On March 2017, Tzu Chi volunteer Liziel Sasutil referred the case of Ponciano and Genara Leonar to the foundation’s Bohol office in Tagbilaran City. Genara is suffering from stage-four breast cancer, while Ponciano has slurred speech and mobility problems as a result of his stroke eleven years ago.

They live in a dilapidated house in Barangay Taming, made up of tarpaulin and thin plastics. The couple has endured the discomfort of their home for 20 years. They raised their three children, all of which have long left to pursue lives of their own. To this day, the couple has yet to see their children.

“I am merely a housewife. Ponciano was the head of the family. He was the one earning money for our living,” shares the 54 year-old Genara.

After Ponciano came down with a stroke, the breadwinner’s responsibility fell on his wife. Accepting door-to door laundry and selling firewood, she endured such strenuous tasks. As the couple continued facing hardships over the years, Genara fell ill. She noticed a small lump from her left breast that grew as time passed. Under severe financial strain, she ignored the lump thinking that it would disappear. At the age of 51, the lump became swollen.

Barely remembering their children’s names, the couple has been unable to ask them for help. Fortunately, a relative and a concerned neighbor contacted the children, asking them for financial support for their parents.

The couple has been receiving Php500 every month, in addition to government pension, for their food and other basic necessities ever since. It’s all their children can spare, which isn’t enough to rebuild their house.

Hoping to alleviate the suffering of Ponciano and Genara, Tzu Chi Foundation offers a helping hand in repairing and cleaning their home.

On August 5, 2017, local Tzu Chi volunteers, social workers, and scholars assessed the couple’s situation with a home visit. The dilapidated state of their home is enough reason for the Buddhist organization to commence repairs immediately.

“I want to be healed and be free from the pain my illness gives me. But I know it’s no use. For now, I wish my husband and I will be able to sleep comfortably in a more secure house,” Genara says.

“I worry because the pillars and braces are old. Anytime it will collapse. We also used old tarpaulins and plastics so that we can have privacy. During storms and heavy rainfall, we try to keep warm and dry but we still got wet due to strong wind and rain showers,” she adds.

Tzu Chi provided the materials for construction. Looking how Tzu Chi wishes to plant compassion and gratefulness to the people, Barangay Taming captain  Alfie Vistal manages to inspire barangay officials and residents to help in the construction as humanitarian work. Tzu Chi is also glad for the support given from the local government of Danao under Mayor Natividad Gonzaga for the additional manpower and transportation of building materials.

The renovation began on November 10.

With the compassionate hearts of all people involved, the construction and furnishing were finished in just five days. Their early Christmas gift doesn’t end with the house, as they also received a Jing Si foldable bed, blankets, sleeping mats, kitchen utensils, and 20 kilos of Taiwan rice. Tzu Chi scholars volunteered to clean Ponciano’s wounds.

Sleepless nights for the couple will be no more. Warm smiles spread in each other’s face as they thank Tzu Chi for the blessing.

Story highlight

  • Breast cancer patient Genara and stroke patient Ponciano Leonar from Danao, Bohol in August received an early Christmas gift: a renovated home courtesy of Tzu Chi. With the help of Tzu Chi volunteers and scholars, as well as the local government of Danao and barangay officials, the ailing couple will be able to sleep soundly for the rest of their lives.