Monday, July 11, 2011

Library for Peace


RealLife by Dolly Palisada
published: March 2011
www.iloilonewstoday.com

Zamboanga City “That wars are fought by the young for the old is a universally known truth,” wrote Lindsay Clark.

The history of child-soldiers can be traced in 480 B.C. The Spartan warriors were selected at birth. When a baby boy was born, soldiers came to the house and test his strength by means of bathing him in wine rather than in water. Weak babies were thrown off the cliff. By age 7, soldiers took the stronger boys, housed them in a dormitory together with other boys: they endured harsh physical, mental and emotional discipline; marched without shoes and went without food for days. They learned to fight, endure pain and expected to survive the grueling system of education called ugoge. They learned to live and think like animals. Self-denial is the warrior’s code; loyalty to the city-state governed their lives.

Which leaves us wondering, are the child-soldiers in Mindanao and the mountain ranges of Cordilleras were trained the same way?

Mindanao Child warrior
Photo courtesy of www.krislibrary.com

We conjured up a child- soldier as a 17 year old African boy clutching a machine gun or a 15 year old Muslim boy in Iraq or Afghanistan strapped by a bomb and muttering prayers.  But in Mindanao, a 12 year old boy can be a deadly spy for a kidnap for ransom group or an extremist indoctrinated in violence and war ready to kill a throng of military men.

Unlike in Ancient Greece or other Muslim countries where dominion is the aspiration in waging wars, the present day child-soldiers in Mindanao thrive because of poverty and lack of education. “Poverty breeds contempt and criminality; Illiteracy breeds bias and lack of work,” Armand Dean Nocum said.

Manicahan
Manikahan Brgy. Hall

About 20 kilometers away from Zamboanga City proper on the East Coast sits Manicahan— a coastal barangay along the coastal highway with at least 1,800 hectares in land area. Its two kilometers shoreline is famous for its pink powdery sand. As of May 1, 2000 the National Statistics Office (NSO) recorded a total population of 7,702 with only 1,470 households. It is bounded by Barangays Lapakan on the West, Victoria on the North, Cabaluay on the South and the Islands of Sacol, Tumalutab and Manalipa on the East.  Sacol Island for the most part is the reason why kidnapping is rife in Manicahan. Its proximity to the mainland is about a mile away and a known lair for the Abu Sayyaf extremist group. It is said that kidnap victims were taken by boat to Sacol: women were raped or men were killed if the family does not heed the demands of the captors.

 On the other hand, Zamboanga City, the Latin City of Asia is only an hour and 30 minutes away by plane from Manila and approximately 45 hours by boat.  Then again, government projects and opportunities failed to fall on its lap triggering the rise of kidnapping as livelihood project for some. Christians are the target victims, especially those who present a rather progressive standing in the locality such as the OFWs, teachers, nurses or retired government employees.  “Pantawid gutom” is much more appropriate a word to describe the proliferating illegal activity because a demand of five thousand pesos is certainly ordinary.

The Nocum Legacy 
Armand Dean Nocum as photograph by her daughter Arizza
“Armand Dean Nocum is a self made man,” Armand says of himself in an interview.  The multi-awarded journalist of The Philippine Daily Inquirer retired in 2007 after 14 years, reinvented himself many times through self learning: reading.  His insatiable appetite for reading paved the way to opportunities he so enjoys today such as the CEO of Dean and Kings, a Legal PR firm; his used car business; his restaurant. Above all these, he is the brains behind KRIS or Kristiyano-Islam (Kris) Peace Library in Manicahan, Zamboanga City.

Together with his Muslim wife Annora, A-Book-Saya Group was realized in 2006. Its advocacy is called “Books for Guns”. Armand reveals, “With our ABSG advocacy, we're out to rescue poor kids from the jaws of terrorism and criminality in Southern Philippines. Help us stop the rise of 12-year-old child warriors. We want these kids to pick up books, not guns.” 
Initially, the husband and wife team started out distributing second hand books to various schools in Zamboanga City. But the exercise gathered little result and they decided to give out directly to students. As donations came pouring in, the Nocums thought of building a library where Muslim and Christian students alike share common interest in reading without prejudice, hatred and discrimination. Through donations from the private sectors in Metro Manila, Davao and other parts of the country, from prominent political names such as Jovito Salonga and Roilo Golez—the library building finally stood still in the middle of Barangay Manicahan, the birth place of Armand Dean Nocum.  
Books for Guns project


For the Love of Books and Reading 
a haven of muslim and christian students alike

Armand grew up witnessing war in the ‘70s between the military and MNLF. Foxhole under his home was his temporary shelter as Tora Tora planes crisscrossing the sky.  His late father Armando, the Barangay Captain then aided in the war to protect their place and its people against the radical group. On a normal day, his common toys were empty ammo shells while the wall of their house rests long barreled guns and other warfare trappings.  

