When you see her for the first time you will have a hard time distinguishing Arizza Ann S. Nocum from your typical college student. How can you not? She dresses and talks like everyone else.

But once you hear her story, the veil is lifted. I guess the closest word to describe what I see in her story is the word HOPE.

Their family had seen first-hand what war and violence can do. They stand witness to the never-ending conflict that ravaged the southern part of our country for what seemed like countless years. Just recently, they have seen the devastating effects of the  Zamboanga siege and the Mamasapano incident to the region. I cannot begin to imagine what it must feel like to be a refugee in your own town, in your own country. Their family was right in the middle of it all.

In a seemingly hopeless situation Arizza and her family was able to come up with a brilliant solution – they start building libraries.

They named all the libraries they have built, Kris (Kristiyano-Islam) Library. As the name suggests, it was built to welcome everyone. They built the libraries to provide a safe place where children can go, play and learn together despite their differences in culture and religion.

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 “Kung merong isang lugar na pwede mong dalhin yung mga bata na magkakaiba yung background nila, magkakaiba yung religion, magkakaiba ethnic group, kung merong lugar na ganun, yung pwede silang magstudy together parang yun yung starting point na pwede magkaroon ng friendship and siyempre later on, acceptance, understanding and peace.”

She went on further to describe their two fold goals:

“First, nagpu-provide kami ng educational resources sa mga lugar na walang resources.”

 “Second, bringing together yung mga bata sa library namin and ini-introduce namin yung  concept ng openness, na dapat open sila sa mga kababata nila na iba yung religion, iba yung background, tapos dun sila magtitipon tipon with the common goal of learning together.”

They opened their 1st library in 2008. They currently have 6 libraries, 4 of which are in Mindanao. Arizza also told us how they were able to provide scholarships to 300 students in the span of 4 years.

“I can tell you right now, ang hirap! Tuwing enrollment para akong nanay na naghahanap ng pang tuition.”

A SINGLE SPARK, THE BEGINNING OF INSPIRATIONS

It amazed us how at such a young age she was able to find her voice and act on one of the most significant social issues today-ignorance. We asked her if there’s a particular event in her life or someone who inspired her to do these things.

“Ang galing ng education namin sa PSci (Philippine Science High School), lahat kami libre. Yung mga teachers ko sa PSci, ang galing. Tapos kahit maliit yung sweldo nila, sobrang bigay todo, yung quality of education na binibigay nila sa amin. Dun pa lang makikita mo na na sila mismo, mga bayani at same values yung ini-impart nila sa aming mga estudyante”

She went on to say:

“Ako naman, dinibdib ko yung mga sinasabi nila sakin. Dun ko na-realize na may utang na loob talaga ako sa bansa natin.”

Her strong background in education inspired her to provide the same quality of education to everyone else.

BUILD A LIBRARY, FILL IT WITH BOOKS AND PEACE

Arizza told us some amazing stories about their libraries. She told us how they were worried at first that children from different communities would fight, but instead of fighting, they just started playing with each other.

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Her testimonies prove that for children, there is no religious stigma harbored towards one another; they only see a potential friend who can play with them. In this case, adults should follow suit.

Arizza, together with her family, was able to go beyond the conflict, going on with the rest of the world, as they start to fill buildings with shelves, within each shelf, books, and within each book, lines, each line containing peace, waiting for the children and everyone else to find.

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WHAT MAKES HER DIFFERENT

Although many of us acknowledge education as the antidote to the many errors of the world, only a few actually acts on it. Ignorance is the blindfold that keeps us from seeing the truth, education would be the shears that take away the cover and make us see clearly again, but no one is cutting away at the soiled fabric.

“Building libraries is how I channel my activism,” she stated.

She was able to act out a solution instead of just feeling sorry for herself and giving in to despair.

Arizza was raised by a Muslim mother and a Catholic father. She described how they were able to sustain peace within their family. Coming from such a background, Arizza and her family can connect with everyone and confidently make the statement that religion should not be used to initiate turmoil and conflict. That it should be used instead as an opportunity to channel mutual respect.

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They were also able to take two different religions and provide a middle ground. Christianity should not wage war against Islam and Islam should not pursue war on Christianity. We should all follow the example of Arizza and her family. We should be waging war against ignorance.

The weapon of choice for this passionate heroine is education.

Within the ideals and principles of this young woman, there is a sincere heart that simply wants to provide a refuge for the children of our country. To provide that safe place where they can escape all the abuse and hate, a place where they can begin to create a new future for us all.

Arizza and the Kris Library calls for kind hearts who would like to volunteer or donate: electric fans, desks, books, and money. Anything you could contribute to help Kris Library.

You can go to their website for more information on their projects: www.krislibrary.com.

You can also contact them through this number: 09152659596 or maybe send her an email at arizzanocum@krislibrary.com. Please follow them on facebook at facebook.com/KrisLibrary and on twitter twitter.com/KrisLibrary.

Arizza currently studies Industrial Engineering at the University of the Philippines. She is also currently the Overall Head of Kris Library.

What do you think of this young woman and what she is doing? Talk to us using the comments section below!

Photo Credits to krislibrary.com