Philippines

Clean Water: A Learning Essential for Southern Philippines School

By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines

World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

It’s quiet in the neighborhood around Nabilid Elementary School. The school sits amid a small community of 10 houses and a sari-sari store that sells packets of instant noodles, soda and junk food. The peace is only broken by the roar of an occasional jeepney bus, carrying children and their adult guardians to and from school in this section of the southern Philippines island of Mindanao.

classroom with adults and children

Nabilid Elementary School, in the Philippines, lacked a functional water system until recently.

Amid the dust and black exhaust, passengers have to cover their noses and mouths with handkerchiefs. Thirsty children walk straight to the school’s canteen after arriving, seeking something to drink.

Because the school’s water system doesn’t work properly, children go for artificially flavored juices or cola, which are cheaper than juice. Nabilid’s water taps were installed incorrectly, so mud gurgles from them.

Lacking funding to correct the plumbing problem, the school is forced to ration water collected in large drums, but soon this situation is set to improve.

ChildFund has a long-standing partnership with Nabilid Elementary, supporting early childhood development programs, child-friendly teaching methods, teacher training, peer mentoring among older students and stocking of learning materials and books for students. “Nabilid’s made good with ChildFund’s support, adopting ECD in their curriculum and developing their faculty,” says Marlene, a ChildFund Philippines staff member. “ChildFund recognizes, however, how water is specifically crucial to the success of our efforts here.” This is why ChildFund is installing a clean and functional water system at Nabilid.

outdoor sink

A new water system is being installed at the school.

Marlene is monitoring the progress of the water system’s construction at Nabilid and five other schools in the southern Philippines. “Though seemingly oblique, providing a safe water supply is in fact crucial to ECD services at schools,” Marlene says. Activities like hand-washing and personal hygiene education, as well as and some parent-education activities like nutritious food preparation, become difficult without water.

“Completion of the water supply systems in these five areas alone will benefit a total student population of 20,000 boys and girls,” Marlene notes. Nabilid’s new water system is expected to be fully functional by the end of March.

The school administration is appreciative of the progress and matches ChildFund’s contribution by committing labor and some construction supplies. ChildFund’s local partner agency will also help the school design common sinks just the right height for younger children. The School Governance Council has also pledged to maintain the water system once it’s in place.

ECD sessions continue while the Philippines’ older students are on summer break, which began in mid-March and continues through May. Over these months, Nabilid’s teachers expect more heat and dust. Once the water starts flowing, though, children will have a school environment that’s more conducive to learning.

Were you inspired by today’s blog? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.

A Sister Among Mothers

By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines

On International Women’s Day, we’re spotlighting some of the amazing girls and women we’ve encountered in ChildFund-supported communities. We honor their struggles and cheer their successes.

“Not today, Sister,” the woman whispered to Jo-anne. They had the street to themselves, but the woman spoke in hushed tones. “You shouldn’t go today,” she repeated.

A nun in front of art painting in the Philippines

Sister Jo-anne’s love for children has won the respect of local mothers, who now welcome and watch over her.

Jo-anne understood the advice. Danger was afoot, according to the woman, who is a member of the Tausug indigenous communities in the southern Philippines. Jo-anne is a nun who works for a local organization that partners with ChildFund.

Jolo is the largest island in the Sulu archipelago, which comprises the southernmost tip of the Philippine Islands. There, rolling hills give way to pristine coastlines of crystal clear water and fine white sand. In the provincial capital, also named Jolo, the exotic durian fruit is found in such abundance that a mere breath of air yields a trace of the fruit’s distinct yet controversial smell (imagine garlic plus old garbage).

Despite Jolo’s beauty, the island is not a tourist destination because of abductions and frequent clashes between government and armed groups. Private investors and even development agencies have withdrawn to the safety and convenience of cities like Davao and Cagayan de Oro in nearby Mindanao.

Jo-anne was born in the Mindanao mainland. Her father was a farmer, and her mother was a public school teacher. Growing up in a community of Christians and Muslims, she developed an appreciation for different beliefs and cultures. Jo-anne worked as a government agricultural technologist for five years until 1999, when she decided to join a religious order.