“Growing up in a place tattered by war is not easy”, Armand revealed.  
inside the Kris Library


It is for the love of it that he eventually came up with the idea of saving one would-be-child-soldier at a time as preventive measure by exposing them to reading books. “If we can stop one would- be- bomber of MRT-LRT, then Mindanao has broken the cycle of evil,” Armand said.   

Constant Fear

Every time his phone rings, he would ask himself: will this be my day? Armand fears for the life of his 65 year-old mother who’s taking charge of the Peace Library. The mother, a retired school principal is, according to Armand--“kidnapable.” Not too long ago, his mother received a “love letter” from a kidnap for ransom group demanding for her retirement money but the only reason why she’s still unharmed is that some gang members were her former students.  To this day, Armand continues to rely on his belief that good karma could save his relatives who become sitting ducks in their own homeland.

Reading for Peace

reading materials donated to Kris Library from

Auntie Dolly Bordner


The Kris Library has recorded 50,000 visits from students, teachers and parents since they opened in April 2009.  The library is now “home” to students who finally found a better alternative to hopelessness. It houses thousands of books, computers, photo copier and livelihood room for parents. It opens at 8 in the morning until 6 at night. Volunteers are older students who assist the younger ones how to use the computer or teach them to read. This March marks the first batch of the Nocum scholars to proceed to college in June. The effect of the library can be attributed to the improved self confidence of the students—their high marks and their drive to study more. “When you see Christian and Muslim students sitting beside each other in the library-- reading and studying in peace, I know that I’ve done something right,” Armand said with a smile.  

Opportunity and tolerance

Annora Nocum’s endless wish for the Muslim young ones is to make it their way of life to read books and see opportunities outside of Mindanao and to use these opportunities to find better ways to improve the lives of their families. “If one is educated, one has tolerance for other people’s religion, belief and culture,” Annora opined.

Armand for his part revealed, “I don’t make pretentions of being good, but has constant effort to do good to correct past sins. Life is a constant effort to be better as a person and as a Filipino citizen.”
Now it can be told, Armand and the people behind the Peace Library are indeed shaping the lives of a child every time they flip a page of a book.  Books for Guns Project was one of the 2010 winners of Smart Communications’ Tipid-Sulit Idol Search, a program that aims to support groups and individuals who make an impact in their communities. Indeed, Baynihan lives on. Armand is grateful for the continuing effort of donors who help him sustain the library.
The Christian-Muslim union produced 2 successful children at a young age. Aisha Nocum is the youngest 5-in-1 hole multi awarded golfer at 10 years old. The eldest Arizza is a UP Oblation Scholar. Mom Annora bore a son -Arno a month ago.

References: http://www.sattisfaction.blogspot.com/; Z-Wiki; Ancient Greece, HistoryWiz and special mention to Mr. Alfie Smith who has a heart of a Filipino: sa isip, sa diwa at sa gawa. Many thanks.
with Car-car volunteering for Kris Library

You too can be part of the Kris Blessings, please join us now and be a Robin Book volunteer by clicking http://www.krislibrary.com​/volunteer.html or contacting Arizza at http://www.krislibrary.com​/contact-us.html. 
 Stories of Bayanihan will be printed in a soon to be released book: The Bayahihan Leadership—A True Filipino Leadership Trait by yours truly. Drop me a note at dm.palisada@gmail.com.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Million Pens and Pencils for poor Filipino School Children

Michael and Jaime del Rosario Martinez, PEC Coordinator in Manila
By Dolly Palisada
Real Life Column                     
The News Today
Published: April 2011

Muntinlupa City, Alabang--- “Michael!” “Michael!” “Michael!”

