Category Archives: HBI Activities

Read about HBI’s activities – the people who benefit from them and the organizations that made them possible.

Trafigura Foundation and HBI: An Exposure.ph Video

On June 2014, the Haligi ng Bata, Inc. (HBI) and the Trafigura Foundation jointly visited – for the first time – the San Agustin Elementary School and the San Agustin community in San Fernando, La Union – the sites of the 3-Year School and Community Development Project locally implemented by HBI and funded by Trafigura.

Joining them in this field visit is Peter and Geraldine Carney –  the husband and wife team behind Exposure Media Productions Philippines. Working with Trafigura, Exposure PH gave a face and portrayed the story of the project’s aims, its stakeholders, and what the project has done and will do for the improvement of the lives of the San Agustin students.

Please take a moment to know the visual story of the San Agustin School and Community Development Project by watching this:

Aside from documenting the San Agustin School and Community Development Project, Exposure PH and Trafigura also told the story of another development project in Cebu with another development organization Eau et Vie. Take a gander at their story here:

To know more about Exposure Media Productions Philippines, please visit their website – http://exposure.ph/. To get in touch with them, shoot them an e-mail at hello@exposure.ph. Exposure PH is also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

HBI would like to thank Exposure PH for sharing with us the finished videos and for bearing with our bare land trip accommodation during their visit.

(Article’s featured photo taken by Exposure PH) 

San Agustin School & Community Project: What has been achieved so far?

(Article’s featured photo taken by Exposure PH) 

At the start of 2014, we reported that the Haligi ng Bata in partnership with the Trafigura Foundation has started a 3-Year development project in the school and port community of San Agustin in San Fernando, La Union.

The project which started last January 2014 aims to improve the  health, education, and livelihood status of 600 marginalized and underserved community members and 805 schooling children in San Agustin. To achieve this aim, the project will improve access to functional & clean toilets, increase health & hygiene awareness, implement school improvement programs, improve the parents’ skills and capacity to earn income, and empower and unite the school (its teachers and volunteers) and community (its members and leaders).

Nine months in and these are just some of what has been achieved by the project:

As of September 2014, the project continues to be of service to 812 enrolled elementary students and at least 200 community members and parents.  Future projects include school improvement projects (school canteen construction, school clinic development, major school repairs), capacity building activities (seminars on carpentry, plumbing and basic electricity for community parents so they can repair created toilets), and livelihood training for mothers.

The 2013 Livelihood Skills Training Programs in Metro Manila Project Areas

The ability to triumph and have a better life always begins with you – it doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from, or what college course you finished.” Perhaps this was what the participants of the 2013 HBI Livelihood Projects were thinking when they chose to take the first step of making their lives better by trying to learn livelihood skills.

During the period of October to November 2013, a total of 72 women, out-of-school youths, and interested schooling children attended the Livelihood Skills Training Seminars on Chinese Dimsum-making, Pedicure, Manicure, and Nail Art, and Hair Culture. The seminars were facilitated by the EntrePinay Mothers’ Group – a local cooperative composed of women who were trained in livelihood skills by the Technical Skills and Development Authority of the Philippines.

The Chinese Dimsum-making seminar was held at the HBI project area of Adelfa – a fishing community in urban Navotas, Metro Manila. A total of 27 parents attended the seminar wherein they were taught the basics of making yummy Chinese food like siomai/shumai (steamed or fried pork dumplings), siopao (steamed buns which may use pork, beef, chicken or shrimp), and puto pao (rice cake with meat). The mothers had a wonderful learning experience in the easy and affordable ways to make these Chinese dumplings and have expressed their interest in making them for their families’ daily consumption or for additional income.
The Cosmetology Livelihood Skills Training Seminars were divided into two parts to accommodate more interested participants: the Pedicure, Manicure, and Nail Art Seminars, and the Hair Culture Seminars. The Pedicure, Manicure, and Nair Art Seminars was held inside the Navotas Public High School again in Navotas, Metro Manila. 22 parents and students learned the complicated but fun art of Nail Artistry, Manicure, and Pedicure. Participating school teachers and students took part in the seminar as test-customers that the seminar participants gave pedicure, manicure, and nail art services.
Lastly, the Hair Culture Seminar was held for 23 parents and students in the HBI Training Room located in the HBI Building. In this seminar the participants were able to know the basics of popular hair treatments like Hot Oil treatments, Hair Spa, and Perming.

Vanessa Sagayo and Beda Ann Baoas: Former Sponsored Children, Now Registered Nurses

Seng-ngat Elementary School children joined the Medical Mission funded by ICARE Australia and locally implemented by HBI
Seng-ngat Elementary School children joined the Medical Mission funded by ICARE Australia and locally implemented by HBI

During the October 2013 school-based medical missions in the HBI and I-CARE project areas in La Union, two former sponsored children who have went on to become registered nurses volunteered their medical services to more than 300 children and parents. Vanessa Joy Sagayo and Beda Ann Baoas shared their stories in between medical mission breaks to the HBI Technical Team who oversaw the implementation of the medical mission.

Vanessa Joy, 23 years old, said that “when I was being oriented by the HBI Community Worker about the Medical Mission activity, I told her that I already know the procedure because I was an HBI sponsored child – I used to fall in line with my classmates in Seng-ngat Elementary School so that we can get our medical and dental check-ups. It’s funny how time flies and how destiny works – now here I am implementing the actual check-ups.” Vanessa is the daughter of local farmers and her mom, Jackie, is one of the most active HBI and I-CARE Australia Area Leaders in the Seng-ngat, Sudipen, La Union community. “I became a sponsored child when I was in Grade 2 in the year 1999. Like the current sponsored children, I also enjoyed writing letters and Christmas cards to my sponsor. Of course, I also received school supplies, uniforms, medicines, and gifts every year. My sponsor even wrote me a simple letter twice which I received with such excitement.

Vanessa was withdrawn from the Child Sponsorship Program when she was in first year high school. “According to my HBI social worker back then, my sponsor stopped donating and that’s why I was withdrawn from the sponsorship. Still, me and my family continue to be thankful for my sponsor’s support because these support made my elementary schooling very fun and enjoyable. My experience as a sponsored child inculcated in me that I should love school, value my education, and try to give back and share my blessings to others.

Former HBI sponsored child Vanessa Sagayo R.N.
Former HBI sponsored child Vanessa Sagayo R.N.

Her mother said that Vanessa is a smart and studious girl even when she was in grade school. “Me and her father worried that we wouldn’t be able to send Vanessa to college when she graduated from high school. Thankfully, my sister who has a stable job said that she will help us in sending her to school,” Mother Jackie narrates. Vanessa then enrolled for a Nursing degree in the LORMA College in San Fernando, La Union. She persevered and endured an almost three-hour commute from school to home, little financial resources, and a backbreaking class schedule which involved class lectures and actual hospital work. Finally, she graduated on March 2010 and passed the Nursing Licensure Exam on December 2010. She is the first in her family to finish college.

Beda Ann Baoas, also 23 years old, has a different child sponsorship story. “I was identified to be a sponsored child when I was a Grade 3 student of Seng-ngat Elementary School in the year 2000.” She recalls receiving educational supplies, health kits, and Christmas groceries. Like Vanessa, Beda Ann enjoyed her time as a sponsored child. “We have Christmas parties and sports festivals annually – those were some of the highligths of my childhood. It was fun interacting with other sponsored children and with the HBI employees.

Unlike Vanessa who was withdrawn from the program because her sponsor became inactive, Beda Ann was withdrawn from the program upon her graduation from elementary school because her family’s financial life has improved. “One of my siblings was able to find work overseas and he helped my parents in supporting our family. Because of this, my older siblings were able to finish their schooling and obtained good jobs. They worked hand-in-hand so that I could finish my college studies.

Beda Ann Baoas R.N. was an HBI sponsored child
Beda Ann Baoas R.N. was an HBI sponsored child

Beda Ann who wanted to be a nurse ever since she was a little girl then enrolled in Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) in Quezon City, Metro Manila – ten hours away from her Seng-ngat, Sudipen, La Union hometown. When asked about her experience as a student from a small rural town in a big city university, Beda said “it was difficult at first – I had to adjust. I had to fit in with my classmates and I had to re-learn school lessons I thought I’ve already mastered. My first 6 months in the city was hard, but thankfully, I was living with my sister and she helped me adjust and get used to the fast-paced city life.” Like Vanessa, Beda Ann graduated on March 2010 and successfully passed the Nursing Licensure Exam on December 2010.

Both former sponsored children are now working in the Sudipen Municipal Health Center and the Tagudin Municipal Health Center as rural nurses. Vanessa and Beda waxed emotional when they said that “we are working in these health centers not only because we want to get medical experience but also because we want to pay it forward. We want to help poor children and families the best way we know how – through medicine. We owe it to our community and to our sponsors who kindly and generously shared what they have with poor children like us.

Former HBI sponsored children Beda Ann Baoas and Vanessa Sagayo are now registered nurses
Former HBI sponsored children Beda Ann Baoas and Vanessa Sagayo are now registered nurses

Both intend to stay on as rural nurses for a considerable amount of time. “While I still can,” Beda said, “I want to help treat poor families living on the mountains who have never seen a doctor before.” Vanessa added that “hospital work or overseas work may have more monetary rewards than being a rural nurse, but being able to alleviate the pain of  poor children with a wound or a toothache – seeing their smiles when the pain is gone – that is priceless.

DSWD Region 6 Unit Head visits Bayanihan-Habitat

The HBI CSP Center during Madam Haro's visit
The HBI CSP Center during Madam Haro’s visit

Recently, the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Region 6 Unit Head – Madam Perla Haro, conducted a Field Visit to the Bayanihan-Habitat Village in Talisay City, Negros Occidental. Madam Haro’s visit is in line with the Haligi ng Bata, Incorporated’s application for renewal of their DSWD License to Operate, Registration, and Accreditation.

 

Madam Haro was welcomed in Bacolod City by the HBI Community Worker, Mr. Elizande Gonzales, and the HBI Area Leaders headed by its president, Mrs. Ninfa Rivera. The purpose of Madam Haro’s visit is to personally inspect and check the reported HBI programs and activities in the Bayanihan-Habitat Village. The village has been supported by HBI since the year 2005, first through the Child Sponsorship Program (2005-2009), and now through its Group Sponsorship Program (2010-present). More than 100 families are supported with education, health, capacity-building, and other auxiliary services. Lately, a TESDA scholarship program was implemented for out-of-school youths and high school graduates who wish to know practical skills so that they can be gainfully employed. All these development programs were made possible by the Dutch Help-Parents –  a group of Dutch sponsors who have helped in building the families’ houses through Habitat for Humanity, Negros Occidental.

 

During her visit, the HBI team headed by Mr. Gonzales went and checked the Bayanihan-Habitat community where the HBI supported families reside; the Bayanihan-Habitat Elementary School where majority of supported children study; the HBI Bayanihan-Habitat CSP Center where HBI holds office and where major activities like the Supplemental Feeding Program are implemented; and the Concepcion Elementary School which is also supported by HBI through provision of books and educational supplies for non-supported children. According to the HBI Team, Madam Perla Haro is impressed with the Group Sponsorship Project and with the active involvement of all project stakeholders – the children’s parents, the children’s teachers, and the community members and leaders. As far as she is concerned, HBI and the Dutch Help-Parents have done a good job at improving their beneficiaries’ lives and at the same time empowering and uniting the children’s parents and teachers, and the Bayanihan-Habitat community. Lastly, she was impressed as to how much development work was done in spite of the relatively menial program budget available.

 

Below are some photos of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s visit to the Bayanihan-Habitat Village in Talisay City, Negros Occidental.

 

Mr. Perlito Coloma – An Inspiring Beneficiary

Mrs. Monnette Zaragosa, HBI Operations Manager
Mrs. Monnette Zaragosa, HBI Operations Manager

*Every month, the Haligi ng Bata, Incorporated (HBI) will run a short post highlighting key project participants who have made a good and lasting impression to HBI’s various activities and beneficiaries. This post is written by none other than HBI’s Operations Manager, Mrs. Monnette Zaragosa.

I have been with HBI for 20 years, first as a Social Worker & now as Operations Manager. In this time, I’ve worked not only with other development workers but also with normal folks– mothers, laborers, and teachers.  I think a reason for our success is that wherever we go– be it in a cramp slum area or a remote farming or fishing community, there are school & community members who participate in projects even if they have to do more than their share & not get anything in return. Working with these everyday people, these everyday heroes, inspires me to do my very best work so that their schools will improve & poor children will be ensured of a good education & a fighting chance at better lives.

