In memoriam: Perseveranda So, 1956-2009
Manila, 16 June 2009 - “She was a dedicated worker, and a trusted colleague, and she will be sorely missed” said Pakistan Country Representative, Martin Mogwanja at the UN Memorial Service held for Perseveranda So in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday 16th June.
Dedicated was a word that came up time and time again during the emotional event.
“ Persy was dedicated to her work for children, and on the day she died she was working hard in the IDP camps of north west Pakistan, where thousands of children have been forced to leave their homes, ensuring they didn’t suffer the double loss of missing out on an education. She was one of the best education workers that UNICEF had, and we are at a loss as to how we will replace her.” Martin continued.
Perseveranda So, the UNICEF Pakistan Chief of Education, was killed in the Peshawar bombing on 9 June 2009.
Another colleague from Pakistan, Patricia Cervantes, shared another side of Persy: “ Persy loved to dance Salsa, and she was very good. When I moved into my flat in Islamabad, I discovered Persy was living opposite and we became good friends. I saw the lively, fun side of her. We used to shop for dresses, cook (and eat) desserts together, and of course dance and sing. We had many happy times in the recent weeks before she died.
She continued: “Whilst she was a senior staff member, Persy spoke to everyone in the office, no matter their role or status, in the same friendly, gentle way. That is very special. I just don’t know how I am going to go back to Pakistan, it’s going to be very hard.”
From Nepal, Pakistan, the United States and of course all parts of the Philippines, friends, colleagues and family members gathered and shared their memories of Persy.
One of the most touching moments was when her good friend from Pakistan, Judith Bruno, shared with the 80 or more attendees one of Persy’s favourite songs, accompanied by her sisters and nephew.
And when Persy’s father spoke at the end, he did not bring tears, but instead smiles to the audience. He showed great composure, strength and forgiveness saying he could not have bad feelings for those in Pakistan who carried out the act of terrorism. Instead he forgave them. And he read out one of Persy’s last letters, where she talked of the beautiful country and kind people. She reminded him to look after himself and she also took care to remember each and every one of her relatives that she knew needed assistance, so that her father would not be burdened by it.
His strength, and that of many family members, gave courage to many in the service who have felt a great loss during the recent days.
Summed up by Colin Davis, the Deputy Representative UNICEF Philippines, “ God bless you Persy, and may your dedication and bright spirit be an inspiration to those who strive to achieve for children in Pakistan, and all over the world” .