It was nine in the morning. Humid and dry: it’s the onset of summer. In Metro Manila, the place is alight with anticipation of the hot season. Meanwhile, the chanting was getting louder and louder as we get off the cab. The boxy-taxi chose the shortcut as per instruction of our guide to drive along the local train tracks ergo we needed to sped off unless we wanted to be run over by the old train.  But it never showed up anyway. We arrived in No. C7 Ilaya in one piece.

“Michael!” “Michael!” “Michael!” and the chanting continued making him the latest hot celebrity after Manny Pacquiao.
Michael with son David with the kids of Muntinlupa City

Yes, there they were—beaming. Small faces plastered with genuine smiles. Kids piled up the street with much fervor that some of them were still in their pajamas and some were clutching stuffed toys and most of them in bare feet. The more than seventy children had their early Christmas presents on April 2, 2011.

Santa Michael

When the boxes and bags full of school supplies where unloaded from the taxi and everybody were settled under a tree in one of the houses, the children surrounded Michael. He is the present day Santa (not that he looks like him, but every white guy who gives presents to Filipino children are considered one).
Michael with kids accepting his present of school supply
Jamie del Rosario and the rest of the volunteers in the community prepared a short program for Michael. Elementary aged children show-cased their musical talents in dancing and singing with the help of a blasting karaoke system on the side. They danced with gusto in Kesha’s Tik Tok and Lady Gaga’s Poker Face. After the glee part, Michael made a speech. His voice was quivering obviously overwhelmed with happiness and appreciation in seeing the excitement of every child in that instance. He said, “I’ve been to a lot of gift giving activities before but every time I am in the Philippines, with these kids in front of me, their enthusiasm and appreciation are what keeps me going. I have to pursue my goal for the Philippine school children.”


What is PEC?

In 2005, his first visit to the country of his wife Charrie Ann—a Filipino nurse, he learned the realities of under funded elementary schools in the country particularly in the province of Negros Occidental where his wife came from. In Victorias City, a cousin in-law was one of the teachers in Victorias North Elementary School. Ms. Sharon Mentor detailed the difficult situation a child goes through his school days without enough school supplies to sustain him all year round. This breaks Michael’s heart knowing that in the United States where he is from, books and other basic school materials are easy to have, easy to dispose of.

In that instance, Michael realized the possibility of being the key person to unlock the door of disarray in elementary schools in the Province of Negros Occidental or in any part of the Philippines that may need donations of school supplies from the United States.

Back in Oxnard, California, Michael Lampkin, together with his wife and 5 year old son David, started their Pen and Pencil campaign and collected ample stuff. From second hand books, pens, pencils, crayons, school bags, laptops, computer towers: basically all school materials that other people didn’t need anymore. “I was asking everyone I know at work or in my community, in Facebook or my passengers in the bus everyday for anything that can be used in school that their kids don’t need. Just anything that the  school children can use. That’s what I told them and suddenly donors came pouring in,” Michael revealed. “I had been doing it for a couple of years until the charity became officially a non-profit organization based in California. The Philippine Educational Charity or PEC’s long term goal is to help every school children in the Philippines with enough school supplies for the whole year and the years to come. That’s our goal,” Michael said with conviction.

Pen and Pencil Drive and Feeding Program

In March 31, 2011, Michael and his son David arrived in the Philippines for the third time--but with a twist here and there. In a nearby hotel, a Pen and Pencil drive was going on. From the airport, Michael proceeded to the venue where a number of donors were waiting for him. One of them was Lorraine Maningo who came all the way from Baguio City, a 6-hour drive to Manila. Meanwhile, the crew of GMA News TV was already on standby for his scheduled interview right there. Finally, the day ended with a successful first PEC activity that earned the charity more than a thousand pens and pencils, a balikbayan box stuffed with all kinds of school materials that came all the way from Doha, Qatar.
Ruby Pearl Dapitan meet up with Michael and son David

The morning after, NBN TV Channel 4, a government owned station placed Michael on a live program interview over its morning show, One Morning. It was an instant hit garnering a number of hits in its website at www.philedcharities.org.