As a nun, Jo-anne served in different provinces in Mindanao. Her assignment to Jolo in 2011 as a project manager posed unique challenges.

Jo-anne had to learn the Tausug language and its culture, which is different from the mainland’s. “Children were my first tutors in the local language,” she says.

Another concern was safety. On her commute to work, Jo-anne often saw curious crowds flocking to fresh crime scenes. Other times, the motorcycle taxi driver would share news of an armed clash between government and militia the night before. “That kind of thing always used to scare me,” she says. “It came to a point where I confronted myself, asking if I would let fear keep me from my work.”

Working in partnership with ChildFund did much to help Jo-anne allay her fears. “ChildFund’s reputation for working in some of the most difficult circumstances in the Philippines lends me much credibility,” she says.

Also, Jo-anne’s work with Tausug children endeared her to their families, particularly mothers, who grew protective of her. When possible, one or two mothers accompany Jo-anne when she travels to rural villages to visit ChildFund project sites or the homes of sponsored children.

Sometimes, Jo-anne hears, “Not today, Sister. You shouldn’t go. You should stay in town today.” This is the warning mothers share whenever news of troop movements, incursions or other dangers reaches their ears. When Jo-anne is already in the field, the women make sure she is properly accompanied and escorted home or to town. Jo-anne’s thankful to be included in the local “warning chain,” despite being an outsider.

“I’ve learned being a woman in these circumstances is an advantage,” Jo-anne says. “The Tausug regard women highly, mothers particularly.” Though Jo-anne has chosen a religious life, the Tausug mothers identify with her because she has devoted herself to the wellbeing of their children.

Today Jo-anne continues to travel all over Jolo. She remains cautious, but because of this web of protection, she is no longer as scared.

“When I arrive home at the end of the day, I exclaim my thanks, not for making it back safely, but for the mothers who’ve adopted me as one of their own.”

In the Philippines, Children Learn With Paper Shoes

By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines

In this small agricultural village in Eastern Luzon, children below schooling age don’t own closed-toe shoes. In many low-income communities across the Philippines, pragmatism leads children to wear flip-flops, which are relatively inexpensive and remarkably durable. Even when their parents can afford a pair of shoes, children still go about their casual business in flip-flops, preserving their shoes for school, church or other formal occasions.

Many young people in this village, much like other parts of the country, will own their first pair of shoes only when they begin school, where shoes are part of the uniform.

Children attend preschool in the Philippines.

Children attend a Supervised Neighborhood Play program in the Philippines.

Nonetheless, on the porch of a small home in this village, children younger than 5 learn to tie their shoes long before they ever own any. These children attend a home-based Early Childhood Development (ECD) program ChildFund supports in areas unreached by government day care centers. Home-based ECD sites like this are known as Supervised Neighborhood Play (SNP) centers, staffed by local volunteers. They are not professional day care workers or educators, but ChildFund trains them to be effective and innovative.

Innovate is just what Mabeth did. The SNP volunteer started with rolls of colored paper, felt markers and all the creativity she could pool together to make her front porch a learning environment for children. She hung paper cut-outs illustrating animals and objects that correspond to letters in the alphabet. In place of printed charts describing parts of the body, Mabeth’s front porch has hand-drawn illustrations. Mobiles hang from the ceiling describing different emotions children experience, such as happy, sad, and scared.

paper shoe with laces

A paper shoe helps children learn how to tie laces.

One cardboard box stores all the children’s shoes — shoes made from paper. They have a double-layer of colored paper for a sole and a loop of paper on top. Colored string is used for laces. “Poor children [in this neighborhood] often don’t have shoes, and I feel it’s important they learn to tie their laces like other children do,” Mabeth says.

Children at this SNP site may not yet own closed-toe shoes, but the innovation of ChildFund volunteers helps make sure they have many opportunities for development early in their childhood.

Preparation Saves Families From Typhoon Bopha

By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines

woman with emergency food stocks

ChildFund’s local partner pre-positioned goods and supplies in preparation for Typhoon Bopha.

