AMSTERDAM - Former Ms. Netherlands 2006 Sheryl Lynn Paderes Baas believes that her crown and scepter are tools to help improve the lives of children in far-flung areas in the Philippines.
With the help of the Miss Netherlands Foundation, Baas started the Sheryl Lynn Foundation (SLF) at age 23, an organization focused on helping children through education. Her initial projects were done in the province of Leyte where her mother Susan Baas-Paderes was born.
In addition to sending school supplies and granting scholarships, SLF raised funds for construction of school facilities like toilets, stage and function areas in St. Fe Iton, Tagos, San Isidro, Tab-ang and other schools in Leyte. Their biggest project yet is a three-classroom building in Hitoog Elementary School where children used to have lessons in a small hut under a bamboo tree.
Inspired by her mother
Baas said that her mission was inspired by the story of her mother Susan, herself a product of a family where children have to help their parents earn money by peddling wood on the street, sometimes skipping school to be able to afford a meal.
“My mother told me stories about how she and her 12 siblings would only have one egg and a little bit of rice to share during a meal. A lot of people also told her that she should not go to school but work instead. But despite their poverty she persevered and finished her studies, went abroad, became successful and helped her family have a better life,” she said during an interview at her parent’s house in Capelle a/d Ijssel.
Even in the Netherlands, Baas said that her mother is also very helpful to other Filipinos, from her neighbors to the church and even to strangers who only wrote her letters. She grew up in this environment of kindness and giving.
Unfortunately her mother suffered a stroke that almost killed her and left her in a wheelchair. Baas believes that it’s her mother’s kindness and the prayers of those people she helped that aided her miraculous survival.
Children and education
The story of her mother’s rise from poverty opened Baas’ eyes to the importance of education especially to young children. During her regular trips to the Philippines since she was three, she had also been exposed to the difficulties experienced by families from poor provinces.
“I wanted to do something about that (poverty). During my reign as Miss Netherlands, I got involved in a lot of charitable projects and I had a dream for the future. I saw that this is already an opportunity and thought I can already start something meaningful now even though I was still young so I grabbed the opportunity.”
Now 27, she is currently the reigning Mrs. Holland Globe and recently represented the Netherlands in Mrs. World Pageant 2012 in California, USA where she won second place.
She also juggles a modeling career, her studies and taking care of her mother. But this did not stop her from the cause which is nearest to her heart. She holds regular charity events to raise funds for the Sheryl Lynn Foundation with the support of her fellow beauty queens in the Netherlands and contacts that she makes as part of her functions as a beauty queen.
“It may sound as a cliche but children are the future and it is true. The story of my mother only proved what education can do for a child. They are the most vulnerable people in any developing country.”
Even though her foundation is still small, Sheryl hopes that in the future, she can also extend help to other provinces in the Philippines. This is also the reason why she took up a course in Anthropology and will go to the Northern Philippines to research problems with water management and how it affects the lives of the people in these areas.