That Saturday as well, Michael and a few volunteers came to Muntinlupa City to officially hand over the items to the chosen community beneficiary of the Pen and Pencil Drive in Metro Manila. It was here that Michael promised himself to pursue his feeding program when he saw skinny kids around. In fact, the bagful of school supplies given to the children included one muffin each for those who were present. Jamie said some children were thankful for the muffins-- it was their first food for the day.
 April 3, Sunday was the day ABSCBN Network scheduled Michael for a live interview in their cable news center, ANC, hosted by Stanley Palisada and Lia Andanar-Yu over Dateline News Sunday. The program is broadcasted globally over The Filipino Channel (TFC). The interview hoped to inform Filipino communities abroad that PEC is one venue they can send their donations for in relation to the uplifting of educational needs of poor elementary school children in the Philippines.
Michael Lampkin as interviewed by ABSCBN News Channel's (ANC) Dateline Sunday Edition news anchors: Stanley Palisada and Lia Andanar-Yu
 That same day, over the program “Good News” in GMA News TV, Michael’s first interview came out. After the airing of the program, calls poured in, pledges as well.

In summary, Michael’s trip to the Philippines gained him ground to make the Filipinos aware of the existence of PEC and its various activities in the country.
Michael surrounded by children of Muntinlupa City
 “I’m a bus driver of Gold Coast transit in California who is sincere in my passion to help the Filipino kids. I’m not rich, not poor but my heart is abundantly blessed with friends who are constantly helping me in anyway they can,” Michael declared.
Michael at ABSCBN Manila TV interview
 “I want to mention Arie Sachs who is the PEC’s VP for Operations in the USA. Malcolm Conlan is UK based and in charge of donations there. Volunteers in the Philippines like Jamie del Rosario, Edward Camat, Laarni Gueta and Hedy Tan are among the few I met in Facebook and became instant friends-volunteer. You see, we are not paid at all. We don’t accept money as donations but if people donate money, we buy school supplies to give out to schools,” reasoned Michael. “The recent feeding program in Victorias City made my heart skip as I saw children in bad shape but after they ate I was overflowed with joy as I saw them smile. Feeding 230 kids with soup and bread for as little as P1,500.00 (USD 30) is all we need to make them smile. My trip to the Philippines is priceless!”
Michael and the PTA officer
 In Bacolod City, Michael was interviewed twice by ABS-CBN News. His successful Pen and Pencil Drive held at the Robinson’s Place in April 9, 2011 garnered thousands of assorted school materials including books and rubber slippers. Michael’s plan is to donate what he gathered to the recently burned classrooms of Daan Banha Elementary School in Victorias City where four classrooms caught fire.

Philippine Educational Charities Manila
Michael and a kindergarten teacher
 Donations for PEC in Manila maybe dropped at its temporary office at No. C7 Ilaya, Muntinlupa City. Please look for Jamie Martinez. You may also add Michael David Lampkin on Facebook or email him at midala40@yahoo.com. Donate now to sustain the needs of poor school children in the Philippines. Help PEC gather one million pencils this year and let the Filipino Bayanihan spirit lives on.
Michael with volunteers at ABSCBN
Bayanihan Stories and more are included in a soon to be released book, Bayanihan Leadership—A True Filipino Leadership Trait written by yours truly. Drop me a note at dm.palisada@gmail.com.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

SAGIP: Saving the Sierra Madre, Saving the Dumagat Tribe


By Dolly M. Palisada
RealLife Column. The News Today.
Published: March 2011

Bulacan – Midnight. A shot rang off followed by loud voices of men commanding. Tire of vehicles screeching the dirt road. A commotion is apparent—it’s a raid!

Our katutubo- The Dumagat Tribe of Sierra Madre
Meanwhile, they scuttle for cover. Some would run off to the thick forest. Some, mostly elders stay behind and await for their fate in the hands of either the military or the NPAs.  They don’t know exactly who they are, but one thing is sure, they-- the Dumagats are always caught in the crossfire.

For years, this scenario is a never-ending nightmare for the Dumagat people, Bro. Martin Francisco said in an interview. Surge of human rights violations among the indigenous Dumagat is rising every year. At the time of the Arroyo Administration’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya, the Dumagat Tribe suffered heavily--losing their lands, houses, livelihood and their lives. Scores of torture, murder, rape were not officially reported.  The Dumagat Tribe is withering, ebbing out into extinction as the days go by.