Rice, biscuits, canned goods and bottled water sold briskly at the local supermarket in Malita, Philippines, as Typhoon Bopha approached the islands in early December. Food supplies would have to last days, possibly weeks. This, at least, is what panic-buyers reasoned as they crowded the store. Many families could not store much, however, as they would need to haul all their essentials to designated evacuation centers. But time was on their side, as authorities had called for families to evacuate two full days before the typhoon would strike on Dec. 4.

children crossing footbridge

This suspension footbridge spans a gap left by typhoon Washi in December 2011. Vehicles are pulled across on a raft, one-at-a-time, and cargo can be hauled across via a basket and pulley. This stopgap measure endured Typhoon Bopha.

Malita is a town in Davao Oriental, on the eastern seaboard of Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines. No strangers to the tempests that the Pacific Ocean would occasionally send them, the residents of Malita fully understood their vulnerability to typhoons, as well as the flooding and landslides often found in their wake. A 2011 typhoon, Washi, which wreaked considerable harm, was their most recent reminder of this danger, at least until Typhoon Pablo, the local name for Bopha.

The storm was forecast to cross right over northern Mindanao and past the western Visayas island group. Residents in Malita braced for the worst, supported by ChildFund and other humanitarian and government agencies that had helped them create emergency response plans. These efforts toward preparedness saved lives. Early warning systems, successful evacuations and storm shelters all helped ensure that as many people as possible were able to protect themselves from harm.

bridge after flood

ChildFund assessment teams verified that children in Mindanao weathered Typhoon Bopha safely.

ChildFund has been working in Malita for 28 years now and deeply understands the local community’s geographical risks. ChildFund’s local partner organization is staffed almost entirely by former sponsored children who grew up there. Partner organization manager Maribel says, “The Malita River makes the community vulnerable to flooding and landslides. Malita is also vulnerable to tsunamis from the Pacific.”

These risk factors are why ChildFund has been working with local authorities to improve disaster preparedness. ChildFund supports and complements government programs, directing efforts and resources toward supporting these measures. ChildFund’s youth association in Malita also joined a local group associated with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. There they were trained in first aid, evacuation plans, water safety and rescue. Parents of sponsored children also signed up at the barangay (village) office to assist with distributing relief supplies.

Thelma Oros, a disaster risk reduction management (DRRM) officer for Malita, says the local disaster plan is strong. “Residents of coastal communities evacuated early enough, and there was sufficient pre-positioning of food packs and medicines,” she says.

Typhoon Pablo did strike hard on Dec. 4, leaving more than 1,000 dead, 800 still missing and tens of thousands homeless, mostly in the Surigao and Compostela Valley provinces. In Malita, the conditions were not as treacherous as predicted.

“Half of ChildFund’s 26 local partners stood either directly or adjacent to the path of Typhoon Pablo, but most made it through without loss, damage or injury,” ChildFund program officer Erwin Galido says. “They prepared and they braced, but I suppose the least consolation we can draw, after surveying the damage Typhoon Pablo caused in northern Mindanao, is that our communities and partners have been spared.

You’ll Never Look at Your Toilet the Same Way Again

By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines

Each Nov. 19, World Toilet Day is observed as reminder that 2.6 billion people lack access to toilets and proper sanitation. This year, sanitation is a particular worry in the Philippines where families have been living in a tent city for several months after floods submerged their homes.

In rural areas of the Philippines, toilets – when you can find them –
consist of just a basic bowl with no lift-up seat. These are usually made of ceramic, but among poorer communities, toilets are often made of concrete. Water closets are rare, mainly because the local water supply is irregular. Even where there’s water in the tap, many people prefer to flush manually using a pail, claiming it saves more water than a modern flush.

men walking among tent camp

ChildFund staff survey tent camps.

For 297 Filipino families currently living at the relocation tent city at Marianville, located in the Laguna province town of Bay [Ba-e], even the rough, concrete toilets would be preferable, as the camp’s makeshift latrines offer only rudimentary sanitation.

