Category Archives: HBI Project Areas

Improving Public Daycare Centers and Youth Centers

At the crucial age of 0 to 6 years old, children require good quality care and early education to enhance their social, cognitive, linguistic, and emotional development. In touch with the reality that the first stage of a child’s life can shape their chances at a better future, the Philippines passed a law 28 years ago that required all communities to create public daycare centers for children.

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.

Ill-equipped public daycare centers are the only option for early schooling for children such as these who are the daughters of poor fisherfolks
Ill-equipped public daycare centers are the only option for early schooling for children such as these who are the daughters of poor fisherfolks

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.

Game days in the Tanza Youth Library are fun and educational
Game days in the Tanza Youth Library are fun and educational

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.

 

It Gets Better: the Sucoc Adopt-a-School Project Seen through Anthony’s Eyes

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.

Anthony Valdez - A Student of the Sucoc Norte Elementary School
Anthony Valdez – A Student of the Sucoc Norte Elementary School

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 with his grandmother
Anthony with 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.

Anthony (kid in blue shirt) poses for a picture with his classmates and teacher
Anthony (kid in blue shirt) poses for a picture with his classmates and teacher

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 Valdez Family shares a simple meal together
The Valdez Family shares a simple meal together

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.”

Anthony does his school assignment with an assist from his grandma
Anthony does his school assignment with an assist from his grandma

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.”

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.

Haligi ng Bata, Inc. (HBI) and The Trafigura Foundation Partners for 3-Year Development Project in San Fernando, La Union

On January 17, 2014, the partnership between Switzerland’s Trafigura Foundation and Philippine non-government organization Haligi ng Bata, Inc. (HBI) became official. Through this newly-forged partnership, a 3-Year Development Project, dubbed The San Agustin School and Community Development Project, will soon become a reality in the San Agustin Poro Point area in San Fernando, La Union, Northern Philippines.

The aforementioned project, which will begin on January 2014, aims to improve the health, sanitation, education, and livelihood status of 805 schooling children and 600 coastal residents. The project sites would be the San Agustin Elementary School and the San Agustin coastal community. The project was planned and designed to have a school & community-based approach. It will help the school improve their infrastructure and school services, while helping the community with their sanitation and livelihood problems. This will be different from dole-out projects because sustainability will be ensured by school-community livelihood projects that would provide additional income to community participants, and a source of improvement funds for the school.

The San Agustin School and Community Development Project marks HBI’s first foray into implementing a sustainable development project in La Union’s capital city.  Haligi ng Bata, Inc. or HBI is a non-stock, non-profit, non-sectarian, and non-government organization in the Philippines.  HBI is a duly-registered non-profit entity with the Securities and Exchange Commission and is licensed, registered, and accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Established in the year 1984, HBI operates their various development projects in Metro Manila, La Union, and Negros Occidental where over 2,500 children, families, and schools benefit.

Mrs. Leticia L. Magaan, HBI’s Executive Director, is leading the HBI Team in the implementation of the San Agustin School and Community Development Project. “It is a great honor and privilege to be partners-in-service with The Trafigura Foundation. Rest assured that we will give our very best work for the project so that together we can help improve the state of the San Agustin School – its students and teachers, and the San Agustin Community.

On the other hand, project funding partner Trafigura Foundation is the corporate social responsibility arm of global commodities trader Trafigura.  The Trafigura Foundation was launched in November 2007 in response to a widely held desire amongst those who work for Trafigura to make a real and lasting difference in the world. The Foundation supports sustainable development programs along the lines of sustainable development, education & integration, and health in more than 30 different countries and has funded 35 programs in 2013 alone while granting US$ 32 Million in program funds between November 2007 and December 2013.

At the core of the Trafigura Foundation is an indefatigable desire to make the world a better place by having a genuine impact on the projects they support. Certainly, Trafigura Foundation has found another partner in HBI, geared toward achieving their goals.

*Know more about the San Agustin School and Community Development Project in our future posts.

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.

 

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.

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.

 

The Adopt-a-School Project in Rissing Elementary School (2008-2012)

In the year 2008, the Rissing Elementary School is everything a public school shouldn’t be – underequipped, underfunded and unmaintained. Before the Ylenia Foundation, CO-OPERAID and HBI started their four year Adopt-a-School Project, the school had limited to no facilities: five school buildings in need of major repairs (one of which was condemned and infested with snakes); insufficient number of classrooms for the schooling children; no working water system; no sanitary toilets; no canteen; no clinic; no library; no computers, and a severe lack of textbooks and classroom materials & equipments that affect the children’s education.

When the Ylenia Foundation, CO-OPERAID and HBI began their adopt-a-school project in the Rissing Elementary School on 2008, they all knew that it will take a lot of time and resources (both material and technical) for all the needs of the school, its students and their families to be implemented and put in place. With so many problems hounding the school, it was quite a challenge to figure out where to start improvements and how to implement them.

But after four years of implementing the project, the Rissing Elementary School of the year 2012 is now the public school other schools in the La Union province aspire to be: a school with complete sets of instructional materials for their students; a well-equipped school with a classroom for each grade level and with a working school water system, library, canteen, and toilets; a school that provides additional services like tutorial classes, drum and lyre skills and computer classes to their students; a school with an active Parents and Teachers Association; a school that is home to students who are consistent high scorers in aptitude tests and academic meets; and most important of all, a school that students enjoy being in. The students go to school daily with all their school needs taken care of and their parents continue to strive harder to expand the livelihood support provided by the Adopt-a-School Project. On the other hand, the teachers continue to give their very best efforts in teaching their students and helping them become productive Filipino citizens.

In summation, if not for the valuable support of foreign implementing partner, CO-OPERAID Switzerland, and more importantly the project’s funding partner, the Ylenia Foundation, HBI and the Rissing Elementary School’s teachers, parents and students would not have gotten the chance to accomplish any of the steps of the adopt-a-school project. The project may have only lasted for four years but the improvements and the changes in the school, and in the lives of the students and their families will last for many years to come.  It has to be said that indeed, something good can come out from something terrible. The untimely passing of young Ylenia Lenhard led to the creation of the Ylenia Foundation which quickly worked on providing the Rissing Elementary School, Bangar, La Union with needed school support and the Rissing parents with the means to improve their capacity to earn more income – all these for the benefit of the Rissing Elementary School children who, after 4 years of being aided by the project, now have a chance at brighter futures.

The table on this gallery will show the various program statistics of the HBI, CO-OPERAID Switzerland and Ylenia Foundation’s Adopt-a-School Project implemented in the Rissing Elementary School from September 2008 to August 2012.