 “Under the command of General Palparan, the Philippine military brazenly violated the civil political rights of the Dumagats. The indigenous peoples’ sector incurred more than a hundred killings among their ranks during the Arroyo regime,” Bro. Martin continued. Human rights violation is one of the many complexities in Sierra Madre. The Dumagat inhabitants recently bore the outbreak of tigdas or measles among their children below 10 years old. The victims were sent to hospitals in Bulacan. In 2007, cases of malaria were recorded in different settlements scattered in Sierra Madre and a single casualty was reported in Norzagaray. 

Hunger and illegal logging are two of the most intense crisis the katutubo are going through presently,” Bro. Martin Francisco of SAGIP SIERRA MADRE ENVIRONMENTAL SOCIETY, INC (SSMESI) describes the present plight of the indigenous people. “If Sierra Madre is gone, the Dumagat Tribe will be wiped out too. In the end, I’m afraid even the water we drink today will dry up because of illegal logging,” warned Bro. Martin.  

 
Sierra Madre Mountain Range
Web definition says Sierra Madre is Spanish for “mother mountain range”. It applies to the network of mountains within the mountain. The highest point is Mount Anacuao at 6,069 feet or 1,850 meters, meanwhile Mount Mirador has views of Luzon from its peak. Although not related to the Sierra Madre Mountains of North and Central America, Sierra Madre Mountain in the Philippines is also the longest mountain range that lies in the Northeastern part of Luzon Island. The range stretches from Quezon Province to Isabela. To the west, it reaches the province of Nueva Vizcaya to form the Caraballo Mountains, with which it connects with the Cordillera Central range. About 80 percent is tropical rainforest and only 5 percent is unexplored. The Sierra Madre serves as the eastern wall of Luzon that protects inhabitants from tropical cyclones usually coming from the Pacific Ocean.
The beautiful mountain range over Aurora Province
 Significantly, species of lizard endemic to the mountain range is called butikaw  or varanus bitatawa  and is also known as food source for the natives. In a study conducted by Carbon Association Australasia Limited, habitat conversion is the primary threat to the ecoregion. Commercial logging (both legal and illegal) continues to have a devastating effect on biodiversity. Conversion of highland areas to large-scale plantations is currently expanding, causing both displacement and erosion which is already a serious problem.
the denuded area



 New roads and mining projects directly threaten forests but also make forests more susceptible to exploitation as a result of increased accessibility. Subsistence hunting and capture of species for a growing wildlife pet trade adversely affect many of the ecoregion's species.

 “Our Forest, Our Life”
illegal logging has done this
To further the awareness of the Filipinos, let me take you to the world introduced by the  movie Avatar, the sci-fi blockbuster film by James Cameron. Certainly, it is fiction based, but the theme of the film and the state of Sierra Madre is similar. It can be said that Sierra Madre is Pandora, the Dumagats are Na’vi people and paraplegic Marine Jake Sully could be Bro. Martin Francisco. Kidding aside, SAGIP could be the key element that can reverse the outset of destruction or avert the ongoing illegal activities in the area— together with the Filipino people to save our Last Great Forest.   “If mass killing in World War II is called genocide, what is happening in Sierra Madre is ethnocide. The katutubo are slowly dying of hunger, murder and forest destruction,” disclosed Bro. Martin. SAGIP aims to save the mountain, save life.
Sierra Madre is the mother source of water for the whole Luzon

What is SAGIP SIERRA MADRE Environmental Society and Multi-Sectoral Coordinating Council? 
 “Our advocacy is to advance the interest of the Dumagat Tribe in Sierra Madre,” Bro. Martin said. SSMESI is a non-profit, indigenous people based organization. Included in their task is to collaborate with agencies to protect the Sierra Madre of Bulacan that covers the three watersheds namely: Angat, Ipo & Gen. Tinio-DRT. The members, mostly volunteers agreed to organize themselves into a Multi-Sectoral Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
DENR Sec. Paje and Bro. Martin Francisco

How they started

It started with the creation of Dumagat Mission Center in 1996. Bro. Martin as head of its field office in Bulacan is a missionary for the poor that witnessed first hand the obliteration of the forest since he was small. In later years, he lived with the Dumagats for a decade--observing them up close, to know their culture, to know how they live as a group. He lived like them in harmony with nature and eventually became a family. Bro. Martin has a book, “Bakit Sila Namamatay Sa Gutom” to be released this summer based on his intensive research.
Bro. Martin (right), Arnie Trillana (left) visiting Dumagat settlement area
 
SAGIP has done countless medical missions in the area. About 4,000 Dumagats remain scattered in the mountain range half of that number is no longer pure. Intermarriages are allowed between the negritos and the “tagalog”. But none have attained college diploma. Their education solely depends on the knowledge of things around them and how their elders have taught them the ways of the forest. They admonish western education even at this age and time.