 

Mr. Coloma and the Luzong Norte Rice Bank Project
Mr. Coloma and the Luzong Norte Rice Bank Project
Mr. Perlito Coloma (man in pink shirt) rides a "kuliglig" during project monitoring activities with the HBI team
Mr. Perlito Coloma (man in pink shirt) rides a “kuliglig” during project monitoring activities with the HBI team

Recently though, one of the everyday heroes I had the honor of working with is Mr. Perlito Coloma – Principal of Luzong Norte School, a public school in a farming area of Bangar, La Union, Northern Philippines. Through CO-OPERAID’s Rural Reconstruction Project, the school’s typhoon-damaged 3-classroom building with canteen was repaired & is now used by 200 students & teachers. Parents were also provided with livelihood support: hog-raising & rice bank projects that will not only help them, but also the school in repairing & maintaining classrooms. Mr. Coloma’s story is one for the books: he lost his wife to cancer at an early age leaving him alone to raise their child. Shortly after, he developed cataracts which impair his vision. In spite of these, here is a man who is a dedicated school principal, a loving father & an active project stakeholder. Being a single parent myself, I know how hard it is to balance family & work, yet Mr. Coloma seems to have found the right formula to a happy family life & work success. As he continues with his role as a father of a school & of a young girl, he gains the respect of teachers & parents.

 

With these said, it is no surprise that I’m now one of the many who see him as a living reminder that integrity, resilience & kindness still exist in our world.

Giving Second Chances: The Computer Applications Vocational Course

Tallaoen Elementary School Students trying out the computers
Tallaoen Elementary School Students trying out the computers

When HBI delivered and installed the 18 computers for the Tallaoen Vocational School’s Computer Application Course, everybody – teachers, students, community children, and the students of the Computer Applications vocational course were excited and ecstatic. One vocational school student said that “Now it’s real. A few months ago, we were just talking about class schedules, class attires, class lessons, and now that the computers and the printers are here, the vocational course has become more real.

 

The Computer Applications Course was geared towards piquing the interest of the Tallaoen community’s out-of-school youths and young parents. Targeting community members between the ages of 14 to 25 who dropped out of high school, the computer course’s curriculum was jointly created by HBI, the vocational school teacher – Mr. Enrico Sumera, and the vocational school students. Capitalizing on the fact that computers remain popular with younger people, HBI made sure that the sturdiest and advanced computers were provided to the project. The computers should be able to withstand daily use by computer newbies and should also be fast enough to cope with the various programs to be used in the course – Microsoft Office, Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, a third-party video editing software, and Internet software. In total, 36 out-of-school youths are the students of the course.

 

HBI meets with some of the Tallaoen Computer Applications Vocational School students
HBI meets with some of the Tallaoen Computer Applications Vocational School students, including Brenda Castillo

One of the vocational course students is Brenda Castillo, 23 years old. Like most Tallaoen girls, Brenda only managed to finish elementary school. “The Tallaoen Elementary School was quite near to our house, so finishing elementary school was not a problem. I was even one of the best students in my graduating class. The real problem emerged when I got into high school. It wasn’t the lessons – they were challenging, but I coped by reviewing my notes. The problem was the distance and the expenses.

 

According to the computer vocational course students, the tricycle fare from the community to the nearest high school, the newly-created Bungro-Sucoc Integrated School is at 50 pesos per person. Walking to the school would take more than an hour and though that seems like a good alternative to commuting, the children and the parents said that children often get soaked in the rain, their shoes, uniforms, and meager school supplies also get damaged. At the end of it all, no matter how hard the children and the parents try, a family’s income from farming is not enough to cover all the children’s education expenses.

 

The Tallaoen Vocational School students of the Computer Applications Course
The Tallaoen Vocational School students of the Computer Applications Course

Tallaoen residents like Brenda are then left with only two things to do after dropping out of high school – “help in the farm and get married”. In Brenda’s case, she helped in the farm first then got married. “I got married at 17, almost 18.” She says that her husband is a good person who works hard and loves their children. But when she heard about the Vocational School Project in Tallaoen Elementary School, she said that she was intrigued at first. “I’ve always liked schooling so I thought maybe I can give it a try. I asked my husband if I can join the classes and he was alright with it, so I signed up for the classes.

 

The decision to be part of the Computer Applications Vocational Course proved to be a wise and good one for Brenda. According to her course teacher, Sir Enrico Sumera, “Brenda is doing alright in class. She has basic knowledge of computers but she lacks experience in using computers. So in the first few lessons, she had numerous typos and difficulties with lessons. Now though, she continues to learn and I think she has the will and the smarts to be good at computers.

