A scholar with scholars
In her freshman year at the University of the Philippines, industrial engineering student Arizza Ann Sahi Nocum helped raise money to fund 101 scholarship grants for poor elementary, high school and college students in a troubled Christian-Muslim community in Zamboanga City.
As she goes on through four more years of college, Nocum, who is born of a Christian father and Muslim mother, vows to grant 400 more scholarships to Christian and Muslim students—100 for every year she stays in school at taxpayers’ expense.
She publicly announced this promise in a speech on April 13 at the 2012 District Conference of Rotary International District 3850 headed by RI district governor Melvin de la Serna.
The announcement surprised even her parents, Armand and Annora Sahi Nocum, founders of the literacy group Kristiyano Islam (Kris) Peace Library.
“It’s my way of giving back to my school and my country. I was lucky enough to become an Oblation scholar,” she says.
The UP’s Oblation Scholarship is given only to the 50 highest-scoring applicants in the nationwide University of the Philippines College Admission Test (Upcat) every year. It relieves them of almost 100 percent of the fees required.
“One year ago, when I found out I was an Oblation Scholar, I honestly couldn’t believe it—and neither could my parents!” Nocum confesses. She goes on to say, “But it soon dawned on me that the scholarship simply was not a privilege. It’s a responsibility.”
The sense of responsibility runs in the family.
Her parents founded the Kris Peace Library as reading and learning centers for young Christians and Muslims in some communities.
They initially set up the “Kariton y Libro” mission then, in 2001, the “A-Book-Saya Group” to give books to public schools and children.
Four years after its inception, Kris now has six libraries in poor, strife-torn areas in Mindanao and Luzon. And, from zero Kris scholars, 101 grants have since been given to Zamboanga students from elementary to college.
“I remember how stressed we were in June last year. The irony is my parents weren’t worrying about my tuition; they were worried about the scholars. At that time, the funds had not come in yet. Thankfully, one generous donor answered all our prayers in the nick of time,” says Nocum, who is now the Kris administrator.
Aside from a slew of accomplishments with the Kris libraries and its scholars, Nocum was one of five recipients of the 2011 Zonta International’s Young Women for Public Affairs Award. She donated part of the US$4,000 grant she received as prize to the building of a Kris library.
She has also been recognized by the UP College of Engineering, the National Library of the Philippines, and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid even filed Resolution No. 590 recognizing Nocum for making the country proud by showing the world “the spirit of Filipino excellence.”
“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it. I look at how much I pay every semester, and sometimes think how unfair it is. I can pay more, but I don’t have to—yet there are so many Filipinos out there who drop out of school because they can’t afford it. How can I not do something?” she says.
Nocum is currently seeking online sponsors of her scholarship campaign, appealing to people all over the world to give a $15 (or around P600) for the schooling of one Filipino student for an entire year.
Funds donated (through gofundme.com) so far total $185 after only a few days. Her speech at Rotary’s District Conference also immediately raised P14,100—mainly through the kindness of the Zamboanga City Rotary Club under president Rikki Lim.
“A lot of people look at me with doubt, as if I shouldn’t do these things because I’m too young to achieve change,” says Nocum. “I know I’m dealing with big things, but I do what I do, thinking that I am achieving change one child at a time.”
Interested parties may donate through http://www.gofundme.com/j0h70. Call (02) 254-3773. Visit http://krislibrary.com/ or e-mail email@example.com.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.