SAGIP depends on voluntary services and assistance of its members. Donations, grants, livelihoods and generosity of the private sector or of other organizations and government agencies are ways to amend the crisis but to sustain the project is a long and tedious task to do. “If illegal logging persists in the next ten years, the Dumagat could be the very people to destroy what is left in the forest. They will do that for survival. They will do that to live, like the rest of us,” Bro. Martin said.

IPRA Law

In October 29, 1997 former Senator Juan Flavier signed into law The Indigenous People’s Rights Act or IPRA. IPRA is the result of years of deliberation and legislative study and consultations. It is the result of consolidated bills related to ancestral domains and lands, and international agreements on the recognition of lands and domain rights of the indigenous people. When asked about his one crucial wish for the Dumagat Tribe,  Bro. Martin has this to say: “The implementation of the IPRA Law is a dream come true for these people. If only the government will allocate fund to make their dream a reality.”


For queries and donations please see website of Bro. Martin : http://bromart.multiply.com/.

Indeed, bayanihan spirit lives on. Please drop me a note at dm.palisada@gmail.com. Photo courtesy of Bro. Martin Francisco

Monday, June 20, 2011

KaEskwela: Promotes Bayanihan in helping public school children attain better education

by Dolly Palisada on Wednesday, May 4, 2011 
Real Life Column
The News Today
www.iloilonewstoday.com





“A school is where they grind the grain of thought,
And grind the children who must mind the thought.
It may be those two grindings are but one,
As from the alphabet come Shakespeare's Plays,
As from the integers comes Euler's Law,
As from the whole, inseperably, the lives.,”
“September, The First Day Of School by Howard Nemerov

Quezon City--   The question now is, how can public schools grind the thoughts of students when there aren’t enough books to read? Or, papers to write on? Even pencils for writing?

But the problem does not rest in books, papers and pencils alone. Most of poor school children in far flung areas do not have slippers on their feet to walk on rugged dirt or cross rivers; a decent school clothes; a bag to carry their things; an umbrella to shield their heads from rain or extreme heat or a piece of bread to ease the pangs of hunger.

Countless organizations, here and abroad are on the forefront of advocating the plight of hapless children, thus slackening the appalling situation of public school children in the Philippines. These organizations have been actively advancing the cause of poor education, poverty and malnutrition among students under 10 years old. The effort has been successful so far, but the number of schools and children in need are ballooning every year. Of the 16-million estimated school children in public elementary and high schools, the Philippine government ''spends only one-eighth of what Thailand sets aside for basic education'', according to Inter Press Service released by UNESCO.

“Classes conducted under the shade of fruit trees or in dilapidated school buildings are not uncommon in rural areas in the Philippines. And with the meager share of funds for education in the government's annual budget, it will take some time before the shortage of classrooms, books, desks, chairs, and even teachers can be adequately addressed. The education department admits it needs to build 21,000 classrooms and hire 10,000 teachers for public schools across the country to fill the current shortfall, but the problem is finding the money to fund this,” Marites Sison said, a journalist of Inter Press Service of UNESCO.
“No wonder that the quality of education has deteriorated fast in a country that once boasted one of the highest literacy rates in Asia,” added Sison.

Here comes KaEskwela 

In its website, this bold conviction expresses its vision for public school children in the country: “We believe good education molds good citizens and good citizens build a good nation. We believe we can do something on our own to help improve education and make an impact in the lives of students and teachers.”
Volunteerism is encouraged. Bayanihan is at play.
KaEskwela in Filipino means “schoolmate”. A schoolmate is a friend--someone you share commonalities like school, toys, barangay, church, plaza, transportation, culture, and might be-- future. KaEskwela is a group of Filipino volunteers whose core duty is to advance the interest of children from public schools: improve their educational system by providing what their school needs. KaEskwela believes education is the foundation in building better lives and eventually, a better nation.
"You have to make volunteerism easy," Grace says. "Show them it's not that hard, and more people will join the cause." Statement published in Homestyle Magazine, by Charlene F. Sawit (September-October 2009 issue).
Grace Leung together with Atty. Noel “Boyet” del Prado organized and registered KaEskwela in 2007 as a non-stock, non-profit group. After watching the show “Wish Ko Lang” where a book giving drive to school was featured, Grace was both deeply touched and infuriated by the reality of life among the poorest of the poor in the country. It was a light bulb moment, it was no turning back. KaEskwela was launched by bringing in relief goods and pre-owned items to typhoon victims, particularly to students living in Montalban, Rizal Province and Binan in Laguna.

