Nissa and Bob Clarkson are affectionately called ‘Auntie Nissa’ and ‘Uncle Bob’ whenever they return to Nissa’s village in the Philippines.
The Clarksons have been going back to Maalas-as Rosario, Batangas in the Philippines for the three decades that they’ve been married, but about 20 years ago, Nissa said they decided to start giving back to the village of about 1,500 people.
“I came from a very poor family, so I know being poor,” said Nissa who moved to Canada in 1986.
“It’s just a dream for me to give back. My mother keeps saying, ‘You give a little, you’ll get a lot.’ So I grew up with that kind of (thinking) from my mom,” said Nissa who is a Realtor with Sutton Premier Realty in Guildford.
Each year, Nissa and Bob give toys to about 300 to 400 children in the village, with Bob dressing up as Santa. On top of that, the Clarksons have also set up medical-dental missions in the village every three years or so, Nissa said.
Asked how it felt the first time she was able to give back to those in her former home, Nissa was at a loss for words initially.
“They were so excited about Santa Claus because it’s the first time they’ve seen Santa Claus in the village. They don’t have any idea about Santa Claus and when he showed up with all these toys and everything, they were so excited,” she said.
“We feel good, and I said, ‘OK, we can do this every year.’”
So for the past two decades, the couple has collected and bought toys and shipped them to the Philippines and then handed them out to the children when they visit the village in the winter months.
“Every time I make a sale, I set aside a certain amount. I told my clients, you’re a part of what I am doing. It makes them feel good too,” said Nissa. “The sellers will say, ‘Nissa, can you take out some of this stuff if you want to take it to the Philippines, give it to the Filipino kids.’”
Prior to this winter’s trip, according to a news release from Sutton Group Realty Services, Nissa and Bob collected 20 boxes of toys and clothing, which they sent in a container ship “at a cost of approximately $2,000.”
Since the couple has been making these trips for 20 years, Nissa said they have seen the village’s children grow up and now some of them have their own children.
“There’s one boy, he’s probably 18 years old, 19 years old now, and when he was little, Bob gave him a toy. He goes to college and he’s in the military now — he carries that little toy, and he says, ‘This is my toy from Uncle Bob and he’s grown up already.”
For the medical-dental missions, Bob said Nissa’s brother used to be in the military, so her brother helped to get the doctors from the army and air force on board with the mission.
The couple owns a resort in the village, so they decided to use the space to help people.
“We said we wanted to do something for these poor people,” Bob said. “They came that first year, and all I did was put a sign on the gate, saying ‘Free medical/dental on Saturday. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.’ for the village. It worked out just fine.”
That first year, they helped about 100 people.
However, Nissa said, one year about 1,000 people showed up. That year, she said, it cost about $5,000 to put on the whole mission.
Nissa said she and Bob, a retired Realtor, have slowed down a bit in recent years because of health complications, but the two don’t plan on stopping any time soon.
The couple has photo albums filled with pictures of their visits.
Bob, who pointed to a photo of hundreds of children, said, “This is who comes, you’ve got little kids like this. You’ve got to keep doing it.”