Originally published at Manila Bulletin
Somewhere in Barangay Palatiw, Pasig City is an organization of dreamers, sustainability advocates, and youth volunteers who actively implement programs to create social impact in the lives of the community.
Alexa Mira Society Inc. (AMSI), a non-profit organization, gathers individuals to work toward this goal. As a young organization, AMSI targets families in Barangay Palatiw to become their beneficiaries in several programs that aim to enrich the creativity of children, uphold the family as an essential unit of society, and provide skills and knowledge for the beneficiaries to identify and implement livelihood opportunities.
Myla poses for a photo beside the kitchen of one of AMSI’s family beneficiaries, which owns a canteen frequented by locals from Palatiw
More than its programs, however, the advocacy of AMSI is tightly connected with the personal story of Myla Bicol, its founder.
The story of AMSI
Being the youngest of nine siblings, Myla witnessed how her parents struggled to make ends meet in the Philippines. Everything changed when she, together with her family, migrated to Canada. Growing up in a foreign country, she realized how fortunate her family was, that she dreamed of returning home someday to make a difference.
In 2006, Myla and her sister-in-law, Aileen de la Torre, started a business called L.I.F.E Works Creations. This gave them a reason to go back to the Philippines and jump-start programs mainly for children. With their efforts, over 1,600 children of Palatiw Elementary School received a complete set of school supplies.
The joy that Myla and Aileen saw in the children’s faces inspired them to do more. That made her more determined to advance her cause. She started making frequent trips to the Philippines. She visited a number of hospitals where she had the chance to speak with parents and their kids who are suffering from serious illnesses like cancer.
Myla also visited an orphanage where she spent time with abandoned children. In one of her visits, she chanced upon children out on the street late at night, sifting through mounds of garbage. From there, she started feeding and gift-giving programs, as well as providing scholarships to children who have the potential and determination to finish
After several years of working to improve the lives of children in need, Myla realized her true calling—to become a mother. She and her husband decided to adopt a child. They named her Alexa Mira. Alexa came to their lives at the young age of nine months old.
For children and the family
Alexa became the inspiration for the name of AMSI. Today, one of AMSI’s main goals is to help more kids who are abandoned or neglected due to poverty. The organization continuously implements feeding programs for kids who are malnourished. It also helps children by providing them scholarships. In the future, AMSI aims to give a temporary home for pregnant women in the Philippines who are in crisis situations and are in need comprehensive care.
In 2018, AMSI began its first set of programs that were implemented by youth volunteers. Its flagship program, 4S On the Go, had four main components: The kids, livelihood, urban farming, and feeding programs, which were implemented from August to November 2018. Five family beneficiaries were brought into AMSI’s stead, where they participated in the programs and activities every Saturday of the week.
AMSI brought speakers, facilitators, and other competent individuals to share their experiences and their expertise to the family beneficiaries. From basic finance, nutrition, and wellness, down to introductory urban farming, the beneficiaries were exposed to an array of knowledge and skills, some of which they were able to apply in their daily lives.
Come July 2019, AMSI will begin its second round of programs, now focusing on kids, family, and livelihood development. AMSI will also begin to bring in more youth volunteers this year as it continues to expand its impact and operations.
One with the advocacy
Myla’s personal calling to motherhood and how this relates to the organization have been the driving force of AMSI ever since. Staying true to this advocacy, AMSI’s youth volunteers realized that the impact they bring to their beneficiaries has become encompassing and affects other aspects of their personal lives as well.
“AMSI allowed me to experience working [with] a team that’s devoted to a cause. My personal perceptions of myself, people, and society were given new light when I met Tita Myla, Alexa, and the rest of the team—especially our beneficiaries,” shares Eldrin Lee, AMSI Research and Development manager. “It made me realize that given our circumstances, we can do much more with our resources.”
For Mark Laceste, AMSI Impact Relations manager, he realized that the organization expanded his knowledge. “It shaped my ability to go beyond my understanding of the spectrum of women empowerment. Knowing their stories and struggles made me feel more grateful and appreciative of my life.”
AMSI Internal Operations manager Aki Nodado believes that the opportunity to transform the lives of others would come at the right time, when everyone needs it most. “It taught me to appreciate all that I have and all that I am now,” she adds. “It taught me to be grateful and become an instrument of uplifting the needy.”
During the culminating activity of AMSI’s program last December 2018, Myla shared how she felt that she has gained more sons and daughters, apart from Alexa, through the organization. Myla has always been the motherly type, tending to the needs of children and devoting much of her life in support of their development and education. Her calling toward motherhood led her to something more than what she initially asked for—and it will only get better along the way.