RIYADH, 19 August 2007 — Basketball referees are not lovable on the hard court, but in Riyadh a group of Filipino referees have shown that they actually have hearts of gold.
Last weekend, the Siglakas Group of Referees (SGR) demonstrated this last Friday by bringing grocery items to the Bahay Kalinga, a shelter for distressed Filipino women maintained by the Philippine Embassy.
Gerry Espinosa, the group’s president, said that this was their way of sharing what little they were earning during their free time. SGR’s members are hired for a fee per basketball game and the group, which was organized only last year, set aside 10 percent of their earnings for charitable purposes.
“Lending a hand to those in need is a fulfillment. The feeling is very different,” Espinosa said as his group turned over their donation to Welfare Officer Abdulghani “Jimmy” Umag, the shelter’s administrator, together with Labor Attaché Resty Dela Fuente and POLO/OWWA administrative officer Mimah Mangotara.
“The fees for our services is another form of blessing from God, and we thought we should share the same to others in need. We hope to continue this charity work for as long as there are basketball activities within the Filipino community,” said Ricky Arellano, an officer of the group.
SGR’s members are the most sought-after professional basketball referees by Filipino basketball leagues in Riyadh, said Bong Amora of the Kalipunang Kaakabay ng Mangagawang Pilipino sa Ibayong Dagat (Kakampi-KSA), who along with Reynaldo Ruiz coordinated the charity act. Kakampi-KSA is based in Riyadh’s 3rd Industrial Area.
SGR leaders said the wards of Bahay Kalinga were easily identified as beneficiaries of the group’s first donation since they are undoubtedly in need of help.
Officially known as the Filipino Workers Resource Center or FWRC, the shelter houses tens of mostly household service workers who have escaped from their employers either because of maltreatment, sexual abuse or non-payment of wages. As of Friday, the shelter had 106 wards and some of them would soon be repatriated to the Philippines once their plane tickets come, said Dela Fuente.
“We are not soliciting any form of donations from the Filipino Community but if the good deed was given wholeheartedly from any Filipino groups, they are most welcome and we are very grateful for that,” he said.
Dela Fuente heads the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh, which runs Bahay Kalinga.