Category Archives: HBI Beneficiaries

Stories from the Field: Irish Madera of PRIDAKAS, Metro Manila

Irish Madera writes a letter to her IH-Germany sponsor during a home visit conducted by HBI to the Madera Family.
Irish Madera writes a letter to her IH-Germany sponsor during a home visit conducted by HBI to the Madera Family.

Like most local non-profits, the Haligi ng Bata, Inc. (HBI) believes that little girls with dreams become women with vision. This fervent belief is one of the many reasons why HBI with the help of IH-Germany and its donors make sure that little girls with dreams are being supported by the Child Sponsorship Program so that in the future, they can transform their dreams into their realities.

Irish Erika Madera, 10 years old, is one of the little girls who are sponsored children of HBI and IH-Germany. She may be one of the many girls who are HBI sponsored children, but in her family she is the only daughter.  The child, fondly called Kikay by family and friends, has six brothers: four are older and two are younger than her. They live in a small makeshift house in the PRIDAKAS community located in Quezon City, Metro Manila. Kikay’s father works as a maintenance man while her mother is a full-time housewife who tends to Kikay and her brothers’ needs.

Irish and her mom pose for a photo inside their house during an HBI home visit. The mother and daughter are very close as Irish is the only daughter out of seven kids.
Irish and her mom pose for a photo inside their house during an HBI home visit. The mother and daughter are very close as Irish is the only daughter out of seven kids.

When asked by HBI how it is growing up with six brothers, Kikay said that “it’s very okay, because I get along well with them. Plus I have instant friends with my siblings and instant playmates with my younger brothers. Also, my mother and I are very close because we are the only girls in the family.” Her mother said that she is thankful to have Irish as her only daughter because “even if she is still young, I have someone who helps me at home and someone I can talk to about dresses and keeping the house clean.” Kikay’s father also said that he feels blessed to have at least one daughter because “she is more showy and affectionate than her brothers. When I go home from work, she always gives me a hug which makes all the hard work worth it.

Irish, her mom, and two younger brothers pose for a photo during an HBI home visit.
Irish, her mom, and two younger brothers pose for a photo during an HBI home visit.

Indeed, her parents are working hard to provide them with a better future. But with only one income, the Madera Family finds it difficult to provide all the needs of their children. “That is why we are thankful to HBI, IH-Germany and Kikay’s sponsor because the support provided to her ensures that she continues getting an education which we hope will give her a better life,” her parents said. Kikay is now a Grade 4 student of the Holy Spirit Elementary School – a public school in the community – and considers English as her favorite subject because “I like pronouncing English words correctly and I like writing in English.” Her grade average is a steady 82% out of 100% but she makes sure that she studies all her lessons so that she can get higher grades. As a way of giving back to HBI, the child’s mom is also an active HBI Area Volunteer who assists HBI during project activities like distribution of school supplies, health kits, and conduct of livelihood seminars.

Irish Madera dreams of being a school teacher when she grows up. When asked why, she said “because I want to be a good example to children – I want them to know that even if you are poor, you can dream and you can work hard to reach that dream.” With that said, HBI through the support of IH-Germany and their donors will continue fostering the dreams of Filipino girls through the Child Sponsorship Program so that they can become women who overcame poverty in their pursuit of a better and more fulfilling life.donors will continue fostering the dreams of Filipino girls through the Child Sponsorship Program so that they can become women who overcame poverty in their pursuit of a better and more fulfilling life.

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.

Helping Teachers Teach: Instructional Materials for Public School Teachers

A teacher using the new bog story books during her classes
A teacher using the new bog story books during her classes

Teaching is the noblest profession – no one becomes great without a teacher’s guidance and nurture. Ask anybody about their favorite teachers – those who really made both small and big differences in their lives- and we bet that you would get funny, amusing, and inspiring anecdotes about how a teacher believed in their potential even if others didn’t.

 

In the Philippines, teachers not only teach their students various lessons in different subjects, they also serve as the students’ second set of parents. They worry if their student is absent for a prolonged period of time. They give food to students who went to school with not even a glass of water for breakfast. The short of it is that the Philippines is lucky for having teachers that go beyond the call of duty. But with that comes the sad reality that majority of teachers have to use their own personal money just so they can buy food for their pupils and classroom materials that would help in effectively teaching their students.

 

Such is the case of teachers in Seng-ngat Elementary School. Located in the outskirts of Sudipen, La Union, this public elementary school is home to 180 students who are sons and daughters of tenant rice and tobacco farmers. The school’s principal, Mrs. Lailani Olpindo says that “it’s actually quite hard to be a public school teacher in the province. The school is almost always at the bottom in the priority list since bigger public schools in the urban and major cities get support first. Whatever is left goes to schools like Seng-ngat – small public schools far from the scrutiny of the media. It’s a good thing we have an HBI and an ICARE-Australia who help us.