 

Brenda, along with her classmates, continues to go to school. “We actually have a big exam coming up so we’re usually reviewing past lessons.” With graduation looming, Brenda said she has plans of working as a computer encoder. “I hope I get a job related to the skills I’ve been learning these past few months. But whatever happens, I will not squander this second chance at an education that HBI and CO-OPERAID gave us.

For the first time, the Pitpitac Elementary School meets Mr. Philipp Lenhard and his family

Philipp Lenhard's visit to Pitpitac
Philipp Lenhard’s visit to Pitpitac

Roughly a month after the inauguration of the Ylenia Building in Pitpitac Elementary School, one of Ylenia Foundation’s founders, Mr. Philipp Lenhard, visited the school on July 19, 2013. HBI’s Executive Director, Mrs. Letty Magaan, and Operations Manager, Mrs. Monnette Zaragosa accompanied Mr. Philipp during his short visit to Pitpitac. Mr. Philipp Lenhard visited the school with his family – his lovely wife, Lamjai, and his two adorable children, Sabrina and Kevin.

Welcoming the Lenhards and HBI are the Pitpitac Elementary School teachers, students, and Department of Education Supervisor Mr. Mario Pascua. Other principals from other schools were also present during the Lenhards’ visit.

The schooling children prepared a short program for their guests complete with singing, dancing, and inspirational messages. Mr. Philipp Lenhard said that he is very delighted to be in Pitpitac and to meet the school’s teachers, its students and their parents. He hopes that the Pitpitact Adopt-a-School Project will be as successful as the Rissing Elementary School Project in the sense that all projects have become sustainable and maintained. Mr. Philipp urges the parents of the children to actively participate and cooperate in all project activities so that the support provided to them will not be squandered. He mentioned that the Ylenia Foundation will do everything they can to provide the schooling children of Pitpitac with all their needed books, classrooms, and educational materials. He hopes that the school and its children will have a better educational experience through their support.

Lastly, he thanks HBI for giving the Ylenia Foundation an opportunity to help a poor school like Pitpitac. He concluded by saying that in behalf of Ylenia’s mother, Charlotte, he is extending his thanks to the teachers, parents and students, and that hopefully the next time he visits, Charlotte would be with him to see the school.

Mr. Philipp Lenhard gives additional gifts to the Pitpitac students
Mr. Philipp Lenhard gives additional gifts to the Pitpitac students

Aside from having a short program, the Ylenia Foundation also distributed additional gifts to the schooling children in the form of additional notebooks, pens, papers, and pencils. Sweet treats like candies and chocolates were also given to all 113 schooling children of the Pitpitac Elementary School. Mr. Philipp, Madam Lamjai, Sabrina, and Kevin did not pass up on the chance to personally give these gifts to the children who were very excited and thankful as this was a surprise to them. “Thank you Ylenia. Thank you HBI,” said a Grade 3 student after receiving her gifts. Another kindergarten student said “Naimas [which means delicious in the local dialect]” when asked how the sweets taste like.

An ocular inspection of the school and the Ylenia Building also occurred. Mr. Philipp is impressed with the construction of the Ylenia Building in Pitpitac. He also noted that the rooms are spacious, well-lit, and well-ventilated. He also commended the fact that the toilets are well-built and has working water supplies. The building’s riprap was also praised by Mr. Lenhard as he can see how much work was put in it to ensure that soil erosion and damage to the building will be prevented.

The Lenhards’ visit to Pitpitac Elementary School may have been short and sweet, but HBI is one with the Pitpitac Elementary School’s hopes that the Lenhards will once again visit the school soon. In the meantime, the Pitpitac school teachers, community members, parents, and students are hard at work to prove that they too can attain the success that the Rissing Elementary School got during and after the Ylenia Foundation’s Adopt-a-School Project implementation.

The Lenhard Family in Pitpitac Elementary School's Ylenia Building
The Lenhard Family in Pitpitac Elementary School’s Ylenia Building

Tallaoen Vocational School: For Maria Oyando, Age Doesn’t Matter

Maria Oyando and the HBI Executive Director
Maria Oyando and the HBI Executive Director

The Tallaoen Community’s out-of-school youths and young parents may be the main target beneficiaries of the Tallaoen Vocational School Project, but that doesn’t mean that the project cannot make room for older people who are also willing to learn new skills.

