'Listen to voices of the poor' – Magsaysay Awardee Maria de Lourdes Martins Cruz

The 6 recipients of the prestigious 2018 Ramon Magsaysay Awards were officially recognized during the presentation ceremonies at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Friday, August 31.

Among the awardees is East Timor's Maria de Lourdes Martins Cruz. She was lauded for uplifting vulnerable members of society by providing health, education, and culture programs through her organization, Instituto Seculare Maun Alin Iha Kristu (Secular Institute of Brothers and Sisters).

Here is the full text of her speech, as provided by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.

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Vice President of the Philippines Maria Leonor Robredo, Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, distinguished guests, members of the Magsaysay family, fellow awardees, ladies and gentlemen.

Greetings of peace, solidarity, and fraternity to all! My honor and gratitude to the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for selecting me to receive this award. I thank you, President [Carmencita] Abella, and your team for your support.

I was full of dreams growing up in a small village, blessed by my family and nature in a coffee plantation. All those dreams were destroyed by war; war kills people in ways worse than animals. I started to revolt when I became a victim. But God led me to a different path.

During my retreat, I asked Him, "What should I do?" In the stillness of Jesus' suffering image, I heard a voice say: "Why do you search for me in the convent? You see, I suffered a lot in a remote area with poor, disadvantaged, illiterate, and suffering people. They don't have any support. I really need your help!" This is the real secret of my life's vocation.

Returning to East Timor after my studies, I was motivated to work, physically, and spiritually, to establish IS-MAIK to serve the poor, even if I began with no funds.

It is not easy to find volunteers to solve social problems in rural areas. So we established branches with like-minded groups, places to empower poor and disadvantaged people like the youth, teach them the realities of life and educate them. We started schools for life, where people learn in a practical way and live with nature. In the process, they developed beliefs that made them work together to transform society. It is like building a house carefully one brick at a time.

We listen to poor people's voices in times of difficulty and conflict. A genuine concern for the poor and marginalized motivated members and the IS-MAlK family, in a chaotic situation, to be unafraid to take risks, organize teams to bring people to safety and peace. We worked with the police, military, and militias, and the international community, so that they show respect for human rights. With support from civil and military authorities, IS-MAlK cared for refugees or displaced people to feel safe and respect life. We fed them, gave medical assistance to those in need, and protection to those in danger or were "suspects." We listened to those who experienced violence, helped them settle down with prayers and reflection. This is the work IS-MAIK had done, especially before the 1999 referendum.

With Dr Daniel Murphy, lS-MAIK established Bairo Pite clinic in September 1999. We treat people using herbal and natural medicine until help from the international community and emergency teams arrive. This was the first clinic to respond to all emergency situations after the conflict, with the dedication and hard work of Dr Dan and his staff. IS-MAIK intends to continue the clinic's work, help people with tuberculosis, and children and mothers who lack nutrition. This, IS-MAIK offers to the nation as part of its contribution to build a caring society.

I could not have done all the work and mission without the support of all my brothers and sisters. I cannot mention everyone by name – all your names are written in my heart, and I carry you on my shoulders. Our work and mission are not yet finished; there is still plenty to do. I continue to count on you all, so please come and help! God bless you all.

Thank you! – Rappler.com

Read the speeches of other 2018 Ramon Magsaysay Awards recipients: