Who cares?

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    They may be wealthy and famous but it doesn’t mean they don’t care about other people.  In fact, they lend their names and even share their time and talent to help the needy and those who need compassion.

    That is what martial arts actor Jet Li has been doing since his near-death experience during the devastating 2004 tsunami.  “Up to then, I had spent the first 41 years of my life thinking of Jet Li: Jet Li number one.  But now I thought, ‘However, powerful, however, famous, in that moment it cannot help you,” he told Reader’s Digest, which has chosen him as its Asian of the Year 2009.

    Three years after the harrowing event, he launched the Red Cross Jet Li One Foundation.  And it is for this reason why the prestigious magazine has handpicked him over several other contenders.  “We have always strived to put out ordinary people on a pedestal and pull celebrities back down to earth,” wrote Editor-in-chief Jim Plouffe.  “Recognizing Li as our Asian of the Year lets us do both.”

    Think big by thinking small – that’s the idea behind One Foundation. The magazine informs, “Starting in China, Li has set out to raise one yuan (about seven pesos) from every person each month.  He likens it to one big family helping each other out.”

    “I believe helping each other starts with the individuals,” Li explains.  “It is everybody’s responsibility to give.  If everyone gives one yuan every month, it will add up to billion of dollars.”

    The 45-year-old actor himself revealed, “The Jet Li One Foundation is my life and movies just one of my hobbies.”  In a news dispatch, he also bared this information: “(The foundation) is not just about raising money but also about changing people’s beliefs and spreading a culture of love.”

    Another Chinese actor who is doing the same thing is Jackie Chan.  When he was born in Hong Kong, his parents couldn’t afford the hospital bill or food for him.  In fact, he was almost sold to a British doctor for US$200.

    “I was born into a poor family, and I stayed at an opera martial arts school for ten years,” he recalls.  “Every month, the Red Cross would come, and we would wait in line for clothes, shoes or milk powder.”

    One day, a priest gave him some milk.  He thanked the priest, who replied with these words: “Don’t thank me.  When you’re grown up, you will help other people.”  But it was after an incident where he almost died (when he fell from a tree while filming Armour of God in Yugoslavia) that he launched the Jackie Chan Foundation.

    In an interview with Reader’s Digest in 2004, the Chinese superstar revealed this thought: “I have a project in mind.  I cannot say it will succeed, but I will give it a go.  I have already about 50 hectares of land in China, and I will establish a school and recruit students from all over the world.  We will start with this prototype of less than 100 people, living together, learning the cultures of others, making movies.  If there are then million more Jackie Chans, then this (idea) will flourish and bear fruit.  We will know others better.”

    Last December 4, 38-year-old Somaly Mam was given the Human Dignity Award by the German-based Roland Berger Foundation.  She was cited “for her relentless fight to create a world without slavery.”

    She was 10 when she was sold to a traveling trader, whom she called “grandfather.”  At 14, she was forced to marry a soldier, who eat and raped her.  When her husband did not return from a war, she was again sold to a brothel in Phnom Penh, at age 16.  In the next six tormenting years, she spent her life in different brothels with other girls who were physically and mentally abused.

    Her experience did not stop her to help other sex victims.  In 1996, she established the Acting for Women in Distressing Situations, whose primary objective is to rescue women languishing in brothels and offering them refuge.

    Although her 14-year-old daughter was kidnapped, raped and sold to a brothel by people who were infuriated by her work, it didn’t stop her from pursuing her goal.  To date, more than 3,000 sex workers have been given new life.  The non-government organization also offered them psychological and medical treatment and vocational training.

    Although the name Dr. Teofredo T. Esguerra may not ring a bell, he is the only high altitude physician in Southeast Asia.  He was also the only doctor who joined the First Philippine Mount Everest Expedition Team in 2006.

    During that famous mountain climbing, Doc Ted (as he is popularly known) became the most popular figure in the mountain when he rendered medical treatment for free (where charges were as much as $75 for checkups and treatments).

    One memorable case was saving the life of Indonesian trekker Amalia Yunita.  She was suffering from cerebral edema, meaning her brains were filled with water. “This was an ICU (intensive care unit) case,” recalls Doc Ted, “but she could not be brought down because she would die of the extreme cold.”

    Incidentally, the Italian team had a laboratory at Lobuche known as the Pyramid.  Despite the fact that Doc Ted was from another country, they allowed him to use their equipment. The next day, Yunita recovered fully from her ailment.

    “This is my profession and a service I want to do as a Filipino doctor,” he says.  “What was important is that they remember that a Filipino doctor treated them, and treated them well.  So, next time a Filipino passes through this area, I hope the locals will remember me and treat those Filipinos well too.”

    Nathan C. Schaefer said it well: “At the close of life, the question will be: not how much have you got but how much have you given?  Not how much you have won but how much have you done? Not how much have you saved but how much have you sacrificed?  It will be how much have you loved and served, not how much were you honored?”


    For comments, write me at henrytacio@gmail.com

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