Tzu Chi, Caritas bring eye care to women PDLs at Makati City Jail

PDLs at the Makati City Jail Female Dormitory received reading glasses and eye drop medications during Tzu Chi Medical Foundation’s optical mission. | PHOTOGRAPHs COURTESY OF TZU CHI MEDICAL FOUNDATION

The Buddhist charitable organization Tzu Chi Medical Foundation partnered with the Catholic Church’s Caritas Manila social service ministry late last year to bring hygiene kits, reading glasses, and eye drop medications to Persons Deprived of Liberty at the Makati City Jail Female Dormitory.

Caritas Manila Restorative Justice Program personnel approached the Tzu Chi Eye Center for help on behalf of the Persons Deprived of Liberty of Makati City Jail Female Dormitory.

It was the jail nurses that came up with the idea to provide non-prescription lenses to PDLs. Female Dormitory Chief Nurse Marife Viola Lumberio recalled an incident when they noticed two elderly PDLs wearing eyeglasses with hinges held together only by scotch tape. “We really felt bad for them. Eyesight is one of the things they need help with,” Lumberio said.

Caritas Manila’s Restorative Justice Program has been a fixture in Manila prisons, providing values formation, paralegal assistance, counseling, livelihood, and other projects to aid in the PDLs’ conversion, restoration, and transformation.

Caritas sought the help of the Tzu Chi Eye Center for the PDLs’ eye health needs. Three days before the visit to the Makati City Jail, Tzu Chi Eye Center’s volunteers and staff purchased shampoos, bath soaps, sanitary napkins, detergent bars, deodorant, and toothpaste to be distributed to the PDLs.

On the day of the visit, Tzu Chi Eye Center volunteers introduced Dharma Master Cheng Yen and shared some of her teachings with the PDLs. Afterward, the volunteers and staff performed the sign language of the song “One Family.” In response, the PDLs sang a song called “Salamat” to their visitors. The heartwarming visit ended with Tzu Chi volunteers and staff handing over hygiene kits to the PDLs with both hands while bowing and promising to come back.

Songs, respect, and love made Tzu Chi Eye Center volunteers and staff’s visit to the Persons Deprived of Liberty in Makati City a memorable encounter.

On their return a few days later, they brought reading glasses and eye drop medications. A total of 144 PDLs and jail guards benefited from the services.

Roxanne was one of those who received new reading glasses. It can come in handy now that she is studying under the Alternative Learning System. At 55 years old, Roxanne wants to make her son proud, so she aspires to finish her basic education; she is currently enrolled in Grade 10.

The optical mission benefitted Persons Deprived of Liberty and jail officers.

“I never had the chance to study because my parents were poor,” she said. “I am also fond of reading so the glasses I received mean a lot.”

One PDL named Sabrina surprised the Tzu Chi volunteers and staff when she handed over two peso coins. Sabrina was among the recipients of new reading glasses. The coins, she explained, were her humble donations.

“I know that the small things we can give in our present situation will make us a part of your mission to benefit others. It is like paying forward the kindness that we have received while we are here,” Sabrina said.

The other PDLs witnessed Sabrina’s example and followed suit. They dropped a peso or two in an empty plastic bottle that a Tzu Chi staff had fashioned into an improvised coin bank. The Makati City Jail Female Dormitory PDLs’ total donations amounted to P28.00 — one of the most special contributions the Tzu Chi Eye Center had received.

As Master Cheng Yen said: “Every person has the ability to bring light and warmth to others.”

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