Monday, December 15, 2003

Best leaders are good servants

Business Times pB.5
Monday, December 15, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Best leaders are good servants: Most are found in soup kitchens

IN Barangay Commonwealth on Saturday, 250 elementary pupils and preschoolers, their teachers and administrators played hosts to their visiting benefactors from Japan. These are Messrs. Masahiko Fujii and Yoshio Nakajima from the Rotary Club of Tokyo-Koto.

The children and teachers expressed their wholehearted gratitude to the visiting Rotarians by way of a medley of Filipino and Japanese songs and dances. Fujii-san and Nakajima-san responded with a $30,000-donation to the Light House Center for Children Foundation Inc., (actually the fourth donation totaling US$120,000) and gifts of cash and goodies for each student.

Light House is one of the many service and fund-raising organizations under the Rotary Soup Kitchen, Food Bank and Training Center Inc. This is a project of the Rotary Club of Quezon City North under the indefatigable leadership of Charter president Judge Lore Veneracion.

The Soup Kitchen is a service concept-driven organization. It’s sole purpose is to serve the community, especially the young ones. As such, they have various services that cater to children’s needs such education, counseling, food, water and shelter.

Their major headquarters and facilities are in the NGC Housing Project, Barangay Commonwealth. They also extend their services to the children of Payatas District.

To grow their commitment and remain financially viable, they focus on three areas of excellence: servant-leadership, quality of service and fund sourcing and management.

The Soup Kitchen started from the heart of Judge Lore nurtured with big doses of financial help from his various friends and the members of RCQC-North. Judge Lore, some Rotarians and the Soup Kitchen employees are volunteers, albeit servant-leaders all.

As Robert Greenleaf, the man who coined the phrase, described servant-leadership: “Servant-Leadership is a practical philo-sophy which supports people who choose to serve first, and then lead as a way of expanding service to individuals and institutions. Servant-leaders may or may not hold formal leadership positions. Servant-leadership encourages collaboration, trust, foresight, listening, and the ethical use of power and empowerment.

“The best test of a servant leader, and difficult to administer, is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, will they not be further deprived?”

Judge Lore and his team seem to heed the advise of Muriel Siebert, founder of Muriel Siebert and Co. Inc., “when good things happen, you owe.”

Serving the poor among us does not mean giving them leftovers or rendering sloppy service. The Soup Kitchen provides quality service and products. Among the educational assistance they offer are elementary and high school instruction, short-term courses such as basic computing, computer technician course, programming and web design and college scholarship program. They have state-of-the-art computers, thousands of textbooks and reference books and other amenities.

These services are not for free. They are subsidized, i.e. offered at about one-twentieth of the commercial price. The Soup Kitchen is a helping organization; it’s not a dole-out outfit. They want to give the poor the dignity to rise above their situation. For meritorious cases, they waive their meager fee.

They have a daily feeding for free for 645 very young kids from various barangays in Payatas. The Light House, when fully constructed, will serve as classrooms and half-way house for street children. They also serve the kids’ moms by way of a revolving fund to assist them acquire sewing machine in a lease-to-own basis plus free sewing and mothering lessons.

I’ve heard Judge Lore say many times over the years: “We need money for salaries and wages, building construction and repairs, facilities upkeep, utilities and many, many other expenses; but I don’t worry. I just look up and ask Him to take charge and send me the money in His own way and His own time. He always delivers on time through our various donors and patrons. We are blessed.”

Not to burden Him a lot, the Soup Kitchen also do income-generating ventures like water refilling stations, bakery (their cheese bread and monay are terrific), mami house, canteen service and waste management venture that produces organic fertilizer.

All their major donors are from Japan, USA and Australia, mostly Rotarians. These are the network of friends of Judge Lore. Some, like Messrs. Fujii and Nakajima, heard about the good judge when the story of his refusal to impose the death penalty landed in the front page of major dailies all over the world. He lost the chance of promotion because of pro-death politicians; but he gained a big number of admirers all over the world for his firm pro-life stand.

The lost of our judiciary is the gain of the poor. Noel Tichy, professor at the University of Michigan Business School, said, “the most effective leaders are in touch with their personal stories.” And these stories earn for Judge Lore and the Soup Kitchen the trust and money of kind-hearted donors.

You, too, may get involved and contribute in your own way to make the Soup Kitchen a growing success. You may donate your time, effort and/or money, whichever you have in abundance and will lovingly give. You may buy their products. Their telephone number is 930-4262 and 430-7666.

(Moje Ramos-Aquino endeavors to honor and keep Christmas in her heart all days of her life. Her email address is

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