Gen Z friends follow a random thought to help jeepney drivers

Published October 14, 2020, 10:58 AM

by Dhel Nazario

  • The four friends were touched by the sight of jobless jeepney drivers holding placards asking for help.
  • ‘The jeepney drivers brought us to our dreams, so the right thing to do is to help them,’ they said.
  • They launched an online fund drive which got people to donate cash and talent.
  • Their initiative packed 172 grocery bags that were distributed to jeepney drivers — not very much, but it made them realize the priceless feeling of satisfaction of being able to help strangers.
  • Now they are thinking of another way to help another group of strangers.

One fine attribute of human character — kindness — has turned up many times during the pandemic.

The heartwarming stories on kindness now sprinkle inspiration in social media and of course, lead others to do the same. From the early acts of kindness done by faceless citizens to the organized acts that have brought food on the tables of jeepney drivers and unemployed parents, the community now seems to be a better place to live in knowing that there are good people out there.

The more inspiring stories come from those who do not even have much and yet they go out to bring hope to the desperate.

Among these outstanding citizens are four young women, commuters since their school days, whose hearts were touched by the sight of jeepney drivers holding placards telling of their plight and begging from commuters.

“They (jeepney drivers) helped us get to our dreams, and now we see them begging to feed their families,” was the thought that pricked their conscience and brought them to action.

The four women are — Tomie Meriel Siñel, 23, broadcast monitoring staff; Bhem Zayas, 22, licensed customs broker; Cris Rioja, 25, sales development representative; and Jeanger Enriquez, 22, social media manager.

(Tomie Meriel Siñel / MANILA BULLETIN)

With little experience in distributing assistance to a group of people they only knew as jeepney drivers who used to bring commuters like them to school, work, leisure, and worship activities, the four friends launched an online fund drive.

“To be honest, it was a random thought. We were talking about the jeepney drivers and how seeing them in the news begging and holding up placards touched us. It was ironic that once those same drivers had brought us to school and now they have no jobs,” Tomie said.

The daring gesture to take on a big problem and the knowledge that they could help in a small way was already the second time the Gen Z friends have ventured into random thoughts of kindness.

The first was when they raised funds to make PPEs early in the pandemic when news of lack of protective devices was putting the health workers and front liners at risk. For that, they had produced and donated to a hospital 250 face masks, 30 PPE suits, 500 surgical gloves, four gallons of alcohol, and 25 lab gowns.

This time, the fund drive to help jeepney divers inspired strangers to come up and donate not only cash but also talent. A freelance artist named Mickee Diolata started an “Art Commissions for a Case” offering a free artwork to each donor of the online drive.

A former Overseas Filipino Worker, Charise Vinuya, who had turned to online selling, donated a pack of boneless bangus for every two packs that she sold.

Another artist, Jean Pacis, launched “Logo Commissions for a Cause” and donated a portion of each commissioned work.

The young women were amazed at the way the fund drive inspired other people to share what they have, and those people did not even know them but only recognized the women’s sincerity.

The result was not very much when viewed against the millions of pesos and truckloads of goods distributed by the big corporations who made it to the news. But for the jeepney drivers, it was much.

Tomie said that they raised exactly P75,706.80 which paid for 172 grocery packs that were distributed in three waves to the jeepney drivers along Blumentritt, R. Papa. Laong Laan, Letre, and Balintawak in Manila. Each pack contained rice, canned goods, packs of noodles, sachets of instant coffee, powdered milk, Vitamin C, and disposable face masks.

(Tomie Meriel Siñel / MANILA BULLETIN)

“We were happy to see the drivers’ eyes light up when we unexpectedly approached them one afternoon. The ‘thank you’s” were so heartwarming to hear; some shared stories on why they could not ply their routes anymore. Some said the food would be their family’s only meal that day,” Tomie said.

The experience made each think deeply about what else they can do.

Cris wants to continue helping the jeepney drivers.

Jean still feels the sadness of the situation. She said it’s disappointing that the drivers who contributed so much to everyone’s everyday life get little assistance from the government.

“I could not just do nothing; I had to do something, even in a small way, or in whatever way possible. I know the grocery pack was just a small thing compared to what the drivers had done for us. It may sound overacting, but it’s hard to go on with our lives and livelihood without them. We cannot leave them behind,” she said.

Bhem was touched by the situation of seeing drivers stopping jeepneys to ask for help. “I told myself I have to do something to help.”

“I will definitely do it again. I will continue to help those in need especially during this tough time. It just feels like it’s the right thing to do,” Bhem said.

The young women have long closed their fund drive. After they sent the accounting of the funds to their donors, they are now thinking of their next project to help another group of people who have been forgotten.

“We are grateful to everyone who helped. That will always remind me that there are still many good people in Manila,” they said.

“For the first time in my life, I feel fulfilled and eager to continue serving the people. I really want the initiative to continue,” Tomie said.

With more people doing acts of kindness, no matter small gestures, we shall get out of this pandemic with a better community.