The locally established “Chef Aiza’s Community Kitchen” has relaunched its operation to distribute healthy drinks for medical and non-medical frontliners in Puerto Princesa City who are at the forefront of the serious battle against increasing cases of COVID-19.
Melissa Grace Olit, a 13-year hospitality management professor at the Palawan State University (PSU) and organizer of the community kitchen that was born out of pandemic, said that they have started to distribute the healthy drinks a few weeks ago this month of April to focus on healthy drinks out of vegetables and fruits instead of meals.
A few days ago, the healthy drink distribution was officially relaunched and dubbed as “Oplan Lusog Lakas” in partnership with the JCI Puerto Princesa Oil, Inc., a young professional organization.
“Nag-reactivate ang community kitchen into more on healthy drinks naman kasi nakita namin nakaraan na wala ng time kumain lalo ‘yong IMT natin noong time na sunod-sunod na nagkaroon ng surge of COVID-19 cases. Nakikita namin sa post na hindi na sila nakakakain on time, pagod na rin sila,” Olit said.
“Kung drinks, kahit saang sitwasyon sila, kapag kailangan nila bigyan ng energy ‘yong katawan nila, puwede nila gawin into drink, doon kami nag-start. And since may friends na nagtatanong kung kailangan ko ng gulay, hindi na rin naman ako nagluluto ngayon pero kung meron sila mabibigay sa amin, bigay nila sa amin,” she added.
Olit said that the community kitchen did not stop in 2020 after distributing free meals. Instead, it strengthened its advocacy, campaigning for balanced diet and healthy meals during the pandemic.
Healthy juices are in flavors of camote tops, lemongrass, cucumber, lettuce, and oregano that aims to boost the strength of the body’s immunity.
The project prioritizes medical frontliners, especially those who are members of the Incident Management Team (IMT), COVID facilities, and would like to extend it in hospitals such as Ospital ng Palawan (ONP), which is now in a toxic state due to exhaustion brought by numbers of cases.
“We are doing this halos pa-three weeks na simula noong medyo tumaas ang cases natin. Slowly, kung ano lang kaya namin i-provide, nandon na kami. We started giving to the IMT, team na nasa COVID facilities natin, ilang kilala natin na nasa loob ng quarantine na part sila ng medical frontliner. Nagkataon ngayon nakita namin na medyo kailangan ng hospitals,” she explained.
“Sila ngayon ang nangangailangan ng lakas at tulong para maprotektahan tayo. Kasi kapag sila ang humina, sila ang affected talaga, kawawa ang buong community,” she added.
Aside from medical frontliners, the group is also extending their support to the non-medical frontliners like policemen deployed in checkpoint areas due to the hard lockdown in some barangays. They also have a partnership with the Philippine National Police (PNP) to also extend healthy drinks in some barangays that want to help.
The production reaches some 200 bottles each day for intended recipients. Its partner, JCI Puerto Princesa Oil works with gathering donations from vegetables and fruits to bottles, while Chef Aiza’s community kitchen is focused on preparing in the kitchen.
“Talagang ang lagi namin iniisip is hindi magiging rason ‘yong pagkalat ng virus o COVID ‘yong way ng pagdi-deliver namin kaya pinag-aaralan din namin. Ang ginagawa namin ngayon, kinukuha namin ang datos, number ng tao na meron sa bawat agency at naka-box na ‘yon, pini-pick up na lang nila, walang umiikot galing sa team namin,” she said.
Sustainability of the organization
Olit said they are also looking into the sustainability of the organization after receiving different recognitions and providing inspiration to even outside the province in a year.
In the month of January, the Palaweña chef received the “Outstanding COVID-19 Volunteer” award from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Regional Office in MIMAROPA.
“Hindi namin hahayaan na isang araw ay hindi namin maipagpapatuloy ang adbokasiya, so pinag-aaralan namin kung paano namin tuloy-tuloy talaga na siguro mas mapalaki pa ‘yong Chef Aiza’s Community Kitchen para mas marami kami matulungan,” she said.
“Ang pinoposisyon lang lagi kasi namin, ang aming kusina ay pwedeng magbigay ng serbisyo sa mga tao na nangangailangan o sa isang lugar na nangangailangan sa pamamagitan ng kapasidad namin na volunteers, ‘yon ang pwede namin ibigay. In case na wala man kami natatanggap na donasyon, pwede kami tawagan, pwede kami padalhan ng ingredients to prepare for them,” Olit added.
The one-year run of the community kitchen made Olit see that it is important to get some inspiration from other individuals with whom they shared common intentions. It fuels their spirit and gets more inspired seeing how the community values their capacity to help at trying times like pandemic.
“Ang maganda lang dito sa Chef Aiza’s community kitchen, ‘yong volunteers namin after the pandemic ay naging kapamilya na. Anytime, sila na mismo, (nagsasabi na) start na tayo, sila na minsan magsasabi sa’yo na may isang community na may kailangan. Iyong mga tao na natulungan namin, nakakatuwa na sila rin minsan ang magbibigay sa amin ng information na meron isang komunidad ng pangangailangan,” she said.
To avoid causing problem, the group always thinks ahead of ways they could move safely due to the risk of COVID outside.
“Kami talaga ay laging upuan, pag-isipan kung ano ang gagawin para maprotektahan mo ang sarili mo kasi hindi mo kayang makapagbigay sa ibang tao kapag hindi mo agad naingatan ang sarili mo. Iyon ang dapat lagi natin iisipin sa pagtulong, ano ba ‘yong magiging impact noon? Paano ba natin pinag-aralan ‘yong gagawin natin, ‘di ba? Baka mamaya, again, hindi nakakatulong siya. Iyon ang gusto mo, intention mo, pero baka hindi siya nakatutulong kasi iba ‘yong sitwasyon ng COVID,” she said.
She always believes that everyone has something to contribute and at a risky time like a pandemic, the best thing to do is to support existing groups to spread the help to a wider scope.
Even staying at our homes during the hard lockdown could be a great help to the goal of virus containment, while COVID cases are increasing in the city, she said.