The Healing Servants Foundation was spearheaded by Fr. Gerard Deveza in 2002. A diocesan priest, he was ordained on Oct. 7, 1981, in Sorsogon.
It was 10 years after his ordination that he received the gift of healing. In prayer he asked if there was more that God wanted him to do.
What Fr. Gerard deemed an answer to his prayer came in the form of a woman who, without fail, visited him daily to have her stomach healed. After each encounter, the old lady said she felt better.
One time he asked her if she had taken her breakfast. The woman paused and said: “That is my problem, I have nothing. I cannot afford breakfast.”
Fr. Gerard was moved into action. In his own community of Cabid-an, Sorsogon, he caught kids getting food without permission.
The incident led Fr. Gerard to invite the children and their families for nine consecutive Saturdays, to teach the young ones catechism and the adults character and value formation. He also created job opportunities for the parents by seeking the help of the Department of Trade and Industry office in Sorsogon to conduct small-scale business seminars for them.
The parents learned how to make gulaman, maja blanca and juices, and how to bake simple cakes. Then Fr. Gerard volunteered to lend the parents seed money to start their business. The only condition was that they pay him back—without interest.
The lesson he wanted them to learn was simple—debts must be paid. To his delight, each one of them paid on the specific date they committed to.
With the success of his nine-week program, Fr. Gerard felt his mission had taken on a new course.
In 2003, Sr. Evangeline Ramayrat of the religious order Sister Servants of the Divine Healer (SSDH) asked Fr. Gerard if he could send a child to school. When he learned it would cost only P5,000 he immediately said yes.
He was taken aback, however, when Sr. Evangeline informed him that there were 20 to 25 children who needed P5,000 each to go to school for a year.
Fr. Gerard took on the challenge and, with his friends and benefactors behind him, converted the old SSDH convent into two classrooms—for Kinder 1 and Kinder 2.
He also came up with something for the idle parents who would take their children to school and while their time away talking until their children were dismissed. Fr. Gerard encouraged them toward more productive endeavors instead—by learning how to make native delicacies made from pili, laing, ginataang santol, to name a few.
Eventually, Fr. Gerard sought help beyond their community and tapped other pili makers to meet the demand for the products. It was proof, he said, that people are willing to help, especially when they see the effort of the beneficiaries to better themselves by opting to work instead of relying on dole-outs.
According to Deveza, having products to offer is a good way to ward off donor fatigue syndrome.
These days, the Divine Healer Academy of Sorsogon that started with two classrooms now has 26, plus a covered court. It has 368 students from Kinder 1 to Grade 11. The first batch of graduates are now in different universities, and are on their second and third years of college.
In this season of giving, the Healing Servants Foundation Inc. has put together packaged edible treats. Bestsellers are the honey glazed crispy pili nuts, Pilitas (pili pastillas) and pili polvoron. Also available are pure honey, a breakfast surprise bag (organic rice, danggit, 100-percent pure tableya) and champorado breakfast surprise (organic rice, 100-percent pure tableya and pili cookie crisp).
Buying the homemade Christmas delicacies from Sorsogon helps send a child to school. Each purchase gives underprivileged children a chance to complete their education.
Looking into the future, Fr. Gerard is praying for some three million people to make a one-time donation of at least P50. This will allow him to set up a trust fund for the foundation that would support the school for years to come.