When Katy Rozas of Lake Charles visited India for the first time two years ago, she said she returned a changed person with a desire to help people, animals, and even the planet.
Since then, Rozas, 35, has traveled often and said she has especially fallen in love with people of the town of Coron on Busuanga Island in the Philippines.
“Basically, I shared my dream of wanting to help kids with a friend who is from the Philippines and he asked me if I wanted to visit a school while I was there,” Rozas said.
She said when students heard that a visitor was coming to their school, Decalachao National High School, “they all wore their freshly-washed uniforms and put beautiful braids in their hair. When I would walk into a classroom to say ‘hi,’ they would all (about 50 to each class) rise and say, ‘good morning, visitor,’” Rozas said.
While touring the school, Rozas began talking to administrators there to try and determine the needs of the school.
“I quickly found out that the students didn’t have so much as even one ball to play with outdoors, their school library consisted of outdated textbooks sitting on broken shelves, and their computer lab was filled with about 50 computers that were basically collecting dust because they could not be used.”
Rozas said the school had been given computers but they could not use them because there was no electricity in the computer lab building and no WiFi in the immediate area.
“That struck a chord with my heart and really started the ball rolling on all of this,” Rozas said.
After touring the school and learning about the needs of students and teachers, she told the school staff, “I shall return,” which she said is a common phrase in the Philippines and one that people there take seriously when they hear the promise from someone.
“They all began sobbing and hugging me,” Rozas said.
When she got back to the states after that trip, she started a GoFundMe page in order to raise money to get electricity to the computer lab as well as other immediate needs at the school.
“I opened the page by asking for $1,500 and in just four days we had more than $2,000 so then I knew that this was serious and that I had to make it happen for these wonderful people,” Rozas said.
She said she vowed then to do what she could for people all over the world but especially the ones she had already met in the Philippines.
Rozas said she worked to pare down “things” in her life in order to focus more on having a servant’s heart. Basically, she began surfing couches at the homes of friends and family for a little while.
A former business major at McNeese State University, Rozas worked as an insurance agent with Aflac for 12 years before making the decision to live a life of less so that she could give more.
In order to do that and to be able to travel at will and help others, she said she needed to be free of things like rent or a mortgage, car note, and bills — the responsibilities that most of us deal with on a daily basis and that can impact things like traveling at leisure. She moved in with a local family and said Kim Tucker became her “house mom” and that it wasn’t long before they became her second family.
Tucker said she initially wasn’t sold on the idea of having someone move in with she and her family but quickly grew attached to Rozas.
“With Katy, our home was never boring, rarely quiet, and was filled with laughter,” Tucker said. “She (Rozas) fit right in to our crazy household. She became family.”
Tucker said it has been her family’s privilege to be able to say that they have “sheltered a real-life hero under our roof like we have with Katy.”
Not long after the first fundraiser that Rozas did for her beloved students in the Philippines, she initiated another request for funds in order to purchase jump drives for students, and she said she promoted that one solely through her church and friends. She was hoping to raise approximately $1,500 but quickly took in $2,300.
“There are more than 500 students at this school, in grades 7-12, so my hope was to get a memory stick for each student,” Rozas said. She said she fell a little short of her goal but was still able to provide jump drives for the entire high school, which was 257 students.
In total, Rozas, through her donors, family, and friends, has been able to get electricity provided to the school’s computer lab, secured eight windows at the school with bars in order to help prevent thefts, and provided chairs for all of the computer desks.
She said she was also able to provide 50 books to the school library, file cabinets, and book shelves, as well as what she called “raw materials” that the school needed, such as fabric, wire, glue, and other supplies.
“I have learned that I can’t fix the world but isn’t it selfish not to try?” Rozas asked.
Although the Philippines school will continue to be an ongoing labor of love for her, she has another upcoming project which involves delivering washable, resizable menstrual pads to girls and women in Africa. “I’m currently in the sewing phase of this project and searching for the right tribe to bless,” she said.
Rozas recently visited what she calls “her” school in the Philippines once again and when it came time to say goodbye she said it devastated her to leave the students she has grown to really care about.
“But I know I’ll see them again,” she said. “They are a part of me now.”
For more information on Rozas and her mission to help people in the Philippines, Africa, and other places around the world, visit her “Help Me Help More and Love More” campaign at: www.gofundme.com/5qjpg7s.
Katy Rozas, far right, during a recent visit to Decalachao National High School in the Philippines.
Rozas raised funds for immediate needs at the school, including getting electricity to the computer lab.
Katy Rozas of Lake Charles raised funds to provide school supplies and other things the school needed.
Students of Decalachao National High School in the Philippines interact with Katy Rozas, who raised funds to provide them with school supplies.