On the day I first met her, we were celebrating another successful year of our scholarship program for
children affected by conflict. I had asked the scholars to thank our donors, and she shyly raised her
hand. Shorter and quieter than most of the other girls, she wore a bright white hijab that distinguished
her from the crowd. As I handed her the microphone, I worried for a moment that she might not be able to
get the audience's attention.
She was suddenly transformed. Her first words were loud, decisive, and clear. For a 10-year old girl
studying in one of the most ill-equipped public schools in the region, her flawless, articulate
and sharp wit surprised us all. She thanked our donors, remarked on the importance of education, and
said how her scholarship will bring her closer to her dream of becoming a lawyer and public servant.
her speech, she even described her idol, the late Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago - an
outspoken and brave woman and admired politician.
A few months later, I heard about her again, but this time it was not good news. Her father had been
killed in a shooting incident allegedly involving the terrorist organisation whose presence haunted
town. In the same incident, her mother had been shot and paralyzed from the neck down. The motives
not clear but - fearing for their lives - the children had clearly decided to go into hiding.
We did our best to reach out to her. We believed in her potential and knew we had to make an effort
that it would not go to waste. We confirmed her scholarship, which guaranteed financial assistance,
school supplies, and free use of KRIS Library's facilities and computers, but this time we realised
also needed emotional support. When she resurfaced from hiding, she enthusiastically went back to
school. Though she missed a few months, she still managed to graduate at the top of her batch. Now
university, she holds on to the dream of becoming a lawyer and public servant, and her fervour is
stronger than ever.
Her story is a common one in many areas affected by conflict in the Philippines. Often violence is
with violence, which creates a cruel cycle where both sides lose. Though the mission of KRIS Library
promises libraries, scholarships and other forms of support to young people, what we truly give is
and courage. Hope that a good future is possible. Courage to break the cycle of violence and