In the coastal area of Marcelo, municipality of Mabini, Bohol resides a young man named Riz John P. Abangan, 20 year-old. He is a 6th batch of Tzu Chi scholar, a second year student of Bohol Island State University – Main Campus, Tagbilaran city and took up Bachelor of Secondary Education major in English.

Their house is located in a coastal area raised on piles over the surface of water and a small part of soil. Its structure was made up of wood and bamboo, and is dangerous when typhoons or heavy rains occur.

Riz John is the third of 9 siblings. His elder sister, Alma, 24, works as a massage therapist in the city, unfortunately, her monthly salary is not enough to sustain their family’s basic needs since she has a problem with gallstone and needs immediate medication. Meanwhile, his elder brother Rizaldo, 22, has no work at the moment but helps his father in fishing at night. His younger brothers and sisters are still studying in elementary and highschool. Riz John’s father is a fisherman and mother is just a plain housewife. Their living conditions are not easy since they have lots of children to feed.

On the brighter side, Riz John is very much rehearsed in terms of academic and creative writing, active in extracurricular activities, the SSG Vice President, and a leader in different school and youth organizations during his high school days. It helped him build his self confidence in facing diverse people. He is very much dedicated to his studies and wanted to help his parents get out of poverty.

“Before I became a Tzu Chi scholar, I was really aimless. I feel some emptiness and really don’t know what awaits me in the future,” said Riz John, who really thought that Tzu Chi Foundation does not exist in Bohol.

“It was my teacher in senior high who told and encouraged me to apply for a scholarship since I want to continue my schooling. Luckily, I passed, and was able to continue my studies in college,” he added.

Riz John helps in doing household chores, cleaning, and planting mangrove trees beside their vicinity. He believes that planting mangrove trees can reduce shoreline erosion and can protect coastal communities against flooding, high winds and waves.

He, as stated, is very grateful to the Tzu Chi Foundation. Through its humanity classes, he learned many things which he can apply to his daily lives, had acquaintances with other youths, and found that he really belongs to the Tzu Chi family.

“I have learned so many things, one of them which really sealed my heart is kindness, we have to be kind to others regardless of their races and traditions,” he stated.

His younger sister Riza Abangan, 18, a senior high graduate, is really proud of her brother. “My brother is so kind, I could not say anything else. He always helps me in my school paper activities and serves as my teacher at home. Kuya is just one call away if I need help from him,” said Riza.

Marissa Abangan, 44, Riz John’s mother, is also proud of her son along with her 8 children. “We only feed ourselves by means of fishing. In God’s grace, we still survive even though life is hard. I often told my son [Riz John] to go and continue chasing his dreams and follow what makes him happy,” said Marissa, who has a big expectation for Riz John’s success someday.

She likes to extend her heartfelt thanks to the Tzu Chi Foundation for giving her son the chance to continue his studies and giving him the scholarship grant.

“To Riz John, I am very lucky to have you as my son. I do hope you still continue to do goodness to others. I know you have ambition not just for yourself but also for our family. Help us to alleviate this poverty. I am so proud of you and I love you!” she added.

“I wasn’t expecting that my son could avail the scholarship. Thank you very much Tzu Chi Foundation. I hope more and more people can receive love from your generous hearts,” said Ricardo, 54, Riz John’s father.

Riz John is very blessed to have them as parents. Despite the struggles and hardships they experience, still they never take themselves off and always be on their back to guide them.

“I am very thankful to my parents and siblings because they are always there to support me no matter what. They even take risks just to provide and support me in my dreams. I am very much proud, lucky, and blessed to have them,” Riz John proudly said.

“To my fellow youths, we are so grateful that we are given a chance to achieve our dreams by granting us scholarships. With that, we have to pay back to our community by spreading love and extending hands to the needy as Tzu Chi taught us,” he added.

Soon, after he finishes his studies, Riz John wants to get the license and look for a job immediately to help his family. He also wants to send his younger brothers and sisters to college and get a degree. Aside from that, Riz John wants to take part and give love to the Tzu Chi Foundation and become a volunteer by means of donating money, participating in any Tzu Chi activities, and helping others as well.

There is only one thing that makes a dream possible to achieve: learn how to accept challenges and failures. Even amidst the struggles and hardships their family experience, still Riz John is firm on his ambition and believes that everything is possible with strong faith, perseverance, and dedication.