On their own                                                                                                                                 

KaEskwela’s journey is shared by volunteers such as teachers, employees, writers, lawyers, managers, artists, engineers, IT professionals that have come together to help public school children. Old friends came together to meet up new friends and the group grew from just two to 44 in no time at all. Three of the members are based abroad and three are outside of Luzon while the rest are in Metro Manila. KaEskwela is basically making some ripples of change on their own—from donations, and without support from any government agencies or political affiliation.

KaE process of change

Talk is guaranteed to find out what the school needs: from sheer knowledge of what they require, KaE coordinates with school officials. So far, KaEskwela has donated books, school supplies, bags and footwear, and computers. Volunteers have also conducted workshops on literacy for teachers, art and writing classes for students.
When the need arises, such as calamities, KaE also holds relief operations. Feeding programs and medical-dental missions are steered in areas that badly needed the service.

What makes KaEskwela different from other education groups?
Grace Leung summarized two bullet points that underscore the work employed by KaE:
  • “All our activities are school-based. We want to help students and their parents view going to school as a positive experience, rather than a burden;” and,
      *    “We want to empower schools. We conduct dialogues to find out not just what   we can give, but how we can work together. We try to make improvements not just in things they own, but also in the skills and mindset they possess,” Grace disclosed.

Choosing beneficiary schools

Through their website and Multiply account, people write to recommend certain school that needed help. They may usually come from the same community or some written appeal from school principals or school officials who may have heard about KaEskwela.
The next step is to talk to the principal and the teachers to find out how KaEskwela can best help them. What KaEskwela look for in beneficiary schools is a pro-active and cooperative spirit from teachers to the officers. They must be willing to help themselves, and are not just looking for dole-outs. So far, more than 20 schools in Pampanga, Laguna, Aklan, Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur, Montalban, Marikina and Bataan have been assisted by KaEskwela throughout the years.

Where does KaEskwela get its funds?

“We get our funds from donations,” Grace Leung said. “We also hold fundraising activities such as block screenings of movies (Twilight and Harry Potter), gigs (usually organized by other like-minded groups, and they just give part of the proceeds to KaEskwela) and a golf tournament,” she added.
KaEskwela have partnered with Levi’s and National Bookstore to bring donations to various schools.

Donate cash to KaEskwela Inc. through our registered bank account:

Bank: Banco De Oro (BDO)         

Branch: Strata 100 Branch

Account Name: KaEskwela Inc.

Current Acct No. 286 800 9606
Bank Routing Code or Swift Code: BNORPHMM
After depositing, please fax the deposit slip to (63-2) 9105597, Attn: Atty. Katrina Bote-Veguillas
OR email a scanned copy of the deposit slip to kaeskwelavolunteers@yahoo.com.
Donors may also email a request for an official receipt


What is KaEskwela’s next big project?
“We want to build a library for every beneficiary school.  We believe that every school should have a library wherein kids can enjoy reading and learning,” Leung revealed.
A library may cost so much but for a visionary leader like Grace Leung, this long term goal of KaE is never impossible.

Are there other ways to help KaEskwela?

Donation of cash or donations in kind--books for grade school and high school, school supplies, bags, slippers and shoes, umbrellas, and things that every student and teachers may use in school are most welcome.
KaE also needs more members who are willing to devote time and effort. To join, simply email your details to kaeskwelavolunteers@yahoo.com or send a blank email to kaeskwela_inc-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.
How else can we find out more about KaEskwela?

You can check out their website, www.kaeskwela.org, or our Multiply site, www.brigadaeskwela.multiply.com.

Indeed, Bayanihan lives on. Stories of Bayanihan and more are found in a soon to be released book: Bayanihan Leadership, A true Filipino leadership trait by yours truly. Drop me a note at dm.palisada@gmail.com.