They say that finding your true purpose in life is like looking for a thread in a sea of pebbles. It’s difficult. It’s a lot of work. But it’s not impossible. Many find it hard to look for their purpose but for Sitti Aisa Taraji (now Askalani), at a very young age, she knew what and whom she lives for.
Very ideal and cliché as it may sound, it was clear to her that she wanted to serve the Filipino people. At first, she thought that being a teacher would bring her to the purpose that her heart longed for. Little did she know, Allah had a more exciting plan for her.
Life brought her to a world that was alien to her –the life of a Social Worker. It was so unfamiliar that people around her doubted her judgment on career choice. Many has been said about her being a Social Worker –that she was groomed to be a street sweeper; that she cannot grow as a professional; and even compared her to her siblings who are all in the medical field.
But despite of all the criticisms that she received for making such a decision, she stood firm to her desire to be an instrument of hope and service to many underprivileged families. In her heart, she was already very blessed that she has a rather convenient life. So the least that she can do is to share her blessings and create a significant impact to humanity.
In an interview, Aisa narrated how inspired she was when she started as a House Parent in 1998. She was already a Registered Social Worker then. After her short stint, she volunteered her service to the DSWD until she decided to apply for a position in the department.
“Kahit na Registered Social Worker na ako nun, hindi ko inisip na dapat regular position agad ang makuha ko. Okay lang kahit magvolunteer ako. Para sa akin, basta lang makatulong ako sa kapwa okay na yun sakin.”
(Though I was already a Registered Social Worker then, I didn’t mind being a volunteer. For me, as long as I am able to help the needy, I’m good with it,)” Aisa said with a smile on her face.
Fast-forward to 2016, she became the head of the Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU). Her daily life since she moved from the center was filled by seeing clients in the office waiting for assistance.
“Makikita mo sa mukha nila yung hirap ng pinagdadaanan nila, yung tinitiis nila yung gutom habang nasa pila. Nasasaktan akong makita na handa sila ilagay sa alanganin ang kalusugan nila para makasigurado lang na matatanggap nila ang tulong mula sa ating opisina. (Their struggles are seen on their faces. They would endure hunger while in the line. And it pains me to see that they are willing to put their health at risk just to ensure to receive the assistance from our office,)” Aisa added.
To make the clients more comfortable while waiting for the grant of their requests, the CIU in DSWD-9, through the initiative of Aisa, provides refreshments, cup noodles, biscuits, and coffee with the help of the CIU staff.
Aisa narrated that it was a bit challenging at first because there was no budget for such. Through her ingenuity and impressive interpersonal skills, she was able to gather food and drinks despite the lack of budget. She said that her rapport, clean track record and good relationship with colleagues have really helped her in this initiative.
It brought joy to Aisa to know that this simple gesture is appreciated by the clients. After all, public service must not compromise the health of the beneficiaries.
This very simple gesture also contributed to the significant increase in the number of clients handled by the unit. From 6,000 clients served in 2015, the unit was able to serve 11,000 beneficiaries in 2016 and even increased to 18,000 people served in 2017. Truly, word of mouth is a powerful tool to let people know of our services.
If you come to think of it, it was really just a small gesture, a small pebble in the gigantic services that the department gives to clients. Who would have thought that this very small gesture would result to so much trust and appreciation from the beneficiaries?
Maybe it was because of the satisfying food. Maybe it was because of the refreshing drinks. Or maybe it was because of the genuine care that the people in the DSWD such as Aisa showed for the needy and disadvantaged.
As our interview with Aisa ended, she left a statement that sounded like it come from the bottom of a sincere heart.
“It’s not about the recognition. It’s never about it. It is about being human, about finding your sense of fulfillment, about giving glory to Allah (or God in Christian faith), and about giving hope to those who may have felt hopeless,” Aisa said.
She may not have a very lucrative job as her siblings and others who doubted her do, at least to herself, Aisa knows that she has fulfilled her purpose and leave a mark in this world.