Maria Oyando, 66, is one such example. Born and raised in the Tallaoen, Luna, La Union community, the mother of three now-grown children shared – “I only finished second year high school. Back in the day, Luna town only had one high school, located in Barrientos [another Luna community] which is around six communities away from Tallaoen. I walked for almost two hours to school because I wanted to finish high school. One day, my parents told me that they can no longer send me to school – there wasn’t enough money for school supplies and school needs. I know that in another life where we aren’t poor, my parents could not fathom the fact that I won’t graduate from high school, but the harsh reality is that we are a big family and there’s just not enough income. I cried for weeks. When I stopped crying, I had nothing else to do but help in farming. I was 14 years old.”

In spite of this, Maria didn’t bear any ill feelings towards her parents and on the contrary, she tried her best to help them out. “I can see how hard they work – they farm from 3 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aside from helping them in the field, I also tried to help by taking care of my younger siblings. I made sure that they were okay before I got married.” She married at the age of 22 – which in Tallaoen and during her time, was already a bit late. Eventually, she became a farmer’s wife and a mother. Time passed, her children grew up, had families of their own, and Maria became a grandmother to two boys. “I love them so much,” she said, “but now that I have more time in my hands, maybe now I can do something for myself.”

The Tallaoen Vocational School Project provided Maria with something she can do for herself – learn and gain knowledge and skills. “I attended a meeting inside the Tallaoen School. They said HBI and CO-OPERAID will conduct vocational classes about computers and cosmetology. I always wanted to learn about hair cutting and coloring because my children & grandchildren often cry after I cut their hair because I think I gave them ugly haircuts (laughs). So I asked if old people like me can join. HBI said that there is no reason why we can’t for as long as there are still slots available. I remembered going home that day hoping that the project will push through and that I can enroll.”

Maria cutting hair in the Tallaoen Vocational School
Maria cutting hair in the Tallaoen Vocational School

Months later, Maria finally got the chance to do something for herself as she attended her first day in vocational school. “My classmates were a little surprised to see me there. But I liked all our lessons and practical exams. I feel like I’m in school again.” Mr. Felipe Arzabal, the vocational school teacher said that “Manang [Madam in the local dialect] Maria is very eager to learn. Actually, in her first exam, her hands were shaky – maybe it’s because of age – so I told her that what she lacks in hand steadiness, she has to make up for by being more meticulous than her younger classmates. So she took her time in trimming, shaping, and cutting hair. She was also very careful when it comes to hair coloring, cleaning and painting fingernails and toenails. Eventually, she became good at it. For her final exam, she was asked to give proper and nice haircuts to at least 10 schooling children in Tallaoen – she was able to give 16 haircuts that day, including her grandchild who loved his new hairdo.”

As a result of passing her final exam, Maria and her 24 classmates graduated from the Vocational Course on Cosmetology on the first week of June 2013. Garnering the loudest applause from the audience, Maria beamed with delight and was clearly satisfied with her achievement. “It’s never too late to learn,” she said. “I’m happy that at 66, I can still be a part of something as wonderful as this – a graduation.”

 

Overcoming the Odds: HBI Sponsored Child Mary Grace Vicente

HBI Navotas Project Area
HBI Navotas Project Area where Mary Grace continues to grow up.

Majority of ICARE-Australia Metro Manila sponsored children reside in a small fishing port called Adelfa. Located in the City of Navotas, the Adelfa Community is filled with the different connotations of poverty – shanty houses, naked children running on the streets, the distinct smell of highly questionable sanitation, garbage, and petty crimes, just to name a few. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a child growing up in this kind of environment. But Mary Grace Vicente, an ICARE-Australia sponsored child, has developed a coping mechanism for this – drawing and sketching. As soon as she begins to draw, the pictures of poverty are replaced with cheerful images of people and objects that connote hope.

HBI sponsored child Mary Grace Vicente
HBI sponsored child Mary Grace Vicente

The daughter of a welder, who only earns 300 pesos a day, and a plain housewife, it is not surprising that 16-year-old Mary Grace aspires to be an artist or a painter when she grows up. “I know that most teenagers my age want to be either nurses or policemen because it’s the practical choice – nurses get to go overseas, and policemen are assured of job security,” she said. “For me though, I want to be an artist because I want children to know that drawing is fun and good for the imagination. Maybe in the future, I can teach Art Classes to children. Who knows?