Heavy monsoon rains inundated the Philippine capital of Manila and surrounding locales in early August. Floodwater from Manila drained into Laguna Lake, south of the capital, swelling it to dangerous levels. Simultaneous with Manila’s recovery, towns like Bay were submerged in water, chest-deep in many areas. Rice fields became lakes and homes drowned in water that quickly turned dark and septic as the flood lingered. Many families had no choice but to evacuate to designated shelters. From there, they were moved to tent camps where they’d wait out the floods, which would recede in the sun, but would quickly fill again when it rained.

young girls holding hands

Young girls are taught simple safety steps.

Many children reside in the tent community at Marianville. For the past several months, ChildFund has responded with emotional and psychological support activities through Child-Centered Spaces set up at the camp. Children’s safety and protection remains paramount as families endure the long wait to return home.

ChildFund staff inspect latrines

Although latrines at relocation camps are spartan, ChildFund works to ensure they are safe for children.

ChildFund’s focus on child protection is doubly important in irregular circumstances such as disaster, according to Hubert Par, a ChildFund sponsor relations officer who also serves on the Emergency Response Team. “Children are especially vulnerable in crowded tent camps, particularly as the toilets are common [not private], and are often constructed from available materials,” Par says.

Since summer, ChildFund has worked with its local partner to train first responders, local authorities and youth volunteers to educate children and families living in the tent community on simple steps for keeping children safe, especially when nature calls.

ChildFund has worked with camp managers to make sure separate latrines were set up for males and females, with neither facility located more than 50 meters from the camp proper. “We also made sure camp managers and residents kept the discipline of never sending a child to the restrooms alone. Children should be accompanied by a caregiver when going to the common latrines,” says Par. “We also inform them of mechanisms by which they can report any child protection issues that may arise,” he adds.

Kerzon, 16-year-old youth volunteer, has become a strong advocate for child protection, in addition to his daily response work in the camp, and his duties as a local youth council representative. “As a Child-Centered Space volunteer, I’m proud not just of being able to help, but also because I’m able to share practical knowledge, specifically about child protection,” he says.

Although families long to return to and repair their homes, flood levels remain up to 3 feet deep in Bay. Although the comfort of home and a private restroom must wait, ChildFund is working to ensure that the camp’s plywood and plastic common latrines are safe for children.

If you would like to help children around the world who lack a proper toilet, please consider a gift to the Children’s Greatest Needs fund.

Young Filipino Commits to School No Matter the Cost

By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines

Filipino teen

Marvin was in danger of dropping out of school.

Marvin hails from a small coastal town in Northern Mindanao, the southernmost group of islands in the Philippines. In his hometown, people farm if they live inland or fish if they live near the shore. His father’s occupation is the latter, and 13-year-old Marvin’s family has tried to live within what the sea grants or denies. On a good day, the proceeds from the day’s catch are typically not enough to cover the family’s basic needs, including school fees for the children. On bad days, when Marvin’s father cannot sell much at the market to earn cash, the family can at least share the fish among themselves.

There are even worse days, however, when storms are at sea, and a rough tide keeps fishermen at shore. On days like these, Marvin’s father drives a commuter tricycle—a three-wheeled taxi. Earnings are not much because storms keep people off the road as much as they keep fishermen on land. His father also has to pay rent to the tricycle’s owner for each day of use.

Although public school education in the Philippines is officially free, each semester students like Marvin have come to expect an assortment of extraneous fees that make attending school expensive.

Small school budgets often mean that administrators shift many costs to students in the form of miscellaneous fees for registration, student ID, computer and library usage and special projects. Families also must pay for their children’s school uniforms, notebooks, pens and crayons, bus fare, recess snacks and lunch.

When his family couldn’t make ends meet, Marvin would forego the bus and his school lunch, walking to school and packing what food he could from home.

The cost of Marvin’s schooling weighs on his family, especially when his father’s earnings are down. “My parents sometimes fight over expenses, including the cost of keeping me in school,” Marvin shares. “Sometimes my father says it would be better if I’d stop schooling,” he says, noting the he recognizes that he could be helping his father earn money, instead of costing him money.

