Our family joined my brother Andy in a visit to St. Francis Assisi School of Silay City today where he met Jericho, an incoming Grade 1 student, whom he has been supporting as a scholar this school year.
Jericho is one of three sons of a barber working in Silay City. His picture and profile were uploaded in the Tapulanga Foundation (the fund-raising arm of the school) website last year when they launched their search for sponsors for SY 2014-2015.
Carmela "Micmic" Abello-Golez, the school administrator, her husband Raymond, and their three-year old son met us at the entrance of the school and showed us around the campus.
In one classroom, a few students were strumming guitars under the tutelage of a teacher. A few other students were cleaning the classrooms. Others were repainting desks. The basketball court was alive with teenage boys engaged in a friendly competition of sorts.
Since it is summer and the students were gone, the school was quiet amid a beautiful stretch of green lined with trees on the periphery. The classrooms showed signs of just having survived a happy schoolyear, with artwork on many walls and chalk marks just starting to fade on the blackboards.
As we walked past the row of classrooms leading to an open field, a white structure caught our attention. We were told that this was their chapel, made purely of mud -- no nails, no steel foundation, no other material. Its windows and furniture used bamboo and its roofing, grass. The students themselves built this quaint place of worship, where religious activities and/or some Religion classes were held throughout the year.
Beside the daycare center was a playground with colorful swings, monkey bars, and painted tires where small children could crawl. We sat around here for much of the afternoon while the children played. Micmic & Raymund, meanwhile, filled us in on the work that the school has been doing.
Micmic shared how they have been employing the Dynamic Learning Program (DLP), a brainchild of physicists Dr. Christopher and Ma. Victoria Carpio-Bermido of the Central Visayan Institute Foundation, with considerable success and significant gains. For this, she and other key people in the school went to the Bermidos' school in Bohol for training. Subsequently, other teachers in the school followed suit.
The Bermidos were recipients of an honorary degree at the Ateneo de Naga University in 2014 in recognition of this precise educational innovation. They had, during their brief stay in Naga to receive their award, also introduced this program to academic institutions in Naga as well.
St. Francis of Assisi School of Silay City Foundation, Inc. is a private Catholic institution in my hometown. Last year, it celebrated its 50th year of existence since its establishment in 1964. Located on a five-hectare campus in the outskirts of the city, its vision is "to provide quality Christian education particularly to the children of farm workers in the area and the neighboring communities who cannot afford the regular private schools." It is supervised by the La Salle Christian Brothers.
The school has 600 students from kindergarten to high school. Of these, 400 are scholars supported by donors here and abroad.
The Tapulanga Foundation, which takes charge of ensuring that support for these students continues, has recently launched its "60 Scholars in 30 days" challenge again for SY 2015-2016.
Sixty (60) new students have passed the entrance exams to this school and need sponsors to support their schooling this school year and beyond. Their pictures and profiles have all been uploaded in their website: www.tapulanga.org/60-scholars.
Some, we were told, choose a scholar that is of the same age as their children. Others choose a scholar at random. Still others choose a scholar who captures their hearts.
This chosen scholar then becomes part of their lives. He or she communicates with them through letters. When opportunity arises, as it did for my brother Andy today, both scholar and benefactor meet face-to-face. Such an encounter is as moving as it is inspiring.
Indeed, my family was moved by watching Jericho shyly shake my brother Andy's hand and my brother, after exchanging stories with Jericho's father, patting Jericho on the back and saying, "Matuon ka guid mayo, ha? (Study well, okay?). Watching this inspired us to also rise to the challenge of helping one child's education in this school this school year.
In the midst of so much despair and grief in our midst, this is one place where hope shines through clearly and fiercely in so many ways.
If you find it in your hearts to do your share, too, please check out the Tapulanga Foundation website and sponsor a child.
I do not know a better way to make a difference in this world -- or, at least, to start doing so.
Written by Mary Anne Ledesma-Deduque
April 15, 2015
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