“I was trying to complete my thesis proposal, which is due next week,” Ms. Cheska Jem Embudo answers my query as she tries to arrange the papers on top of her fully furnished, brown-stained, wooden office desk. She resumes talking as she settles in a gray, padded chair behind her office desk; and corrects her eyeglasses. I ask her if she is available for a short interview. She replies with a smile, “Sir, what can I help you?”
From looking at the photographs pin on the side of Ms. Cheska’s desk, one can vouch she values her children and family above all else. The happy faces of her children in the photograph radiate blissfulness. Amidst hectic schedules on meetings and audits, she passionately works as a document custodian by finding enjoyment at small successes. Aside from working as a document custodian, on Saturdays, she handles NSTP classes, which she molds student to be responsible stewards through community service. When questioned, “how do you value community service?” She smiles, “Well, giving back to the community is a shared responsibility. Small acts of kindness make a big difference.”
As the music of JK’s Buwan echoes in the faculty lounge, besides Ms. Cheska’s workspace, I adjusted my chair closer to her office desk to hear what she is talking. Big blue document binders with tags are noticeable behind her. Her office desk has a rack full of printed audit documents. On the side, a whiteboard is full of marker’s prints about her to-do list for an incoming audit. After scrolling my eyes around her workstation, I pay attention more on our talk on community service. A Davao native, hospitality professional, she finds a family in Cebu. When I ask, “Why did you quit your job at a luxury hotel?” She replied, “I wanted to focus on my family where I could not do on my last job. I also wanted to earn my MBA.” Right now, she is a thesis-away from earning her MBA. While working as a document custodian, she had an opportunity to teach part-time. She holds classes on social studies and NSTP. Ms. Cheska confesses, “I frankly feel a sense of fulfillment when holding community service programs on my NSTP.”
While Ms. Cheska relaxes on her chair, she discusses the NSTP programs she holds over the years. Recently, she conducted a clean-up drive with her NSTP student near Cesar M. Cabahug Elementary School. She shared, “It was an early morning activity with my hospitality students. I am worried if they would come. I didn’t require them. Fortunately, they did.” She was all smile as she shares these experiences with me. She is passionate about helping others. She fixes her posture and continues sharing her experiences. When asked, “How about activities involving children?”
As the telephone on her office desk rang, she immediately asks to be excused for a while. As I wait her finish the call, on the faculty lounge’s TV, a telecast on Senate’s hearing of the water crisis in Manila echoes. I fix my posture as I glance at Ms. Cheska about to finish her call. She smiles and asks, “Sir, where are we?” As I replied to her about the Gift Giving and Feeding Program, she removes and places her eyeglasses on top of her office desk; and continues sharing. She shared, “I wanted to give the less fortunate student a few bundles of school supplies. I went to the barangay Opao and ask them help for finding 65 elementary school students to be the beneficiaries. I could not do the activity without the help of my 52 hospitality students.” She pauses and calmly inhales.
I continue asking her about the activity. When asked, “Who’s the beneficiaries?” She said, “They are school children from a public elementary school living in Barangay Opao.”I admire the Gift Giving activity she does. When I ask her, “What prompted you to do this? Is it a requirement?” She calmly replies, “No, it is not a requirement. I want my student to experience the joy and fulfillment of doing community service.” She continues and smiles, “Tabang lang sir (I want to help)!” I continue asking her, “Do you required your student to help?” She nods and adds, “If they do not want to help, it is up to them.” When asked, “What do you want them to learn about the activity?”. She continues saying, ” I want to teach generosity and kindness. With small help, it can make a child happy.” I asked her about her plans for the activity.
She willingly expresses, “I ask my students to prepare a program for the event. I instructed them to think of fun activities for the children.” As she talks, I can feel her commitment to make the activity a success. Her habits and gestures speak a lot. I ask her, “Do you prepare foods for the children?” She excitedly replies, “Yes, we gave food to the children.” I continue asking her, “Would you share what happened in the activity?” Without reservations, she shares how the activity went. The event commences as planned. The children play along with her student and receive prizes. They eat prepared foods with happy faces. When I asked her, “How were their faces?” She immediately tells, “Their faces radiate with oozing gladness.” She was so happy describing them. She added, “Their happiness was infectious.”
I continue asking her on the actual giving of the gifts they had prepared. She replies, “When I saw the children faces after they received their gifts, I knew this is a success. I look at my students. Their faces were the same as those children. Everyone experience a blissful moment. I knew I attain both of my goals. Teach my students the value of community service, and help these children. It was like hitting two birds at the same time.” As I hear these words, I feel her deep commitment to community service. My gratitude towards her is utmost for granting these interview. As the interview nears its ends, I have realized a few things.
By the end of the day, Ms. Cheska notes, little things done makes a big difference. Whether someone gives a piece of notebook or an acre of land, the beneficiary is proudly thankful for these gifts. Furthermore, Ms. Cheska notes community services is not costly. Everyone can make a difference even with small acts of generosity. It’s clear, community service to makes a big difference especially those who are less fortunate beneficiaries. As the interview nears an end, Ms. Cheska leans her back on a gray, padded chair behind her office desk. Casually, Ms. Cheska says, “Okay na sir? (Is that all?)” I nod and bid my thanks for a fun and great interview. As I went out, she wears her eyeglasses. Then, she pulls out her thesis drafts and skims the thesis’ draft where she left behind before the interview.