By Erika Isabel Yague, Rotary Peace Fellow at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
As Rotary Peace Fellows, we find inspiration when we take time to remember and recognize the people who support and motivate us in our work of pursuing a sustainable peace. For me, the principal person is my mom, the first woman that inspired me to live life in a way that would give back to the community. And given that May is the month of Mother’s Day, I felt it doubly fitting to talk about my mom as we honor the amazing mothers or mother figures we have in our lives.
My mother lived a provincial life in the Cagayan Valley region of the Philippines. Our family had moved to the capital, Manila, because there were more opportunities for education and work. She was a full-time housewife and dedicated her life to taking care of my brother and me. She was a cook, a tutor, a friend, and gave all the support we needed as kids.
She would also do a lot of volunteer work, like serving as president of the neighborhood association and as a community-mediator in the village. She inspired my brother and me to become leaders and community-servants – which is the reason I chose the path of peacebuilding. My brother is seeking a degree in medicine to become a doctor.
Of course, life wasn’t always perfect. We had economic troubles as part of the struggling lower-middle-class in the Philippines. Our parents really didn’t see eye-to-eye, which caused a lot of heartbreak on both sides. The situation was particularly challenging for my mom, who had given up her career and didn’t know where to begin again when she needed to find a job. I worked a lot with women and gender-based violence, but it was difficult seeing it in my own family. Yet, despite everything that happened, my mom continued to persevere and look for other ways to keep busy.
My mom moved back to her hometown, Solana, Cagayan, a small municipality in the Cagayan Valley Region. Among other reasons, she decided to go back to take care of her ageing mother. She initially worked in agriculture and farming, but the toll on her physically prompted her to start a small business making handicrafts and woodcarvings. I helped her with a little seed money to set up stores that she could rent out and manage. The income supported my family when I went back to school to pursue my masters in the Rotary Peace Fellowship program at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
I would always share with my mom my experiences with my host club, the Rotary Club of Paddington, and talk about my host counselors. My mom was so interested and happy hearing about the initiatives of the club, especially the support I was getting from my counselors, who took care of me like I was their own daughter. She was so inspired that she decided to start a Rotary club in her municipality. She told me that since she had no means to support my studies, and because she was so grateful for the opportunity Rotary was providing, she felt the least she could do was give back to her community and provide opportunities for the marginalized and vulnerable.
Chartering a new club
My mom established good networks in Solana, and reconnected with family and friends she had missed during her years in Manila. She was already connected with a few members of Rotary Club Citadel and gained their support to start a club in the municipality of Solana. The Rotary Club of Solana Moonlight began with 30 members and chartered in 2020.
I’m proud to see what the club has accomplished so far. They have donated more than 1,000 reading glasses for senior citizens in their first month. They also initiated a COVID-19 Relief Drive for people who have lost their jobs, particularly focusing on farming communities, senior citizens, and persons living with disability. They are currently looking for more funding to do a second-round of relief operations and possibly reach out to all those affected by COVID-19 and the resulting quarantines.
The reason why I am really proud of my mom is that she showed resilience in channeling her negative feelings and experiences in her personal life into positive action by organizing the Rotary Club of Solana Moonlight. My mom’s heart found healing in community work, and my now Aussie Mums have also dedicated part of their lives to support their community. All three of them have found Rotary as an avenue to give back. I’m grateful to have such inspirational and supportive mothers in my life.
About the author: Erika Yague is a Rotary Peace Fellow at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. She was awarded the 2020 Janet Lawrence Peace Award and a Paul Harris Fellowship in recognition of the service and commitment she has made to her classmates and community.
For more information on the Rotary Club of Solana Moonlight, visit their Facebook Page