This week, we’re bringing you reports directly from the Philippines, where the ChildFund Alliance is meeting for business sessions and ChildFund project visits.
By Cheri Dahl
Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs
The trip from southern Luzon from Manila took almost four hours. For the last hour, we traveled on a narrow dirt road punctuated with rocks and deep pot holes. It was extremely slow going and very bumpy. I have suffered from motion sickness since childhood, and my insides rolled miserably with every bump.
We are visiting Nagsinamo, a community located in the southern Luzon area of Quezon. It is the largest island in the Philippines and is mostly agricultural, with corn, rice, bananas and lots of coconuts as the main crops. ChildFund serves more than 5,000 children in this area.
The rough travel was forgotten when we rounded a curve in the road and were greeted by a marching band of children dressed in bright red and yellow band uniforms, complete with majorettes twirling batons. It was an unexpected and magnificent greeting.
Most of ChildFund’s services are offered at the Nagsinamo elementary school. Members of the parent committee are anxious to tell us about the challenges children in their community face. Parents alert us that quality education is critical for their children to have better lives. ChildFund has partnered with the parents and community to improve school enrollment and completion rates. We’ve also worked to help parents understand what they can do to help their children succeed, even though many of the parents have only had primary school education.
We visit a peer-tutoring program where older students are trained as facilitators to tutor children who are academically challenged. The program is working. All of the area children now attend school. In just two years, primary school completion rates have climbed from 51% to 90%.
Later we’re invited to an “EcoArt” session, where formerly sponsored children, age 18 to 20, now teach the younger children to protect the environment through recycling and how to use discarded materials to create art. They also teach children about the geography and culture of the countries where their ChildFund sponsors live.
I was partnered with 8-year-old Arizel to learn a song and dance that teaches how to greet one another in Japanese, English and Spanish. As I get to know the older children, they begin to open up. Many tell me about their sponsor. They share what sponsorship meant to them and how it has inspired them to help the younger children in their community.
As I approach the classrooms, I am struck by two odd sights. Outside of one classroom is a bench lined with coconuts and straws. Outside of every classroom, there are umbrellas — a reminder that this area is accustomed to seasonal typhoons and frequent flooding.
I visit classrooms where the children proudly greet me in English and share their dreams to become nurses, teachers, boat captains and policemen. One 8-year-old boy was too timid to speak up. His classmates were quick to share that he would be a singer. I asked if he would sing a song for me. He shyly came to the front of his modest classroom and began to sing in the most amazing voice. What an unexpected treat!
We leave the community as the sun is going down. Children, and even some adults, run alongside the jeep waving goodbye and yelling “miss you!” It is a great ending to a great day.
This week, we’ll be bringing you reports directly from the Philippines, where the ChildFund Alliance is meeting for business sessions and ChildFund project visits.
By Cheri Dahl
Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs
It’s close to midnight when I exit the Manila airport. Even at this late hour the air is hot, thick and moist — a big departure from the crisp fall temperatures I left behind in Virginia more than 24 hours ago. I’ve come to the Philippines to meet with ChildFund Alliance colleagues from 11 countries and to collaborate on how best to help deprived, excluded and vulnerable children.
I see a familiar face at the baggage claim. Hiroshima, a board member from ChildFund Japan and his wife Mae Grace are here. Hiroshima teaches social work at a university in Tokyo. “MG,” as his wife is called, is Filipino.
We exit the airport and catch a waiting shuttle to our hotel. I am struck by the calm stillness of the air. I was expecting whipping winds and roadside flooding — too much Weather Channel I suppose. Prior to my departure, I had kept a close eye on the weather reports. Typhoon Mirinae slammed into Manila only days ago, toppling trees, damaging homes and taking lives. It was the fourth storm to batter the Philippines in less than 90 days.
MG shares that even though tropical storms are expected here, her parents, who live in a neighboring city, report that the quick succession of recent storms has taken its toll on residents.
Later in the week, we will visit communities in metro Manila and Quezon where ChildFund serves children and families. Some have been severely affected by the recent storms. I am looking forward to talking with the families and learning more about how they cope with the constant threat of severe weather and flooding.
On the ride to the hotel, MG teaches me to say hello and thank you, “maramirg Salamat,” in her native language. I love the musical lilt of the words, and I am relieved to arrive at the hotel at least able to greet and thank my hosts.
For more on ChildFund’s work in the Philippines, click here.
Following severe flooding in the Philippines, many families find themselves without a home and are struggling to return to a normal life. Today for our blog series “31 in 31,” we take a detour in our scheduled plans to visit a family in the Philippines who is just thankful to be alive.
By ChildFund Philippines Staff
Catherine and her two siblings are elementary school students. Their father is a pedicab driver and their mother works as a maid. They live in a small house, constructed of light materials alongside a river.
When Typhoon Ondoy hit, heavy rains kept the family at home that day. Around 10 a.m., the family noticed the river rising and overflowing its banks. Alarmed, Catherine and her parents and siblings started packing and trying to save their most important possessions.
But as the heavy rain continued, water quickly penetrated their house, which caused the family members to panic. The couple’s attention turned from saving their belongings to making sure their children were safe. The only way out of their house was to go onto their roof. Almost 16 hours passed before the water finally subsided. They were wet, hungry and uncomfortable.
Catherine tells ChildFund Philippines staff that she was extremely nervous and was afraid as she saw the water rising. She cried as she talked about losing her school supplies. Her father says that the experience of losing their belongings is tragic, but that life is more important than personal items. Things can be replaced, but life cannot, he says.
More on the Philippines
Population: 97.9 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 450,000 children and families
Did You Know?: More than 7,000 islands make up the Philippines, but only about 2,000 of them are inhabited.
Natural disasters create chaotic situations that put already vulnerable children in grave danger. In the past week, ChildFund International responded to two emergencies in Asia that have killed hundreds of people, destroyed homes and disrupted livelihoods.
In Indonesia, a deadly earthquake in Padang leveled schools, hospitals, businesses and homes. ChildFund Indonesia National Director Sharon Thangadurai says response has been quite slow because there are blackouts in the earthquake area, phone lines are cut and roads connecting neighboring cities are damaged.
“Our assessment team was able to reach Padang area … but they have no access to phones with the electricity being out,” Thangadurai says. “They will conduct the needs assessment and then travel to a nearby city to report back the status of the situation and what are the most critical needs for children.”
ChildFund Indonesia is currently working with the local government to establish Child Centered Spaces for displaced children.
“Our priority will be to provide the needed emotional support to children who always bear the brunt of major disasters like this,” Thangadurai says.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Super Typhoon Parma made landfall over the weekend, but the area where ChildFund works has been spared from the worst.
“Because the typhoon went more along the coastal area, there has not been significant damage in our ChildFund program area,” ChildFund Philippines National Director Dennis O’Brien says. “The damage will be manageable; however, our vulnerability is that typhoon season is still with us.”
This typhoon comes on the heels of Typhoon Ondoy, which caused severe flooding in the country. ChildFund continues to work with the local government to meet the basic needs of more than 18,000 children and families.
“We have five evacuation centers, housing 500 families, where we have set up Child Centered Spaces for children,” O’Brien says.
We will continue to update you on theses situations as information comes from the field. For the latest information and to donate to the relief updates, click here.