Interview by Jacqueline Labrador
Right now it’s a challenging time to own or run a business and even more difficult if it’s in the non-profit sector. But this didn’t stop Tia Razon CEO and founder of the Corazon Roxas Foundation from starting her own non-profit to help disadvantaged girls lead happy and productive lives. It may be a challenge to fund such an endeavor during an economic downturn, but resourcefulness and creativity can see you through even the toughest of times, and as Tia hopes, toward positive change.
What is the Corazon Roxas Foundation about?
The Corazon Roxas Foundation is dedicated to supporting organizations that provide care for girls who have been abused, abandoned or have been victims of human trafficking. We have 2 programs, one that provides care packages to orphanages and homes that care for these disadvantaged girls and the second, which provides educational opportunities for these girls to pursue college level training in medical, IT, and engineering fields.
What were the reasons behind starting your own non-profit?
While I was on vacation in the Philippines I visited an orphanage and an abused girl’s home. That visit proved to be life changing. I met many young girls, all under 10 years old, with heart breaking stories. One girl under 4 had been thrown in the dumpster, one was left at the doorstep, some were abused by their family members – all were seeking refuge at this home. The children were lovingly cared for in a dormitory like setting. This was their safe house. The administrators of the home explained how they relied 100% on donations. When I got home, it became apparent that it didn’t take much to make a big difference. Our first shipment of food was received with much enthusiasm. The home sent us photos of the girls with the shipment – big smiles, holding up the goods we sent. It was very touching. We showed these to friends, one very special supporter, now a dedicated volunteer, shared it with her friend, a school teacher who said she would help with the second shipment. She donated reading books that were being discarded from her classroom collection. The second shipment got the same enthusiastic response. We showed the teacher the picture of the girls reading her books a continent away. She was very happy that they found a good home and sent the word out to her fellow teachers. We got the call one day to pick up literally thousands of books from her school! That was the beginning.
What are the goals for the Foundation and where would you like to see its progress in the next few years?
We would like to grow the number of organizations we support. Our care packages provide day to day support for these organizations but we wanted to go further, guided by the expression “you give a man a fish and he eats for a day, you teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime”. Our new partnership with the accredited Emilio Aguinaldo College will allow us to provide a professional education for a disadvantaged girl. Our hope is that by providing an education in well paying professions like medicine, IT, and engineering these girls will be able to provide a good life for herself and her future family. We would like to send 2 girls to school in the 2010 school year and double that amount each year thereafter. We want to create a community of professional women who can rise above their poverty, setting an example for the next generation to follow.
Additionally, we have recently partnered with an organization who cares for the neediest of girls in a town that once serviced a US military base. A notorious community of prostitution had developed for many years when the base was active. Many women out of necessity resort to prostitution to survive and feed their families. Some of their children are illiterate, victims of abuse, or human trafficking. You quickly learn the meaning of the word “helpless” when socio-economic factors are stacked against you. And that’s why we strongly support the Preda Foundation’s goal of helping these women reach for a better life. It is all about providing opportunities that many of these girls would never have.
Are there any issues that your foundation deals with that you would like people to be more aware of?
Gender Inequality is a problem especially in Asia. UNICEF’s “The State of the World’s Children Report in 2007” finding is that equality between men and women is essential in lowering poverty and improving health particularly among children in developing nations. Around the world, women and girl’s suffer physical and sexual violence with little or no recourse for justice. Human Trafficking is especially pernicious as it preys on the most vulnerable in our society – women, children, the poor, and the least educated. Education is the key to a domino effect that can change lives. As a small organization our challenges are daunting however we believe by helping even one life at a time we can make a difference.
What inspires you?
Seeing the look on our recipients faces when they receive our shipments, reading letters of gratitude, and hearing stories of how they squirrel away our books to read at night despite the house rules. As well as listening to the teachers tell us how they value the shipments, something that was destined for landfill in the US. Knowing our small efforts are making a difference is inspiring and satisfying.
What are the challenges that you face in today’s economy starting a new foundation?
Starting our organization during these times is very difficult. With economies all over the world being hit, it is most difficult for those who had nothing to begin with. Honestly, we struggle with how to raise awareness to potential supporters. Thanks to organizations like UniversalGiving we hope to raise awareness. A little bit goes a long way. Our dollar goes 50 times further in the Philippines. We try to be creative and resourceful and one such effort is “educational recycling” – taking children’s books scheduled for landfill and shipping them to elementary schools in remote villages. We are partnering with colleges and foundations to double the number of girls who can attend college. Grant matches and giving part time jobs to our recipients are all ways we are trying to be resourceful.