Marvin doesn’t know how to approach his father when he encounters a new expense at school. “I made it into a science class [in the honor’s program], but that required me to come to school in full uniform [other students wear only certain basic pieces], and I didn’t know where to get the 500 Pesos (US$12) to complete mine.”

teen on bicycle

Marvin also recently received a new bicycle through a ChildFund Korea program that will help him more easily commute to school.

Thankfully, Marvin has received help he didn’t expect. He’s been sponsored by his “Aunt” Janie through ChildFund since fourth grade. Recently, Aunt Janie sent Marvin a helpful boost just when he needed it most—extra funds for a full school uniform—a great gift he means to thank her for in his next letter. Now, he can attend the honors science class.

Marvin says ChildFund played a role in his admission into the science class. “I used to be real shy and timid,” he says, noting that he gained self-assurance by going to ChildFund’s summer camp and participating in leadership training activities. That confidence has led him a second term as president of his community’s youth organization. He’s also a youth representative on the National Anti-Poverty Commission. “I’m able to raise my community’s problems to the authorities,” Marvin says.

Newfound confidence and his gratitude for his sponsor’s support have moved him to excel at school. He tries to avoid ever being late for school, lest it seem he’s squandering the opportunities he’s fortunate to have. Even though his perseverance in school has led to greater expenses, Marvin remains grateful for his sponsor’s support that sees him through still.

If you’d like to sponsor a child like Marvin, visit ChildFund’s website. Your small contribution makes a big difference.

Youth Eco-Scout Rescues Endangered Turtle in the Philippines

by Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines

Twenty-year-old Necie “Nice” wasn’t precisely sure how she’d stare down five of the local tambays [idle men] in her neighborhood. But something had to be done.

A turtle with seemingly nine lives. Photo courtesy of Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Earlier in the day, a neighbor had caught a peculiar-looking turtle in the Agos River. By evening, the turtle was in a plastic basin, and it looked like it might soon be served as pulutan [finger-food] for the local tambays when they gathered for a drink. Nice wasn’t sure, but the turtle looked like a pawikan, a sea turtle, to her.

The most remarkable thing happened, however. The turtle managed to jump from the basin, and slip away unnoticed. In the confusion following its disappearance, Nice joined the search. She had no intention of helping her neighbors reacquire their meal; Nice was an Eco-Scout, and she knew she had to save that turtle.

Organized and trained by ChildFund and its local partner in the Philippines province of Quezon, the Ecological Scouts, or Eco-Scouts, are young environmental advocates age 10 to 21. Cognizant of Quezon’s rich and yet delicate ecology, ChildFund provides young people with training in biodiversity and environmental conservation techniques. Over the past two years, the Eco-Scouts have produced videos and materials to build understanding and support for environmental issues pertinent to Quezon.

Through her Eco-Scout training, Nice knew pawikans were endangered. She wondered, however, what one of these turtles would be doing so far inland, and in freshwater. She had to find it before the others did so she could explore the mystery further.

By sheer luck, Nice did find the turtle. She picked it up, and made a break for it, running past the tambays. When accosted over her precious cargo, Nice warned them of the steep penalties they would face under environmental protection laws if they harmed the turtle. Having that bit of legal knowledge from her Eco-Scout training came in handy. Her quick feet and equally quick wit got her home with the turtle. Not entirely sure what to do next, she reported the situation to her Eco-Scout trainer, ChildFund’s Erwin Galido. He contacted the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to arrange the turtle’s turnover. Nice would have to babysit the reptile until the DENR arrived.

youth and chilldren with turtle and basin of water

Nice shows the rare turtle to children in her neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

In the two days it took DENR reps to reach Nice’s home, she’d taken a liking to her little guest, whom she named Pauie. Nice and her cousin Ken would forage for moss to feed Pauie. During one of their forays, Ken and Nice returned to discover that the intrepid turtle had escaped again, but they were quickly able to find her.

