For eight years now, the Filipino Cursillos in Christianity (FCIC), Diocese of Los Angeles (L.A.), has been implementing the Hope in Crumbs Outreach Program. Through this program, FCIC L.A. member donate in cash and in kind to implement a one-day mass feeding program for 300 to 400 children in their chosen depressed and urban poor community.
Apart from sharing delicious meals with the children, the Hope in Crumbs Program also donates 300 to 400 complete school supplies and grocery items to all children-participants and their respective families. As an added service, FCIC L.A. also donates refurbished sewing machines, laptops, and computers to be donated to poor community dressmakers and poor students to increase their income and improve their school grades, respectively.
You might be asking now, what does the name “Hope in Crumbs”mean? The name Hope in Crumbs originated from the idea that if all FCIC L.A. members will be able to donate the “crumbs” in their daily lives – such as their loose change, extra money, unused appliances & computers, spare time, & leftover love – then these crumbs can be pooled together and can be transformed into a program that can help those in need.
The response from the FCIC L.A. members is overwhelming. It turns out that they are willing to give more than just their lives’ crumbs. Through the The FCIC L.A. outreach program has reached eight (8) depressed, deprived, and underserved communities in Navotas and Quezon City. Recently, it was implemented in Payatas, Quezon City for the benefit of 300 children and their families. Check out this newsletter to know more about it:
Despite national legislation supporting early childhood care and development, Philippine public daycare centers are dealing with issues of poor facilities, scant teaching materials, & inadequately trained personnel. This happens because public daycares in the Philippines get their funds from their community governments, which means that poorer communities usually have the most underfunded and under-performing daycare centers. Families who cannot afford private daycare facilities are left with no choice but to either make do with the under-equipped community-operated daycare centers, or not enroll their children in any daycare facility at all.
Such is the case of the daycare centers in Barangay Paratong, Bangar, La Union, and the youth center of Barangay Tanza, Navotas, Metro Manila. The Paratong Community, a low-income and disaster-prone fishing village home to approximately 3,400 people, had two daycare centers that needed material support that the community government and the children’s parents cannot afford to provide.
To overhaul their learning activities and make it more fun and engaging for children, the Paratong daycare centers, which caters to 112 children between the ages of 3 to 5 years old, needed educational toys, story books, classroom materials like coloring pens and other school supplies, and audio-visual equipment.
Through the support of the concluded Heed and Thrive Development Project, these materials and equipment were provided and are now being used by all enrolled students. Through these, the daycare centers in Paratong were able to extend their teaching hours because they have more activities in store for the learners. The local elementary school, the Paratong Elementary School also noted that there has been an improvement in the reading, writing, drawing, and social skills of incoming Grade 1 students who were products of the Paratong Daycare Centers. On their part, the daycare centers hope that more children will be reached so that they can also use their improved materials and facilities.
In the urban village of Tanza in Navotas, Metro Manila, the Heed and Thrive Development Project also improved the materials and infrastructure of the Tanza Youth Library. Although not a full-fledged daycare center, the Tanza Youth Library provides after-school and tutorial services to all interested community children – and for a community with over 30,000 residents, such services are considered very important.
According to the Tanza Youth Librarian, “some parents leave their children here as if we are a daycare center. Of course, I cannot turn them away so we have activities for them such as spelling, reading hour, English lessons, and Values Education.” The children who regularly go to the Youth Center were very excited to have new toys to play with and learn from. “This is where I learned how to play chess,” said 8-year-old Joshua who attends the local elementary school as a 2nd Grader. “We play scrabble so we can practice spelling and math at the same time,” said Althea who is a special-needs person and who volunteers as a library assistant.
Although small in scope and in budget, the effects and support made possible by improving these under-equipped daycare centers and youth libraries are immense. By empowering and improving these humble establishments, the most indigent and needy children now have free access and use of a variety of learning facilities that ignite their interest and love for knowledge and learning, which would go a long way in their quest to break free from the shackles of debilitating poverty.
One of the most painful problems that an impoverished and marginalized child has to face is the huge possibility that he or she will never reach their full potential. A poor girl who is good at mathematics will find it difficult to become an engineer or an accountant if she doesn’t have the means to go to college. A child living a hand-to-mouth existence with her family may never know that she has a talent in music because her parents cannot afford to provide their daily family meals, how much more music or singing lessons? These heartbreaking stories of unfulfilled dreams and potentials are a dime a dozen in the poor communities where Sponsor a Child through HBI today.
One of the Child Sponsorship Program’s unspoken objectives is to provide the means for poor children to reach their full potential. This is the case for Mary Joy Otilla, a 15 year old IH-sponsored child from the slums of Bagong Silangan Community (New East Community) in Quezon City, Metro Manila. Mary Joy cites that being a sponsored child enables her to not only do well in school but also join in school clubs and extracurricular activities. “Since our family gets to save money on school supplies and needs, my parents have allowed me to join my school’s Drum and Lyre Music Group among other school organizations,” Mary Joy said.
Enrolled as a 10th Grade student at the Bagong Silangan Public High School, Mary Joy is described by her family and friends as a kind, responsible, and industrious girl. Her mom, Mary Ann – a plain housewife, shares that “MaryJoy is a good daughter. I know she has a good future ahead of her because she is intelligent and she works hard. She studies every night.” The child’s father is the family’s sole breadwinner and he works as a taxi driver. “My dad is almost always away,” Mary Joy said. “That’s why I make it a point to help my Mama at home in doing chores and taking care of my siblings.”
In school, Mary Joy is not only one of Bagong Silangan High School’s most active students – she is also one of the brightest. Her class teacher notes that, “Mary Joy posted one of the highest grades in her class last school year. She ended up as the Top 2 student of her batch. She is dedicated in her studies and she has many friends in school.” When asked about her favorite subject, she said that Science is her favorite because “I like learning about the solar system.”
Based on her preferences and interests, you might think that Mary Joy’s dream in life is to either be a musician or a scientist. But because she is able to experience and learn so much more as a student, Mary Joy has a different ambition in life. “I want to become a chef,” said Mary Joy. “At home when I cook with my mom and at school in my Home Economics subject, I really enjoy the process of making something out of all kinds of ingredients and food.” Apart from being a chef, Mary Joy also dreams of becoming a teacher. She shares that “maybe, I can even be a cooking instructor.”
The future looks bright and promising for Mary Joy. Through the support of her sponsor, she is able to soak up all the experiences of being a student, while figuring out what she really wants to be when she’s older. Through the Child Sponsorship Program, Mary Joy and all the other supported children now have a chance at reaching their full potential.
Oftentimes in the implementation of any development project, we focus too much on writing voluminous project reports riddled with grandiose terms that we sometimes forget to see the project in its simplest and purest form – through the eyes of a child.
8-year-old Michael Anthony Valdez is an incoming Grade 3 student of the Sucoc Elementary School. Fondly called Anthony by his family and friends, the child was a first grader when ICARE Australia’s Adopt-a-School Project started last January 2015. Unlike most of his classmates who have complete sets of parents at home, Anthony – an only child – is being raised by his grandparents –Fe and Epifanio, and his father, Michael who works as a dumpsite sweeper. Anthony’s Grandma Fe shares that “Anthony’s mom left him to our care when he was still a baby because she said she found work in Manila. The last time we spoke to her was 7 years ago and last we heard, she already has her own family.” The child’s father, who has not remarried, works nights so Anthony is usually looked after by his grandmother.
Anthony admits that his unusual family set-up had an effect on his early years as a student. “When I started elementary school, I was wary of other children. I preferred to be alone during recess.” When asked about this, Anthony said that he was a bit scared to mingle with other kids because “they might ask where my mom is. I don’t know what to say to that question.” His grades as a first grader were in the low 80s and mid 70s much to the disappointment of his teacher who can see that Anthony can do better if he participated more in class. Noticing the child’s delayed social development, his teachers and his grandmother urged Anthony to join other school activities. “I asked his teacher if I can enrol Anthony in the adopt-a-school project’s tutorial classes and if he can join the school’s sports and health classes,” Grandma Fe said. Normally, a poor public elementary school like Sucoc Norte would not have these kinds of services. But through the support of the Adopt-a-School Project, the school was able to start and include Anthony in these activities.
A few months after joining the tutorial class and the school’s athletics team, Anthony said that he made his first friend in school – Vince, one of his classmates. Anthony recalls how happy his grandmom was the first time he went home from school walking with a friend. “She was asking me all about Vince and how we became friends. I think she was equally as happy as I am that I have made a friend.” As it turns out, Vince is just the first of many friends that Anthony will gain by participating in school tutorials and playing sports. He enthusiastically shares that apart from Vince, his friends include “Brix, Joshua, Althea, Stephanie, Marian, and Carla” and that they enjoy “playing tag, climbing trees, and eating freshly-picked fruits.”
Anthony also shares how high his grades have risen because of the Adopt-a-School Project. “I am proud that my highest grade is 93% which I got from my Language subjects and from my Physical Education subject. I got a 92% in Math while my lowest grade is 88% in History. My family is so happy.” His teacher, Teacher Jennifer Morla adds that “Anthony is the best student in my class, which is something I couldn’t have imagined given his middling grades in the Grade 1 level.”
When asked how the Adopt-a-School Project can further improve his school, Anthony said that if he can recommend an activity, it would be to create a school perimeter fence because it would improve their safety in school. Anthony shares that “because the school has no fence, some of the younger students often run towards open streets during recess or class dismissals. Sometimes, there are motorcycles or cars passing the streets and if kids just run out, there could be an accident.”
The changes of the Adopt-a-School Project in Anthony’s life go beyond the four walls of his classroom as his home life has also changed. Anthony shares that his grandmother has become more active in the Sucoc Elementary School and has volunteered to be the leader of the school’s Livelihood Committee. “Before, I only see my grandmom in my school when she needs to sign my report card, but now, I always see her in school talking with other parents and with our teachers.” For her part, Grandma Fe is quite proud of herself as well – “I never could have thought that I can help the school and my neighbours simply because I have experience in taking care of goats and hogs. But after what the project has done for my Anthony, I am willing to contribute my time and whatever I know so that we can have a successful project.”
Anthony also shares that his family is one of the recipients of the adopt-a-school project’s livestock raising program and that he and his grandmom now has a new pet piglet which he has named “Oinky”. Anthony is rather fond of his new pet even if it means he gets to have additional house chores because “Oinky is cute and is not as noisy as the other pigs in the community. I like visiting him and cleaning his pen with my grandmother.” His wish is that Oinky gets to have more piglet friends which can help his family and his neighbours.
Even after all these changes, there is still a part of Anthony that yearns for his mother. “When I asked my grandmother where my mom is and why she left me, I always wonder if she still would have left if there were businesses in the community like hog raising. Maybe if something like this was already here in the community, she wouldn’t need to go to the city to look for a job since she can earn here already.”
As Anthony looks on, Grandma Fe said that after many years, they have finally accepted the fact that Anthony’s mom is no longer coming back. However, they hope other families in Sucoc would not have to suffer their fate. Anthony wishes that “the adopt-a-school project is successful and will continue helping children like him who may not have a complete family” but through the project now has a support system both in school and at home. Grandma Fe said that “a child needs a mother, so we are trying our best to make the livestock raising project successful so that mothers would not have to leave their young children behind to work in the city or overseas. There is so much to be done to make our livelihood projects stronger and more sustainable for the benefit of the children and their families.”
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.
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.”
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 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.
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.”
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 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.”
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.”
*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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”