Mompowerment: Precious Leaño, Paying It Forward One Community At A Time

Precious Leaño, Co-Founder of Art Relief Mobile Kitchen

Precious Leaño has learned to keep her sights on the bright side of life. She sees typhoons and natural calamities as an opportunity to help rather than a time to take pity on the victims of nature’s wrath. Every extreme weather event and tragic disaster brings throngs of people in need. In response, Precious and her team are there to cook hot meals, teach sustainability and leave each community with a glimmer of hope.

“The Art Relief Mobile Kitchen (ARMK) is a non-government organization that feeds people in time of disaster. Our creed is ‘We Can and We Will Feed the Hungry’. We started in 2013 when Yolanda happened. We went to Villamor with a handful of artist friends, about 10 to 12 of us. And we worked together to prepare meals for people arriving from Tacloban,” Precious shares. Little did they know that they would be cooking for an endless surge of evacuees for 22 days.

ARMK was born on November 15, 2013, the day Precious and her fellow artist friends decided to feed the survivors coming in from Tacloban. While on the road to Villamor, they named their group ARMK because they were all artists heading off to the unknown to help those in need, riding a loaned Tamaraw whose generous owner they never figured out to this day.

Soon after, they packed 10.2 tons of food and equipment and made their way to Yolanda ground zero, Tacloban. As the newfound team fed more people, they found their sense of purpose grow exponentially. Now on their 5th year, ARMK has served more than 300,000 meals.

If you ask what drives her to keep on going, Precious will say that it boils down to compassion. She sympathizes with those in need. But in the eyes of people who watch her, she is driven by selfless love. This love has driven her to go beyond her comfort zone and withstand difficult conditions; as if living by the biblical phrase “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Thereby living out her name as a precious gift to her neighbors and countrymen.

“I remember a time when we were in Barangay Buraguis, Legazpi City. We cooked for four days for 500 evacuees and there were about 5 volunteers from my team. As we left, we were told the women and children evacuees wanted to say goodbye. When we arrived, they were waiting by the stairs and we sat down with them. It was really a big moment for me to realize that there was absolutely no difference between them and us. We are all in this together,” remembers Precious.

The mission of Art Relief Mobile Kitchen has also impacted her family. She adds, “My son, Ricky is 15 years old now, and he’s cooking. He’s seen poverty and he knows that cooking can help. I want my children to know that in anything you do, you can help people, not just your brother or your family, but a larger community. And when communities help each other, that’s what builds a nation.”

In disaster areas, ARMK engages the community to help chop and cook meals, wash huge pots and pans, distribute the food, or any of the many tasks needed to cook for evacuees. In preparing ARMK meals, people rise above their challenges by working together.

Love comes with every scoop of food that turns a disaster scenario to one of brotherhood and bayanihan. For the Art Mobile Kitchen, there is nothing more precious than that.