DENR representatives retrieved Pauie and took her to the neighboring town of Real. It was there they determined Pauie was not, in fact, a sea turtle, but an even rarer and more endangered species—the Cantor’s giant softshell turtle (pelochelys cantorii). Unique to only a few Asian geographies, Cantor’s softshell was last seen in the Philippines in 2001, in neighboring Isabela province. Regional sitings have been equally rare, with the last recorded sighting in Cambodia in 2003. The Cantor’s softshell turtle lives in freshwater, spending most of its time burrowed motionless in mud.

The discovery of such a rare specimen, and its rescue from being stewed, was duly noted by the DENR, and official commendations for Nice are being scheduled.

Nice says she was only doing what she was trained to do as an Eco-Scout, supporting conservation and endangered species. Besides, she says, “You don’t need to be an Eco-Scout to know you shouldn’t eat them.”

Youth Who’ve Experienced Poverty Delve Into Finance

Reporting by ChildFund Philippines, ChildFund The Gambia and Lloyd McCormick, Global Youth Development & Livelihood Technical Advisor

Arnyline is 15 and lives in the Philippines. Saffiatou, 17, lives in The Gambia. What could they possibly have in common?

A few things, actually. They both live in extreme poverty. They are both involved in ChildFund’s programs in their countries. Neither had ever traveled outside of their countries — until their recent, ChildFund-supported trip to Amsterdam.

What brought them there was another thing they have in common: their interest in the goals of Child and Youth Finance International  (CYFI), an organization whose stated goal is to ensure that 100 million children and youth in 100 countries have financial access and education by 2015. Founded last year by social entrepreneur Jeroo Billimoria, who also founded the social and financial education nonprofit Aflatoun, CYFI has a simple, audacious vision: “We dream that all children have a safe place to save their money, and that they can manage that money on their own.”

youth group

Participants bonded quickly.

From April 2-4 in Amsterdam, the first-ever CYFI Summit brought 70 children and youth representing 40 countries together with international bankers and policy makers from around the globe. During the event, participants focused on the topic of financial inclusion and finance education for children and youth. Young people also met to voice their opinions for shaping the Child and Youth Finance Movement. They then brought their recommendations to the Summit, which included representatives from the United Nations; the central banks of Europe, the U.S., Africa, Asia; donors such as MasterCard, CitiBank and Levi Strauss; and international and local organizations. The youth engaged directly with these policy makers on a level footing and shared their views on financial issues that most matter to them.

Arnilyne and Saffiatou were among the 10 participants selected to present the young people’s recommendations, which included the following:

  • Create awareness of youth finance
  • Provide financial education
  • Encourage youth-led enterprises
  • Create child-friendly banks
  • Create more equitable trade between developing and developed nations
  • Support mobile phone and Internet-based banking
two girls talking

Saffiatou takes time to get to know others.

“What excited me is that they care for children in the world, and they want all the children to have a better future,” says Saffiatou. “My favorite part was the discussion on child finance as a subject in school.”

Arnilyne also has a great interest in financial literacy education, but she’s not sure how it could be added to her school curriculum. “We have no funds for it,” she says. “I think it would be effective if trainings and activities are conducted for this.”

She’s particularly excited about the idea of a child-friendly banking system, which would give children access to banks and low-minimum initial deposits.

The two girls, who hail from the tropics, remarked on Holland’s cold climate. But they also noted the warmth of the people they met there, which they both cite as common ground with their home countries.

“They care for children in the world,” says Saffiatou, “and they want to see children as the good leaders of tomorrow.”

Renewing the Fight Against Child Labor in the Sugarcane Fields

Reporting by ChildFund Philippines

ChildFund Philippines, joining other organizations and stakeholders from the government, academe, and the development sector, is reaffirming its resolve to reduce child labor in sugarcane fields.

Child labor is pervasive in this largely agricultural nation. Children begin working in the sugarcane fields at an early age. They are exposed to scorching heat, dangerous chemicals and machetes.

