How a young Filipina artist in Berlin turned to postcards to inspire, help others amid pandemic

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 24 2020 08:02 PM | Updated as of Nov 04 2020 11:33 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) — For a young Filipina artist trapped inside an apartment in Berlin, a two-week quarantine period back in May was an opportunity to start a new initiative.

Combining her background as a painter and her training at a business school in Germany, Jo Bautista used her paintings of the coronavirus molecule to send a message of hope while helping those in need.

“I’ve been an artist all my life. And during the pandemic, I found myself painting images of the coronavirus molecule, but with an eye in the middle. I painted this image over and over again, and I called them Corona eyes. They were my way of pushing myself to see the pandemic from a different perspective,” she shared in an online talk from Berlin Friday night (past midnight Saturday Manila time).


A post shared by Jo Bautista (@jo_bautista) on

That new perspective led to “SendtoGive,” an online platform for sending postcards from anywhere in the world to countries within Europe, India, Singapore, North and South America, and Australia.

Bautista herself designed the postcards, initially consisting of 6 versions of her “Corona eyes” paintings, each depicting a wide range of emotions — from anxiety to courage to hope and resilience.

All the profits, she said, went to partner organizations in the Philippines that organized feeding programs for the homeless in Las Piñas, gave grocery packs and farming supplies to farmers in 3 different provinces, and sent their very first scholar to school — a 12-year-old boy named Ken who started studying early this month.

Now the social impact venture has expanded to provide menstrual pads to young girls in Kenya, according to her website.

“All of these has been made possible through the simple, meaningful act of people sending their loved ones postcards from Chile to Slovenia, to Russia to India. SendtoGive postcards have been sent to 18 different countries and its seven different, beautiful languages — the universal human value of kindness shines through,” she shared during the TEDxESCPBerlin talk.

“In short messages of strength, support and humor, we’re reminded that indeed, we will make it through this difficult time,” she said.

The inspiration to do something and help, Bautista said, came from stories from the Philippines.

“Over 20 percent of the population was living beneath the poverty line before the pandemic. But when corona hit, lives and futures were just crushed. Imagine having no savings, no income, no social support, no option to beg. Nobody to borrow money from for mouths to feed and just a big blank question mark as to when this will be over,” she said.

“Each time I touched my phone, I was overwhelmed with photos of good, honest hardworking people faced with impossible situations, starting to lose hope,” she explained.

Launching SendtoGive, she said, not only gave her an opportunity to help fellow-Filipinos from 6,000 miles away, it also allowed her to “meet new friends, forge new partnerships and mobilize teams in various locations — during a quarantine.”

Reflecting on her experience, Bautista said SendtoGive taught her that everyone has the power to effect positive change.

“Sometimes, the negatives in the world can truly be overwhelming. And you may think that your acts of kindness would just be a drop in the ocean,” she said.

“But I’ve learned that it’s not a drop in the ocean to the people who receive your help. It’s so much more - it’s a free warm meal after days of starvation; it’s the light on a lonely face when they see a postcard in their mailbox; it’s the dream of a young boy who wants to be a civil engineer and now actually has a chance. It’s hope.”

“When you send acts of kindness out into the world, you give hope. And when people have hope, there’s no future they cannot face,” she continued.

Bautista was chosen to speak at the online TedTalk forum after winning at a speaking competition among students across all ESCP campuses in Germany, one of the most prestigious and leading business schools in the region.

She offered this advice to young students like her — act towards the future you desire.

“Focus on the technology and the stronger sense of purpose that our generation has been armed with and apply your passions towards it. Act towards the future that you want to see and act towards it today. Thoughts are the beginning but actions are what will help us make it to the end,” she concluded, drawing applause from the crowd and positive reviews from online viewers who lauded her “inspiring work and speech.”

“In case you don’t know where to start, you can start with kindness. Start with something small — smile, encouraging words or maybe even sending a postcard. Your acts of kindness can change someones’ world. And that is an idea that is not just worth spreading; it’s worth living.”