When the government started giving ayuda in kind during the lockdown that started in March last year, Maria Monica Dizon-Alejo, a mother of three, noticed that there are no relief goods dedicated for babies. Thus, she thought of starting a non-profit organization she named Project: Happy Babies PH (PHB) that would give assistance to newborns and kids.
With support from her husband Lester, relatives, and friends, Monica was able to gather essential needs like breastmilk, formula milk, diapers, vitamins, clothes, soaps, among others. According to her, she knows that sponsorship of breastmilk substitutes is prohibited, but she accepts them so that kids with special needs would benefit.
Monica was called out for giving formula milk and has faced authorities to explain where they are being distributed. More so, the organization’s Facebook page was reported and taken down several times. But these challenges didn’t stop her from continuing the group’s mission.
Apart from helping, there’s another reason that drives Monica to continue what she has started. “I’m also doing this (charity drive) to honor my late daughter Yuna,” she said in Filipino.
In 2015, barely a month-old, the second child of Monica died of a heart attack due to pneumonia. Accepting and coping up with the painful experience didn’t come easy to her. “For two years, I got depressed and felt useless. But slowly, I was able to cope up through the love and support of my husband and family,” she said while holding back her tears.
According to Monica, she remained strong and tried focusing on good things like spending more time taking care of her family and doing felt cloth crafts. Eventually, she turned the hobby into a small business. On her Facebook page My Crafty Heart PH, she sells different customized items artistically designed with a felt cloth such as baby books, fashion accessories, photo frames, educational toys, and more.
Focusing on her role as a wife, mother, and owner of an online store also helped her to move on. But bearing her third child brought back anxiety and fear that the past might happen again. And it almost did, when her youngest son Yael was rushed to the hospital due also to a weak lung condition. But that time, she and her family believed even more in divine intervention and made sure Yael would be healed and healthy as he is today.
To return the blessings as well as to remember her only daughter in a meaningful way, Monica made a covenant to do charitable activities during Christmas. And doing something for a good cause every 25th of December helped her divert her grief throughout the holiday season. “If I can no longer take care of my late daughter, why not take care of other kids who are in need,” expressed Monica.
Thus, Monica as a concerned mother, became more active in giving care for children especially when the pandemic came. And now seeing community pantry grew in numbers all over the country yet forgetting children’s needs again, she found herself once more gathering basic needs for babies and kids.
Monica said that all donations she acquired will be available in Project: Happy Babies’ version of the Bayanihan. With support from family, friends, corporate companies, and her mommy volunteers, Monica and her group will install Baby Friendly Community Pantry at Dr. Mendoza compound in Santo Rosario, Pateros this Mother’s Day 2021.
Monica, a mother who once went through overwhelming sadness, hopes that helping in her own little way those struggling mothers would somehow lessen, if not, overcome, their stress during this time of crisis.