23 OSYs PASS ALS EXAM, SEE BRIGHTER FUTURE

by Vicente V. Eliver

 

“Investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

The KKFI family is elated!

Yesterday, June 29, 2016, we received the best news in months. Twenty-three (not 20 as earlier reported) —yes, “2” and “3”—students sponsored by the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) passed the Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) test of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) of the Department of Education (DepEd).

ALS.jpg

READY… GET SET… DREAM! Members of Batch 2015 of Alternative Learning System (ALS) classes in Navotas City and Manila (districts of Sampaloc and Tondo and the Manila North Cemetery) pose for posterity just before their Accreditation and Equivalency Test last April 17.

 

It was a remarkable feat! The number of passers this year has been the highest since  KKFI started to conduct ALS classes in 2011. (We will try to feature most, if not all, of the passers in future blogs).

You see, the KKFI has this firm belief in the importance of education as a way out of poverty. Hence, it has been using most of its funds in providing education to impoverished children and youth of Navotas City and Manila (particularly Sampaloc and Tondo districts and the Manila North Cemetery) through ALS.

The Department of Education has come up with ALS in response to the need for more education opportunities to poor but deserving students. It is a non-formal, but parallel to formal, system of education in the Philippines.

Even the UNICEF took notice of ALS and recognized it as the best non-formal educational format in Asia that even countries like Thailand and Myanmar are copying it. Indeed, it is considered as the most successful intervention among members of the younger generation who are unable to attend school due of various reasons.

“I’m overwhelmed and thankful to KKFI for inviting me to attend ALS,” said Melanie Balateco, who is now in her third year in college. She was a high school dropout.

ALS graduation

GRADUATION PICTURE. This picture shows last year’s batch with KKFI Executive Director Nancy C. Nicolas (in green blouse in the middle of front row). Also, seated in front are: (From left) KKFI ALS Coordinator Vincent Eliver, Ms. Xenia Señorin of the Department of Education-Manila, former KKFI Community Development worker Arvin Reyes, Instructional Manager the Rev. Dan Francisco, Ms. Gillan Atienza of DepEd-Manila, Ms. Nicolas, Ms. Tita Villarosa, Samantaganor president, KKFI Program Director Rexan Dayao, General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) mission fellow Nora Cunningham, Instructional Manager Joanna Marie Merced, KKFI Pulilan, Bulacan coordinator Christian Love Daroy-Gagno, St. Peter UMC coordinator Ana Martin, and ATD coordinator Eden Mañalac. The event was KKFI-ALS Batch 2015 graduation ceremonies.

 

Hanna Flores, our education officer, said, the OSYs see ALS as their final recourse if they hope to continue their studies. ALS, they said, allows them to study and work at the same time because it is time-flexible. Indeed, ALS was designed that way. It was meant to respond to the learners’ capacity to cope with the required number of hours in class.

We found out that most of our learners are the bread winners of their respective families. Some are independently supporting their own education. There are also mothers who attend classes with their child in tow and workers who had to go to their classes straight from their night shift assignment in order to catch up with the lessons.

All KKFI ALS learners invariably have been experiencing financial difficulties and other adversities, but they did not stop dreaming.

ALS is a long term form of intervention provided by KKFI but it has a lifelong effect in the lives of the OSY as program stakeholders. Finishing elementary or secondary levels is a gigantic leap closer to their dreams.

Yesterday, 20 of our learners did exactly that. We are positive hundreds, even thousands, more are going to do the same. It just takes faith.

Advertisements

A LITTLE ACT OF KINDNESS

by Nitz E. Nicolas

(For two years in a row, Mrs. Lilian Guansing of California, USA, had visited the Manila North Cemetery to distribute clothes to its destitute residents. She did not expect to receive something priceless in return. Read all about it in a feature piece published in the Kapatiran Newsletter 2015 Annual Report, “We Rise by Lifting Others,” and reprinted here.)

 

“Suot ko po ang damit na bigay nyo last year (I am wearing the dress you gave me last year.),” the little girl from Manila North Cemetery chirped Mrs. Lilian Guansing shyly.

“She remembers me distributing dresses last year, she remembers my presence!” Mrs. Guansing said, ecstatic. “Yes, I was touched by the little girl’s appreciation of this little act of kindness. The gift was so simple and yet the child has related the dress to me.”

guansing2.jpg

Ms. Lilian Guansing smiles as she gives a dress to a girl at the Manila North Cemetery

 

It was 10 in the morning. At the gate of Manila North Cemetery, some member of the KKFI staff headed by social worker Vicente Eliver met Mrs. Lilian Guansing. Vincent Eliver is in-charge of the programs in the area.

