Philippines: Zenaida Tan Lim

While, indeed, we have in our own little way, helped our people chart a beautiful, promising future for ourselves, so much remains to be done."

— Zenaida Tan Lim

Zenaida "Zeny" Tan Lim set up the Sarang Bangun Foundation (SBF) in the early 1990s for the rehabilitation of widows and orphans, victims of the conflict between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Philippine government. With a groundswell of funds from donor agencies, Zeny was able to establish with SBF livelihood and skills training programs, an orphan care center in Sulu (with assistance from the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia), and the Sarang Bangun Learning Center in Zamboanga City, making quality elementary education accessible to the Muslim community.

Zenaida Tan Lim comes from a family with a history of public service. Her father was a well-loved governor of Sulu, her mother’s clan is associated with the development of Jolo. Zeny’s sister, the late Desdemonda Tan, was part of the Moro struggle for liberation as the wife of Nur Misuari, founder and chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front. Zeny herself was drawn to the task of rehabilitating the widows and orphans of the armed conflict between the MNLF and the Philippine government. Due to the conflict, a generation of Moros lost the chance of a better education. Thus, Zeny believes that education must be part of the continuing Moro struggle, and the idea of self-determination must include initiatives for a better future for the people. Zeny founded the Sarang Bangun Foundation (SBF) and the Sarang Bangun Learning Center in response to this need. After over a decade, SBK has established a network of assistance and common efforts to provide Moro communities with education, livelihood and orphan care. In Sulu, the Consuelo Foundation, Save the Children Japan, Notre Dame Foundation and Unicef have partnered with SBF to provide vital assistance to women and children. The Sarang Bangun Learning Center in Zamboanga City has grown into a potent force in building a community of responsible Muslims. In 2003, the center's grade six pupils ranked third in the Metrobank-MTAP-Department of Education Mathematics Challenge, a close runner-up to the established Ateneo de Zamboanga University. Zeny says that SBF has done much to identify, understand and address the problems of the Moro communities, their aspirations and their prospects for a better life, guided by their faith, history, and culture.

Sarang Bangun Foundation (SBF)