Apart from being an aspiring artist, Mary Grace is also one of the most improved ICARE-Australia sponsored children when it comes to overall school performance. According to her, “not having to worry about how my parents can buy my school uniforms, bags, and other school needs helps so much in my schooling. I have all my school needs, all I really have to do is study my lessons, go to class, and participate in class discussions more.” As a result of Mary Grace’s hard work, she was able to get a very good average of 87.22% – a three-point increase from the average she got the year before.

One of Grace's drawing
One of Grace’s drawing

Mary Grace’s teachers also noted that not only did she improve her grades she has also developed her self-confidence. When asked about this, the child said, “my parents, four siblings, and teachers encourage me to join as many school contests as possible. And so I did – I joined the school’s Essay Writing Contest and the Poster-Making Contest. I recently realized that what I like about these contests is not the recognition I can get, what I like is the experience of being able to share my talent to others.

Perhaps the ultimate testament to Mary Grace’s transformation from a shy and timid girl to a dynamic and good student with leadership potential is the fact that she was elected as the Student President of the Tanza National High School’s Student Council for School Year 2013-2014. Garnering more than 2,000 votes from her fellow students, Mary Grace said in her victory speech that she promise to do her best especially now that she is in her last year of high school.

Now a 4th year high school student, Mary Grace continues to try to be a better student so that she can be in the running for various college scholarships. “I want to make my parents and my sponsor proud. I know if I work hard enough, I can get a scholarship and get a college education. I will not give this dream up.”

Interested in changing a poor child’s life through education? You can help and contact us for details.

The Inauguration of the Ylenia Building in Pitpitac Elementary School, Luna, La Union

The Ylenia Building in Pitpitac marker
The Ylenia Building in Pitpitac marker

The memory of young Ylenia Lenhard continues to live on as another Ylenia School Building was inaugurated on June 20, 2013 – this time in the Pitpitac Public Elementary School in Luna, La Union. The school is the newest HBI and Ylenia Foundation project beneficiary of the Adopt-a-School Project.

The Ylenia School Building in Pitpitac Elementary School was funded by the Ylenia Foundation headed by its founders, Madam Charlotte Lenhard and Mr. Philipp Lenhard. The new school building is a sprawling 9 meters by 7 meters infrastructure which has three spacious classrooms with toilets, and a strengthened riprap and school park that would protect it from soil erosion. The Ylenia Building replaces the Pitpitac Elementary School’s New Society Building – the school’s oldest building which in December 2012, had troubling floor and wall cracks due to soil erosion, dilapidated roofing due to age and weather conditions, falling and dilapidated ceilings due to massive termite infestation, and old and clogged toilets and sinks.

Ylenia Building inauguration
Ylenia Building inauguration

Present during the inauguration is the Haligi ng Bata, Incorporated’s Executive Director Mrs. Leticia L. Magaan, and Chairman of the Board Atty. Hector Macariola. The Pitpitac Elementary School was represented by its happy and excited students and teachers headed by its Principal, Mrs. Marissa Noveloso. The Department of Education in Luna, La Union was represented by Supervisor Mario Pascua and the other principals of nearby Luna, La Union public schools. The project’s contractor, the SIRTE Construction Group, was also present during this event.

The simple inauguration started with a short program. Mrs. Marissa Noveloso, the principal of Pitpitac Elementary School said in her speech that “never in a million years did I expect this kind of support for the Pitpitac Elementary School and its students. We are overwhelmed by all of HBI and Ylenia Foundation’s help that all we can is Thank You and We Love You.” To this, HBI’s Executive Director, Mrs. Letty Magaan replied that “this classroom building is built in loving memory of Ylenia Lenhard. The best way to honor and commemorate her is to take very good care of this building and to give your 100% in all project activities.” To this, the teachers and the parents said that they would give their very best in all Adopt-a-School Project activities. In closing, the Department of Education Luna District Supervisor, Mr. Mario Pascua said thank you to HBI and the Ylenia Foundation, and he also said that he will help in ensuring that the new school building will be sustainable and functional for many years to come.

The Ylenia Building at Pitpitac Elementary School
The Ylenia Building at Pitpitac Elementary School

After the short program, the ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Ylenia Building commenced, and the other school principals and Mr. Pascua were impressed with the building’s design and workmanship. On the other hand, a Grade 5 student of Pitpitac Elementary School mentioned that he and his classmates are “already very excited to transfer to our new classroom. I heard that there is a big reading area inside our classroom, I like books so I’m very excited about that.”

