Monday, May 26, 2014

KCAT CAN: The best birthday treat

The best birthday treat

"I am Kcat Yarza. We’re here to celebrate my birthday by sharing my blessings that I call family and friends.” That was the introduction I gave in each ward during our 8th MAY Birthday Project at the Philippine General Hospital last May 17.

“We want to let you know that you are not alone because someone cares for you.” I relayed everything in Tagalog, of course. I paused and got distracted whenever I saw someone crying not because I feel pity for them but because I saw in their faces that their prayers were somewhat answered, especially when I said the line, “Habang may buhay, may pag-asa (while there’s life, there’s hope).”

Two months prior to the event, I started campaigning about my birthday project and help kept coming since that day. Sir Jean Henri Lhuillier, the chief executive officer and president of PJ Lhuillier Inc., was again the first to respond to my email despite his busy schedule. Mandaluyong Mayor Benhur Abalos has always been a supporter of the birthday project ever since he offered to help in 2012. A couple of friends offered to collect and solicit donations on my behalf. All I did was to sit in front of my computer and the donations kept coming in. My NF friend Sugar was able to get help from Senator Antonio Trillanes’ office. Another NF friend, Ate Cecile, had her friend donate boxes of adult diapers. My friend Arpee was able to hook me up with Lamoiyan Inc. who donated boxes of Hapee and Kutitap toothpaste. It was HAPEEness indeed! My high school friend, Dianne and her colleague Ivy got the rest of their co-employees involved and wrote a letter to their company, SC Johnson who donated 250 bottles of OFF! lotion. Goldilocks bakeshop sent 200 pieces of their fluffy mamon, which I personally handed to each patient because I like interacting with them too. Cyleina soap sent a box full of their organic soap for the patients to use. Miss Vicky and her kids made 150 pieces of loom bracelets all from scratch to share with the kids. My friend Adie, the CEO of Asian Institute of Computer Studies (AICS), has been going from town to town doing work for the school but she always made sure to spare a day for the project — personally buying the items and delivering it. I feel so blessed with a lot of people in my life. This is why I am also able to share.

One of our family friends brought a group of puppeteers who performed for the kids in Pedia ward. The magicians of The Story Circle joined us once again and entertained everyone, including the volunteers, nurses, doctors and guardians, with their magic tricks.


When we started with the gift-giving in 2007, we were only able to give a small plastic bag of items, toys and food. But this time, we were able to share a lot, from toiletries and necessities, toys, food, to a whole lot of fun, encouragement and hope.

When we arrived in front of the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), I blurted out, “Ang sarap!” because of the cold air that’s coming out from the air-conditioned room. Then I realized that even with this hot weather, we’re still so lucky because we are not the ones who are inside that ICU.

Everyone was so focused on reaching out and making the patients smile that most of us had no time to look down on our phones. They were mostly used for taking snapshots of the event. Of course, there would be some who needed to take a call or send a text message, but after they’re done, the attention was shifted back to the patients. In today’s time where everyone can’t get their eyes off their phones, is that even possible? At MAY Birthday Project, it is and it happened!

While there were a number of people who weren’t able to participate in our activity, there were also a couple of new faces who joined us. A total of 106 people from different walks of life were able to spread happiness and give hope to almost 200 patients of the PGH charity wards.

Timmy, my six-year-old nephew, was so eager to join us although he wasn’t allowed yet in the wards. My grandma who is weak and sickly, joined the repacking of the items and went to the event. Dane, my best friend’s niece helped me distribute the loom bracelets to the kids. Ms. Chit read about the event on Facebook and headed over to PGH with her son even without knowing anyone from our group. No one goes home without a newfound friend, anyway. It was also my brother Maro’s birthday last May 17 and his friends joined him for the first time and they all had fun.

“You don’t have to be financially wealthy to own a BIG smile. We went home with a BIG smile on our faces but left an even BIGGER smile on the faces of the patients!” my friend Christjohn posted.

It was very tiring and hot but no one looked exhausted; everyone was happy. Joel shares, “Nothing beats the feeling of bringing joy and happiness to other people’s hearts.”

My friend Jen, who works in Doha, could not attend the event but she still gave her support by sharing what she can and also encouraging her friends to help out as well.

“Seeing the happiness in the eyes of the children as well as their parents in receiving gifts as the volunteers and cheerful givers reach out to them was priceless,” Jen shared upon looking at the pictures.

On the other hand, Abhie who lives and works in Qatar always comes home in May so that she can join the gift-giving event in person. No matter how full the itinerary of her vacation was, she always made sure to pack some candy lootbags to distribute to the kids.

Since May is Neurofibromatosis (NF) Awareness Month and coincidently, May 17 was World NF Awareness day, we were joined again by my NF Friends during the event. It was our way of letting everyone know that being sick and looking different from others is not a hindrance for us to share and care. NF is not contagious, anyway.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for everyone who supported our 8th MAY Birthday Project 2014! I pray that we can keep doing this for as long as I am alive, breathing, and celebrating my birthday.

My mom is celebrating her birthday tomorrow. Please include her in your prayers so that she may have the strength to get through despite her Lupus. All these wouldn’t be possible without her.

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