It all happened one night when Hans Sy, who was watching the TV with the late Henry Sy Sr., saw the philanthropist and beauty guru Ricky Reyes crying and pleading the government to stop an eviction proceeding on the news. Reyes’ Child Haus, a temporary home for cancer-stricken kids, was on the verge of getting evicted from the property where it was built. Little did Hans know that his curiosity as to why Mother Ricky was crying on TV would be the start of something that will change his life forever.
“When he explained the incident, I myself felt that children should not suffer like this, and then I told Ricky, ‘Can you show me where you moved them temporarily?’, when I went to the house it was so crowded and felt [that] this is not the right way. So immediately I decided to buy a house for them,” Hans recounted.
After just a few months, Hans handed the keys of the house he bought in Quezon City to Mother Ricky. This served as a halfway house for cancer-stricken kids and their parents for more than three years. But as the need for a bigger and better shelter emerged, Hans did not hesitate to lend a helping hand to them. Hans, who is Chairman of the Executive Committee of SM Prime, bought a piece of land near the Philippine General Hospital and built a seven-storey building. And this building, which he bought and built using his own money, was donated to Child Haus as their permanent home during his 60th birthday.
“I tell myself at that age they don’t understand why they’re sick, why they can’t act like a normal kid, it really touched my heart and that’s why I’m all out to support them,” Hans added.
Hans’ philanthropic work with young cancer patients didn’t stop there. He would always go beyond his means to help fund Child Haus, often asking his friends to donate. Because of his numerous efforts to support the shelter, everyone at Child Haus treated him as part of the family, fondly calling him Kuya Hans every time he would go there and celebrate his birthday with them. However this year, as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) looms ominously, Hans chose to forego his celebration, prioritizing the safety of everyone instead.
But to his surprise, Child Haus director Mother Ricky decided to throw Kuya Hans a small and physically distanced celebration during the shelter’s 17th founding anniversary to thank him for all his hard work. Though he was hesitant to do it, Hans saw that this is an opportunity for him to advocate something that is very close to his heart.
“At this time of the year, it’s actually not really good to celebrate because we are amid a pandemic situation. A lot of sad things are happening all over the country, the world. There’s a lot of suffering and things like that. But as I said to many of my friends and to our staff members, this is really not the time to dread about problems. This is the time to look for opportunities, how to ease the situations not only for ourselves but also for people around us,” said Hans who just turned 65.
Continuing to champion the cause of cancer-stricken kids even during a pandemic
Mother Ricky’s Child Haus has been helping cancer-stricken kids for 17 years. With the support of generous donors like Hans and volunteers, the shelter was able to open its doors to more than 16,000 to 17,000 kids.
Beauty Guru and Philanthropist Ricky Reyes leads the birthday celebration of Hans T. Sy, Chairman of the Executive Committee of SM Prime. The celebration coincided with the 17th founding anniversary of CHILD HAUS, a charitable institution that serves as a halfway home for children who have cancer. Sy has been one of the most ardent supporters of CHILD HAUS.
Everyday, the shelter caters to more than a hundred kids, providing for their needs and assisting them in their medications. But at the onset of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, the halfway house was put in a situation that nobody was ever prepared for.
Around 50 kids who went home to their provinces because they’re not yet scheduled for medication had problems in getting their treatment when the ECQ was declared in Luzon. Due to the suspension of public transportation and subsequent lockdowns, the kids weren’t able to come back to Manila. And if Child Haus was able to transport them to Manila, no hospital would take them in due to the soaring case of COVID-19 in the city.
“So ang nangyari, yung mga doctor nila ang nakikipag-usap sa mga magulang. Kinakausap din ‘yung mga kaibigang nurses and doctors in the provinces on how to administer ‘yung mga gamot para sa mga bata. But we’re not even sure of that because they’re not oncologists. May natira po sa aming kulang-kulang 100 in Quezon City and Manila,” said Mother Ricky who was holding back his tears due to the problem that the pandemic has brought them.
For the hundred kids that were left in the shelter, Child Haus would call their doctors to coordinate their treatment. Hans as well as the other donors provided shuttle services for the kids to safely transport them where their doctors are so they can receive the needed treatment. And because cancer-stricken kids are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, Mother Ricky had to ensure that nobody would acquire the dreaded disease by strictly implementing safety measures.
“Ang bata at ang kaniyang nanay ay hindi tatanggapin sa Child Haus kung walang certification ang doctor niya na ‘yung bata ay hindi dumaan sa lugar na may mga ginagamot na COVID. Kuya Hans at sa lahat ng mga donor namin, we’re glad to say in [the] time of pandemic, the most vulnerable children who have cancer, nobody had perished from COVID-19,” said Mother Ricky in his speech during the event.
Dreaming big for the kids and humanity
During the said event, Mother Ricky and Child Haus launched a program to acknowledge the heroes of the shelter– the volunteers, donors, and benefactors who tirelessly extend their hands just to see that the needs of the kids are met. Called the One Dream For Humanity, this program establishes the core organization of the benefactors, volunteers, and donors like Hans Sy and the others who were recognized during the event.
Hans Sy, Chairman of the Executive Committee of SM Prime, delivers an encouraging message to the 20 Dream Keepers who are recognized during the joint celebration of his 65th birthday and the 17th founding anniversary of CHILD HAUS.
“Ang ating donors at volunteers ay tatawagin na nating Dream Keepers… Ang ating mga dream keepers ay talaga namang hindi bumibitaw. Sila ‘yung mga tao nandoon all throughout the time,” said Mother Ricky.
A total of 20 individuals and organizations who served as donors and volunteers for Child Haus throughout its 17 year-existence were recognized during the said event. Among the dream keepers acknowledged were the Metro Manila Mayors’ Spouses Foundation Inc., Feed the Hungry Foundation, Rotary Club of Salcedo, Hi-Precision Diagnostic Center, and the Santisimo Rosario Chorale Group.
Mother Ricky encouraged everyone to go to the shelter and help the kids and their parents in any way they can. “Pumunta lang kayo doon, kausapin niyo ang isang nanay and give her a consolation that there’s hope in this world. Napakalaking tulong na noon. Sa inyo pong lahat na gustong tumulong sa mga bata, pasyalan niyo lang kami sa Child Haus at siguradong may passes na kayo sa langit.”
As for Hans who was beaming in happiness as the kids virtually greeted him on his birthday, he wanted to remind the kids of Child Haus about keeping an optimistic outlook in life, because even though life has many adversities, there is always a reason to be positive.
“What is best is to be strong, be positive, and look forward to life,” concluded Hans Sy, who was cited by Forbes Asia among its Heroes of Philanthropy for his work with Child Haus.
The Sy family’s SM Supermalls was named among Asia’s Top Community Care Companies in 2020.
SEND CHEERS in the comments below to Child Haus and Henry Sy for continuing to provide housing care for children stricken with cancer.
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