The 2015 edition of The Philippines Yearbook is all about The True NGO: Uncovering Our Hidden Heroes. It’s no surprise that Gota de Leche is part of the list; pages 138-145 of the book feature words and photographs chronicling the foundation’s century-old vision and mission.
A message from President Benigno Aquino III mentions how non-government organizations have been “instrumental in promoting social justice to this effect and remain vital contributors to nation-building.” With recent national scandals involving fake NGOs shaking the nation and affecting the efforts and commitment of those who truly work to alleviate the country’s plight, this theme is a breath of fresh air. The president adds in his message: “May this year’s edition of The Philippines Yearbook champion the determination of these collectives as agents of positive change, the volunteers and workers who tirelessly devote their time in selfless service of others.”
Gota de Leche is one of the many NGOs dedicated to meeting the needs of women and children. Women, children, and the elderly make up a whopping 70% of the Philippine population, and are considered the poorest and most vulnerable…and consequently, the most victimized.
Addressing the roots of the problem, which is to take them out of poverty, and to educate communities how to value women and children, can end the cycle of abuse we’ve come to regard as “normal” in our society.
In its 108 years of existence thus far, Gota de Leche has been consistently addressing malnutrition brought on by different circumstances: war, disease, poverty, lack of education, etc. The United Nations revealed that around 6 million Filipino children are malnourished, with some severely so that their physical and mental growth are stunted.
Our country has the second largest number of undernourished people in Asia – to not do something about this alarming fact is criminal.
Little stories of improved health and hope recounted by grateful parents and guardians of Gota de Leche’s young beneficiaries help piece together what the foundation has done for women and children since 1907. Cherry Aquino, a mother whose son Vergel has been a patient at Gota for over two years, recalls how Vergel was so weak, he couldn’t play or talk. Their local government health center had no feeding program, and only doled out medicine when the constituents become sick.
Cherry learned about Gota de Leche’s programs from a neighbor. Today, her small son can climb stairs and communicate with ease, that she says it’s hard to believe how sick he was before she enrolled him in Gota’s feeding and medical programs.
Formed by early feminists of the Asociacion de las Feministas Filipinas, the board and staff of Gota de Leche continue to have descendants of former officers and directors in its roster. Keeping the legacy alive via the spirit of volunteerism is perhaps the foundation’s secret weapon. Today, youthful volunteers from different schools in the vicinity, and a team of medical professionals all strive to address starvation and neglect one beneficiary at a time.
Because of volunteerism and respect to history and legacy, the drop of milk (gota de leche) which this true NGO got its name from continues to spread the milk of human kindness all over the country.