ChildFund Philippines is one of six implementing agencies of ABK3 LEAP: Livelihoods, Education, Advocacy and Protection to Reduce Child Labor in Sugarcane. The four-year project, headed by World Vision Philippines, is being funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. The other implementing partners are Educational Research and Development Assistance Foundation Inc., the Sugar Industry Foundation Inc., Community Economic Ventures Inc. and the University of the Philippines’ Social Action and Research for Development Foundation Inc.

Launched Feb. 29, ABK3 LEAP aims to lift 52,000 children out of the unsafe labor conditions found in the cane fields. The project will provide education opportunities for children, sustainable livelihoods for their parents and youth employment services among other services across 11 provinces.

Staff and children gather in Philippines

ChildFund Philippines renews its commitment to the fight against child labor.

“The production of sugar generates significant income for the Philippines,” says Gloria Steele, Mission Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “Yet, sadly, sugarcane farmers and their families make up some of the poorest households in this country. Even more sadly, it is not uncommon for the children in these households to start working in the cane fields as early as six years of age.”

Katherine Manik, ChildFund Philippines national director notes that ChildFund has a long history in child protection programs. “ChildFund Philippines is privileged to have been part of the ABK initiative from its first project,” she says. “Now on its third ABK project, ChildFund reaffirms its commitment to help these vulnerable children lead better lives.”

Sponsored Children in Philippines Meet David Archuleta

by Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines

Singer performs

David Archuleta performs for children in ChildFund Philippines programs.

Children in ChildFund Philippines’ programs and a few of their school peers received a special treat last Sunday when David Archuleta made a surprise appearance at a ChildFund gathering held at a local school.

Children from the Teatro Bu-bot [arm-in-arm] Children’s Advocacy Theater had prepared all week to mount their much-touted “Many Faces of Poverty” performance for ChildFund Philippines National Director Katherine Manik, and her unspecified guest.

Little did they know that the special guest would turn out to be none other than recording artist David Archuleta, who is in the Philippines filming a television miniseries.

Archuleta, now 21, who finished runner up in the seventh season of American Idol in 2008, teamed with ChildFund for his 2011 My Kind of Christmas tour. He is also sponsoring a child from Honduras, his mother’s native country.

Archuleta has developed a large fan base in the Philippines since his American Idol debut and through his three previous visits to Manila. Filipinos are highly anticipating the upcoming miniseries Nandito Ako, starring Archuleta and local talents.

Two boys perform in skit

The children's skit depicts the faces of poverty in their community.

His unannounced appearance on Sunday caught the children by surprise. Thrilled and starstruck, the children quickly recovered to deliver the program they’d prepared.

Archuleta fell silent during the troupe’s simple performance, which the children themselves conceptualized, articulating the different faces that poverty and disadvantage assumes in their community. The 10-minute skit is wordless, preferring to describe exploitation, vice and neglect through music, movement and expressive dance.

Masks partially obscure each of their faces as they depict society’s fevers, which are shed finally through the expression of children’s growing cognizance and assertion of their rights and responsibilities. The skit illustrates how children, their community and ChildFund help foster an environment conducive to the totality of each child’s life and identity.

David Archuleta sings for children

The children were starstruck.

Moved by the performance that he described as “amazing” and “powerful,” Archuleta took the floor in turn, regaling the children with an a capella rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Water,” followed by an encore of Robbie Williams’ “Angels.”

Archuleta then spent time meeting the children in small groups. Though he currently sponsors a child in Honduras, Sunday’s gathering was the first time Archuleta had the opportunity to interact with children in ChildFund’s programs.

David Archuleta talks with children

Wonder what they're asking him?

The theater troupe, sponsored children and even the school’s marching band had time to ask Archuleta questions and share stories of what sponsorship means to them.

David Archuleta waves good-bye

A happy day for everyone.

With translation assistance by ChildFund Philippines Program Director Mark Dasco, sponsored children told Archuleta: “Please help us share the privilege of sponsorship with others, by inviting more people to sponsor [children].”

As the event came to an end, many children said they would long remember this exciting day. As he departed, Archuleta expressed his happiness at meeting the children: “Gosh, I feel so good today! Thank you so much for this experience!”

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