 

The HBI Team poses for a photo with Kindergarten students of Seng-ngat Elementary School in Sudipen, La Union
The HBI Team poses for a photo with Kindergarten students of Seng-ngat Elementary School in Sudipen, La Union

The Seng-ngat Elementary School is supported by HBI and ICARE Australia via various School Support Programs such as provision of books, kindergarten materials, classroom materials, and instructional materials. Mrs. Zeny Muchong, the HBI CSP Teacher in Seng-ngat Elementary School, said that “all these support are very, very, very welcome. But what we teachers are most thankful for are the kindergarten materials and the teachers’ instructional materials. Because of this, we don’t have to save money to buy chalks, papers, and other office supplies.

 

The Kindergarten level became mandatory for all public elementary schools under the new K+12 Education Curriculum which was implemented in the Philippines in the year 2012. “That’s a nice program actually because Grade 1 students who graduated from Kindergarten already know how to read and write,” said Mrs. Olpindo. “The problem though is that the Department of Education didn’t even provide Kinder materials, books, and educational toys for the children. So in the end, it’s the teachers who have to buy all these things. Imagine, teachers don’t earn that much – if we get 12,000 pesos a month, that is already considered lucky. A Kindergarten Teacher only earns a stipend of 4,000 pesos a month. But in spite of that, we buy the materials; we buy the toys for the benefit of the children. With HBI and ICARE helping us, the load has become very light. On our end, we will try our best to use these materials given to us for the children.”

 

The kindergarten students using the kindergarten materials couldn’t be happier. “We learn a lot,” said one child. “ABCs, counting from 1-50, reading story books, sharing toys, food, and books, and not crying when Mama is not inside the classroom…” said another tot when asked what he learns in Kindergarten class. At the end of the day, HBI is happy that they can help the teachers and students of Seng-ngat Elementary School to study, learn, play, and grow together.

Ms. Naomi Spencer’s visits her sponsored child, Warren Gracia

The Gracia Family with Ms. Naomi Spencer
The Gracia Family with Ms. Naomi Spencer

On May 30, 2013, Madam Naomi Spencer – a donor of ICARE-Australia, paid a personal visit to her sponsored child, Warren Gracia. The Haligi ng Bata, Inc. (HBI) team, led by Mrs. Letty Magaan, fetched Ms. Naomi and her husband, Mr. Alan Robinson, in their hotel on the morning of May 30, 2013 to go to the Gracia Family’s humble home located in the hinterlands of Castro, Sudipen, La Union. On the way to the child’s house, Ms. Spencer and Mr. Robinson exchange pleasantries and stories with the HBI team which provided both parties with clearer and broader pictures of who they are and what they do.

Upon arriving in the Castro Community, the group was met by the HBI Area Social Worker, Ms. Rea Rabe, and the Castro Community HBI Area Leader, Mrs. Marlyn Guzman. From the Castro Community Center, Ms. Spencer and Mr. Robinson together with the HBI Team walked to Warren Gracia’s home. After a short walk, they reached the child’s home where they were welcomed by the child’s father, sister, and of course, Warren. The boy was, at first, shy to meet Ms. Spencer and Mr. Robinson. Ms. Naomi then explained to Warren and his father that he is actually being sponsored by her and her son, Jesse. To this, Warren said thank you very much for supporting him and his family. He then invited Ms. Naomi to come inside their small house. Inside, Ms. Naomi asked Warren where he sleeps, eats, and studies his school lessons. The child gamely toured his sponsor inside his small home. Ms. Naomi also noticed school awards like Most Behaved Student, Most Obedient, and Academic Honorable Mentions, that Warren received. She said she’s proud of his achievements and is very happy that the child’s family is very proud of Warren’s achievements.

Warren shows his sponsor his pet cat
Warren shows his sponsor his pet cat
Ms. Naomi Spencer's gifts to Warren
Ms. Naomi Spencer’s gifts to Warren

Ms. Naomi also came bearing gifts during her visit to Warren. She presented him with inspiration books complete with daily reflections and meaningful bible passages. Warren also received a Bible complete with an inspiring handwritten dedication from Ms. Naomi. Also, he received magazines about Australian wildlife and a drawing/sketching pad complete with coloring materials. Warren was very happy to receive all these additional gifts from his loving sponsor. He even read an inspirational entry in one of the books given to him by Ms. Naomi. Warren also excitedly showed Ms. Naomi two of his pet cats which she appreciated because he became more comfortable and relaxed as the visit progressed. She also visited the Gracia Family’s kitchen and toilet, just so she can have an idea as to what Warren’s everyday life looks like.

At the tail-end of the visit, Ms. Naomi shed tears of joy as she confessed that this was an overwhelming and inspiring experience. On his part, Warren and his dad expressed that they will never forget how their sponsors visited them on a hot summer day in 2013. In parting, Warren said to an HBI team member that Ms. Naomi and Mr. Alan’s visit reminded him of one of his favorite Bible quotes that is very apt – “It’s Ephesians Chapter 1, Verse 16 – ‘I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.’ I already underlined it in my new Bible.

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.

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.”

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