Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Heart-painted by Ava and Ally


WHILE their two precocious girls were growing up, banker Alfred Sy Jr. and Architect Christine Amy Buyco-Sy have fondly filled their Singapore home with rims of bond paper, canvasses, and various art mediums from crayons, colored pencils, and pens, to paint, watercolor, and pastels.

Mommy Christine or Mec loved that their daughters, Ava Christiane and Alessandra Cate or Ally, positively viewed drawing or painting as a form of expression, akin to writing their journals. For them, it was something accessible, without having any right or wrong dimensions or necessarily a finished product.

“I was not fussy when they drew on floors and walls. I just made sure the coloring materials were water-based,” says Mec, who has a Master of Arts in Urban Design at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and completed a Professional Certificate on Design-thinking and Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Now, in their grades 5 and 4 at a Catholic international school in Singapore, the talented sisters impressively win art contests, with consistent and exemplary grades in art. Last year, Ava’s Zen Tangles artwork entitled “Four Seasons” was even chosen as the front cover of their school yearbook.

Helping hands

Although the Sy couple has been enjoying a comfortable life in the Lion City for almost two decades now (both daughters were born in Singapore), they still love visiting their hometown, Davao City, to bond with their respective families at least three times a year. Mec’s parents and her sister’s family would also fly to Singapore regularly to spend quality time with them.

This all changed when the Covid-19 pandemic occurred.

“To be away from our families for so long has been the greatest challenge for us but we are also aware that we are blessed to be healthy and safe during this pandemic,” confides Mec.

One dinner while the Sys were discussing the escalating number of poor people getting hungry because of the prolonged lockdown, the family decided to do their part and take action.

“That’s when the girls had the brilliant idea of painting to raise funds for meals,” recalls Mec who is the sole distributor of Human Heart Nature (HHN) in Singapore, a brand of genuine natural personal care products. HHN is a social enterprise based in the Philippines, which was established to support poor farmers and their communities through the purchase of their produce at more than the fair-trade prices.

HHN which is being operated in partnership with Gawad Kalinga (GK) has Kusina ng Kalinga (KnK) as one of its many programs. “KnK or Care Kitchen is a group of volunteers (both from public and private sectors) who cook daily nutritious vegetable-based lunch meals for children in communities, in public schools, in the streets, and in conflict or disaster-stricken areas to end hunger and malnutrition,” explains Mec who was once awarded as Mumpreneur of the Year (Socially Responsible category) in Singapore.

Art with a heart

The Sys have always exposed their children to as many activities as possible, letting them gravitate to what excites them. Alfred and Mec themselves have varying interests - from music, reading, arts to sports.

Ava is a varsity swimmer and ESTV program (digital counterpart of the school newspaper) member while Ally is a varsity netball player, ballerina, and writer. Both sisters are also members of the Junior Orchestra (where Ava plays the flute and Ally, the violin) and the Student Council, class representatives, and avid coders who were part of a coding summer program at Harvard Science Center in Boston.

Despite their jampacked schedules, the Sy sisters excitedly pursued their passion project for KnK. With proper time management, they patiently painted during school holidays with Mec while she was doing her regular work, choosing from different themes for the collection, and getting their mom’s feedback as well.

By creating earnestly, they realized that the most beautiful things in the world take time and tons of energy. These must also come from the heart; hence, the siblings named their KnK fundraising project, “Heart-painted.”

After some time, the girls finally finished 20 paintings, with more in the works. For the first two collections, they artistically used acrylic paint on canvas. On the upcoming 3rd collection, Ava is exploring pencil shading while Ally is combining acrylic paint and colored pens.

As expected, immediate family members were the first buyers of their masterpieces, most especially their doting maternal grandmother whom they fondly call “Nana.” There were also friends and colleagues who eagerly supported the worthy cause.

“Their school teachers also helped them spread the word, but the challenge now is there are no more paintings available. They are currently busy producing more and look forward to cousins and friends joining. We are hoping “Heart-painted” will become a movement!” enthuses Mec.

Feeding 600

From their initial goal of raising funds for 300 meals, the girls remarkably exceeded their target and donated a total of 600 meals to KnK from the proceeds of their “Heart-painted” artworks.

“It is indeed an affirmation that there are people eager to support worthwhile projects. Ava and Ally get extremely excited every time a painting is sold. At first, they were not sure if many would be interested to buy their paintings, but we discussed that the only way to find out is to act on it. An idea without action will always remain an idea. Their most important takeaway from this project is to make their idea into reality,” Mec stresses.

Ava learned a lot on the virtues of patience and dedication to start a project and see it through. On the other hand, younger sister Ally says, “it feels good to give”. Her teacher has constantly described Ally as innately kind and the pacifier in class. Rightly so!

“This project has affirmed the joy one feels when one gives. It doesn’t just change the receiver, it ultimately changes the giver,” reflects the mom extraordinaire.

The Kusina ng Kalinga model goes beyond feeding. It is about building a commitment to care together as a community until no child is left hungry. It builds hope for each kid, by ending their hunger, they can start imagining tomorrow.

Your purchase of Heart-painted artworks can change lives! Make a difference and support Kusina ng Kalinga by visiting Heart-painted’s Facebook page.

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