As all these were happening a group of Grade 3 and Grade 4 students were busy playing near the Ylenia Building. “We like playing here because there are many trees and the grounds are spacious,” exclaimed one child. “We never play here before because the soil can just erode at any time, but now that it is fixed, we found a new playing spot where we can play and even study during school break.”

Indeed, the inauguration of the Ylenia Building in Pitpitac Elementary School is just the beginning. In the coming months and years, more improvements and positive developments are in store for the school – its teachers, students, and parents. As in Rissing Elementary School – the first project beneficiary of the Ylenia Foundation, young Ylenia Lenhard continues to be a symbol of hope and of the fact that education is a child’s ticket to a better and more fruitful life.

Phase 3: Rural Reconstruction Project (October 2011-December 2012)

Children of Agna Elementary School now have a working library through the repairs of the Phase 3: Rural Reconstruction Project
Children of Agna Elementary School now have a working library through the repairs of the Phase 3: Rural Reconstruction Project

Since November 2009, the Haligi ng Bata, Incorporated (HBI) through the support of CO-OPERAID Switzerland and Swiss Solidarity (SWS) has been implementing relief and development projects for people, communities and schools affected by Typhoons Ketsana and Parma which hit the Philippines on the last week of September 2009 and first week of October 2009. Through CO-OPERAID and Swiss Solidarity, three typhoon-related projects were implemented. The first was the Phase 1 Relief and Rehabilitation Project (November 2009 – October 2010) which provided relief goods (food, house materials, school needs), medical support, livelihood support and minor repair of houses and schools. Project areas include nine (9) Metro Manila and La Union communities and 12 Metro Manila and La Union public schools. In total, a total of 3,619 typhoon-affected students and 2,162 parents, children and community members were reached.

After the Phase 1 Project, HBI implemented the Phase 2: Rural Reconstruction Project (April 2010 – April 2012) which reconstructed eight (8) of the most typhoon-damaged schools in the coastal and mountain-side La Union towns of Bangar and Luna. In total, 1,691 students, eight communities and approximately 90 teachers benefitted from the 20 classrooms, canteens, libraries and school facilities reconstructed by the project. 212 community and school-group members were organized to be members of the Building Maintenance Committees who were trained in plumbing, carpentry, electricity, disaster management and termites-control.

During the identification of schools for the Phase 2 Project, HBI also visited and evaluated numerous La Union school buildings which were not in need of major reconstruction but are in need of major repairs for it to be fully-functional for all students, teachers and school-community groups. The said school buildings were also seen by CO-OPERAID’s then executive director, Dr. Rao Satapati, and it was suggested that they be aided with a major repair project. With these, HBI through the support of SWS and CO-OPERAID implemented the Phase 3: Rural Reconstruction Project on October 2011 to December 2012.

In total, 17 school infrastructures (11 classrooms, 3 libraries, 2 canteens and 1 school clinic) from the La Union towns of Sudipen, Bangar and Luna were repaired and now being fully-used by 2,072 students, at least 80 teachers and various school-community groups. Two construction companies – the Alfredo S. Sison Construction Company and the SIRTE Construction Group, were tapped for the repairs. The Phase 3 Project also provided the schools with school materials and teachers’ materials to ensure the continued use of the school buildings repaired.

While major repairs were on-going, a group of 150 community members were organized to form Building Maintenance Committees (BMCs) which will repair and maintain all buildings provided with major repair. Following the advice of SWS and CO-OPERAID, to ensure that the schools and their respective BMCs will have the needed funds maintain and repair buildings, HBI provided school-participants with a livelihood project that will be implemented by community members.

The livelihood projects were Livestock Raising Projects (either goat-raising or hog-raising) and Rice Bank Projects. The schools and community members themselves picked which project they would implement taking into consideration the technical, physical and financial capacity of members, the productive capacity of the farming communities, topography and economic activities in the areas. Through a developed income-sharing scheme, the 254 community members implementing the livelihood projects will share agreed upon number of rice grains, piglets or goats to the schools who can then disperse it to other community families or use it to fund school repairs. As per advice of CO-OPERAID, the Phase 3 Project also provided Phase 2 school-beneficiaries with livestock raising projects. At the tail-end of program implementation, a Community Score Card Process was implemented to evaluate all program activities and to exact accountability from project implementers. The average of the eight schools’ rating on the Phase 3 activities is a high grade of 4.85 out of 5.