Amid the cynicism in this world comes forth the salt of the earth a modern-day hero, a practical dreamer, and a noble project.
Founder, Yayasan Bumi Sehat (Healthy Mother Earth Foundation); 2011 CNN Hero of the Year
Waist-length hair, fire in her eyes, and a determined set in her jaw—these are the three things that you’ll first notice about half-American, half-Filipino 2011 CNN Hero Robin Lim, a natural birthing advocate. Meet the real Ibu (Mother) Robin behind the hero.
On her heroes and inspirations: My lola, Vicenta Munar Lim, was a hilot (traditional healer) in Baguio City and in the Cordilleras, and my younger sister, Christine, who died at age 32 while pregnant, are my heroes. She had medical insurance and was under the care of an OBGYN doctor in the USA, but he did not take the time or care with her, to prevent her unnecessary death. Every day, 981 mothers, in the prime of their lives, will die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
On the real Robin Lim: I am a mother, and a lola. I eat, pray and love midwifery! I am married to Wil, a musician, who is my best friend. My life has had many setbacks and heartbreaks. I have been discouraged many times, and have had to get back up and keep going, even with a broken heart.
On singing: I sing, but not too well, as I am a bit tone deaf! I do love to sing, and my favorite song is, “Thank You for Mine,” which was written by my husband, Wil, for me.
On her personal indulgences: I love to spend time in the kitchen, just hanging out with my kids and grandkids, and enjoying my husband and sons’ music. I love working in my vegetable garden. My most favorite dish is chicken adobo! I love my work!
On her dreams: To build a Gentle Childbirth center in Baguio that would take care of the poor and wealthy mothers with exactly the same wonderful service. The challenge is that I am far away in Indonesia. However, once we set it up, it will run smoothly and the Filipino midwives will care for it as well.
On her fondest memories: I remember singing Christmas carols and loving the Baguio pine trees; the smell of lola’s cooking on a wood fire; being very sick and my lola curing me with her herbs and massage, and not allowing my father to take me to the American hospital at Clark Air Field Base; and my lola trying desperately with her bare hands to dig the people out who were buried in a mudslide beside our house after a typhoon. Many of my memories of the Philippines are in my novel: “Butterfly People” published by Anvil and available in bookstores.
Founder, MyShelter Foundation; World Economic Forum’s 2008 Young Global Leader
His name means “God of Light” in Aztec. Social entrepreneur Illac Diaz has recently been “enlightening” the lives of many families with his “A Liter of Light” ‘solar bulb’ project. The half-Filipino, half-Italian model-actor-turned-advertising executive has been blessed not only with good genes (he is the nephew of former Ms. Universe Gloria Diaz) but also with a philanthropic spirit. He is a product of the Asian Institute of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University.
How did you get started with your projects? MyShelter Foundation, which gives access to innovative and sustainable housing models to low-income and marginalized communities in rural and urban areas, originally started out building schools made out of soil- and liquefied adobe-filled plastic bottles. We later replaced the bottle content with water and set up windows, which brought in more light and reduced the need to use electricity.
We eventually set up a social enterprise known as “A Liter of Light” (www.isanglitrongliwanag.org), which helped families install “solar bulbs” out of plastic bottles in their houses. Today, it has already crossed continents and has lit up 25,000 homes around northern Luzon and other parts of the Philippines.
Who or what is your inspiration behind all this? “A Liter of Light” moves away from a village-to-village approach into the more powerful world of social networks where everyone can build something using simple tools through videos, instruction kits, and Skype seminars.
Is being good-looking helpful in your getting more awareness about your projects? Being a former product endorser is not the most credible way to make people believe in your capacity to make a dent in the world. But it’s also from here that you begin to have the desire to do some good with the airtime you’re given. You want to do something more relevant with this temporary voice you’ve been given. So is awareness about projects.
What are your future plans? The MyShelter Foundation plans to consolidate all the plastic bottle technologies into one of the largest up-cycling programs in Asia; if not the world. Discarded plastic bottles are everywhere, and these can be building blocks to solve social problems a bottle at a time. We also want to move the Philippines away from being the beneficiary into a benefactor of the world.
What is your dream project and what would it take to achieve it? My dream project is for the “Liter of Light” to reach 100 countries and be the first large-scale, international success for a Filipino NGO.
THE WHEELS OF CHANGE
Sixteen-year-old Elmart Maglinte is just one of the estimated 200 students of Baclayon National High School (BNHS)who walk at least three kilometers to school. Living in a remote part of Baclayon with no access to public transportation, he was often late for school.
Then, in January 2012, Elmart received a mountain bike from Bikes for the Philippines. His daily 30-minute walk to school became a five-minute bike ride. “The bike made going to school easier,” he says. It also enabled him to do more housework and help his parents.
The brainchild of businessman Joel Uichico, Bikes for the Philippines has distributed some 100 bikes from U.S.-based nonprofit organization Bikes for the World to BNHS high school students. They also received helmets, shoes, and training on good biking practices—from learning about bicycle parts and hand signals, to the use of the helmet and bike repair.
BNHS principal Elvira Iyog-Jabonillo has noticed the change—higher grades, decline in absenteeism an cutting classes, reduced dropouts and no failing grades.
Uichico, however, has no illusions. “We might not be able to get them out of poverty—not with a bicycle—but we’re giving them a chance,” he stresses.
Elmart has since graduated from high school. “I’ll be working for [Uichico] fixing bikes part-time,” he says. He admits he may not go to college, but he is proud he’ll be able to help his family financially. The smile on his face says it all. — Isabel L. Templo.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Bikes for the Philippines accepts donations of helmets, shoes, pumps, and other biking paraphernalia. Send cash donations through the Synergeia Foundation, Inc. Visit bikesforthephilippines.org or the Bikes for the Philippines Facebook page for more information.