1 October 2011
With the ground crew of Philippines Airlines (where we were booked on) walking out. With Typhoon Nesat wreaking havoc over the last few days, we were concerned about our travel plans to Philippines. But deep in our hearts, we knew we were going anyway. I kept praying to God to help us make this trip and make it a fulfilling one.
I was monitoring the PAL flight situations and the effects of Nesat for a few days. Other than some delay in flight timings, everything seems well, and we are set to go.
We decided to set off to the airport earlier and reached the airport at 8:30am, 2 hours 15 minutes ahead of our flight at 10:45am. We checked in smoothly amidst a long queue. The flight took off 15 minutes behind time. On arrival at Manila, we were further grounded in the aircraft for 30 minutes due to congestion at the arrival gates and unavailability of PAL crew.
Our Filipino friends who picked us up from the airport commented that we are “lucky” as the second typhoon has just landed. Other than heavy rain and wind speed of about 15 knots, everything appears normal in terms of the weather.
2 October 2011
This being Sunday, our original plan was to attend the local church service and meet the key person for this project thereafter. Due to some urgent matters, we were not able to make it on time. Together with our Filipino partner, Wen Dolatre, we finally met Anna May Gonzalez over lunch at Alabang, a town in the suburb of Metro Manila.
We had a long chat as we shared about the mission of Guiding Angels in helping children and the least fortunate people to build a future.
Anna May gave us a good understanding of the school, the children, the farm people, and the work that she has been doing with them these past years, up in the mountains of Tagaytay.
We decided that we had to visit the mountains to visit the school, see the children and their living conditions for a better appreciation and more meaningful outreach.
4 October 2011
What a splendor! It’s amazing to imagine active volcanoes sitting on top of lakes surrounded by water. We were told
that tourist can actually take a short boat rides to the volcanoes, hike up about 150-200m and look down at the inside of the volcanoes, still sprouting with smoke. The last time the volcanoes explode was in 1965. Wonders of the universe.
After the school tour, we proceeded to the Gonzalez’s farm nearby for discussion. Below are excerpts of the Outreach being discussed. Our group of 5 comprising Wen, Gigi & Anna May Gonzalez, Henry and myself sat down for some serious discussion after touring the Gonzalez’s farm and late lunch.
For ease of understanding, I have provided some background information.
Background of Outreach Recipients
Although the school building and facilities are provided by the government, its condition is badly in need of repairs. Originally not intended for Grade 4 due to space constraint, they decided to continue with Grade 4 knowing that these students would otherwise be taken by their parents to work in the farms if they were forced out of school. The plight of these 4th Graders remain unknown after they finished the school year.
- The Teachers were government assigned by the government
- Text books were free, but are on loan to Students and must be returned at the end of the year
- Although no school fees were paid for Elementary Grades, Students had to buy their own uniforms. Most don’t wear uniforms because of affordability
- Many wore slippers instead of school shoes
The entire Outreach can be divided into two phases with immediate action to achieve Phase 1 in the next 3-6 months.
Phase 1 – Children
With additional space, the school can cater for Grade 5 and 6
There are no proper facilities for Library and Medical/Dental room
The Kindergarten area is in need of repairs as they are without doors and windows
b) Nutrition Programs
The Children skipped breakfast and will normally pack bananas or plain rice for recess and lunch. As expected, many will go hungry often and may suffer from malnutrition and poor health which is bad for growing up kids.
The Nutrition Programs target to build up the Children health by providing them with proper meals, where the parents were unable to. Breakfast and Lunch will be included in this program.
May has discussed with an organization who would provide for the meals with a cost. Details of program will follow in the next update.
c) Peso 2000 – Support 1 Child for 1 Year
The School currently has sponsors to support 38 out of the 91 Children in the school. Php2000 program will cover the below:
1 English Book
Wen has very kindly agreed to work on this project with her network.
Jogging Pants Suit – May suggested getting them for the Children as the weather in Tagaytay is much cooler than in the city.
Dental - May is in touch with a Dentist, and are making plans to come over to check on the children.
Phase 2 – Parents
Majority of the parents are poverty stricken, and hired to tend the farms by farm owners. Most merely make ends meet, and often do not have enough food to eat or feed their Children.
They lived in poor housing conditions without electricity, water, sleeping on soiled floors and depended on a nearby spring and river for drinking, cooking and washing. Apart from food, many of them are even lacking in basic daily necessities like clothes, shoes, soaps etc.
These farmers had very little or no education. They have no clues with their lives and that of their Children. All that was important was having a meal and a roof over their heads.
Those families who were not hired by farm owners did odd jobs or nothing. Many would not send their Children to school, but instead brought them to help out at the farms to work as young as age 5.
Many of them are caught in a whirlwind cycle for generations. With no means of feeding themselves and their Children, they would just do menial farm work and earned barely enough to feed the families, let alone send them to school. Lacking in education, these Children would grew up and get into the same cycle of life as their parents.
Means of Livelihood Skill
Teaching them the concept of making a living is thus crucial for these farmers. The objective is to take them out of dependency on handouts and learn the ability to provide for themselves.
This Phase would require more understanding of the parents, gathering resources and setting the right expectations. More time would be required to kick start any program.
Ideas for brainstorming
a) Turning farm produce into products for sale
The advantages are multi-fold:
Providing work for the farmers
Generating a higher revenue from the finished products compared to selling raw harvest
Creating a small business for farmers will aid their future life support
b) Sewing – clothes, curtains
May had mentioned that some of the farmers could sew, or learn sewing. They will then be able to make simple clothes or curtains to sell to the villages or nearby towns.
Areas of Support Required
Packaging of product
Marketing of product
Financial aid on start-up cost
Mindset shift from dependency to self-provide
Other Donated Items Required (non-urgent)
Books – Adults, Children
It does seems like a whole lot of work to be done within these 4 hours of constructive discussion. With the night setting in and a long drive back to Makati, we exchanged contacts and set off from Tagaytay.
It’s been a fruitful and meaningful trip. We understand from the Philipinos that a big group of the population that are in similar situation as the folks we visited in Tagatay. Although we will not be able to impact as many as we like, we draw comfort that we are at least able to touch some people’s lives. And that’s the spirit of Guiding Angels!