Around 70 little boys and girls welcomed Mrs. Guansing and Mrs. Goody Mercado, the new treasurer of the KKFI Board of Trustees, to one of the tombs inside the cemetery. The children rendered songs led by their teacher, Marianne Villarosa-Cruz.

The children were very happy when they received their gifts. The girls were given dresses while health kits were distributed to the boys.

It was not only the children who felt happiness that day. Mrs. Lilian Guansing felt happy and fulfilled, too. She said God gave her the spiritual gift of healing as a nurse. Though she did not heal the children of their physical sickness, the cheerful smiles on their faces while receiving the gifts indicated that she was able to heal the longing in their hearts for material things even for a short moment.

Mrs. Guansing said that she is the Parish nurse at Almaden Hills United Methodist Church in California, USA. She related that she happened to read the article of Paul Jeffrey in the October 2014 issue of Response magazine (GBGM-Advance newsletter), about “People Living with the Dead in Manila.” Mr. Paul Jeffrey is a freelance journalist and a fellow United Methodist. He often comes and visits their church.

Mrs. Guansing was inspired by the article, Since then, she felt the need to see for herself the real situation of the children living inside the cemetery. Thus, in 2015, she asked the helped of her close friend Mrs. Goody Mercado, to arrange a visit to the Manila North Cemetery.

Because of her longing to give joy to children even in simple way of distributing dresses and health kits, she returned to Manila North Cemetery on February 23, 2016.

She remarked, “though you cannot change the world by small acts of kindness, your mere presence with them, even for a short time, will have a mark in their hearts and minds.”

She wished that the children now living at the Manila North Cemetery will continue their education and have a better life in the future. In addition, she prayed that someday their families will live outside the cemetery.
“I admire KKFI for having programs and services that cater to the needs of these disadvantaged children and youth; and I also admire the staff for doing this kind of mission work,” Mrs. Guansing said.

In doing these little acts of kindness, she was reminded of the Lord Jesus Christ’s message in Matthew 25:40 “….whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Mrs. Guansing handed a check amounting to P23,560.00 to Ms. Nancy C. Nicolas, KKFI Executive Director. It was a donation from Almaden Hills United Methodist Church, California, USA for the children’s program of KKFI.

Mrs. Guansing is a retired nurse. She graduated from the Mary Johnston Hospital School of Nursing in 1960. She is now based in California, USA, where she has been staying since 1964.

She returned to the Philippines in 2005 and for the next five years taught Nursing Leadership and Management as part of Mary Johnston’s program on Balik-Turo. She is married to the late Alejandro Guansing, a physician. They were blessed with four children, who are all became professionals and now with their own families.

It is also nice to note that Mrs. Guansing was the mentor of Mrs. Goodwill Mercado at Mary Johnston Hospital.

‘MANILA’S BEST-KEPT SECRET’

‘MANILA’S BEST-KEPT SECRET’
(The Kapatiran Stories blog site is reprinting here the article about the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. [KKFI] published last Sunday, June 19, 2016, in Starweek, the Sunday magazine of the Philippines’ leading broadsheet, the Philippine Star. It was written by Ms Cheeko B. Ruiz, one of the desk editors of the newspapers. In her article entitled, “Transformation and Hope in the Heart of Manila,” Ms Ruiz discovers the facilities and pro-poor programs of the country’s first social development-oriented non-government organization [NGO]. Ms Ruiz called KKFI as “Manila’s best-kept secret.” Read on and find out what she means.)

In most dormitories in the University Belt, the average rate of a four-person room with two double-deck beds is P18,000 per month, excluding utilities.

In contrast, the rate for similar facilities – a room with four single beds – at the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) dormitories along P. Paredes corner Lerma Streets is only P7400.

The first of its kind in the country, “it’s a home away from home,” says Nancy Nicolas, executive director of the KKFI, social development arm of the United Methodist Church in the Philippines.

Formerly known as the Methodist Social Center, the KKFI was founded in 1950 as a response to the challenge to work with the poor in their struggle for genuine human development.

Spanning 66 years of social development work, the KKFI started as a feeding program for children that missionary Madaleine Kleeper set up in 1949.

The feeding program spawned a kindergarten and a pre-school. At the same time, the children’s parents were provided with skills or livelihood training like sewing.

During martial law in the 1970s, KKFI responded to the issue of the time, opening the center to student activists.

Until today, KKFI remains committed to the marginalized sector, says Nancy, relating that farmers from Tarlac and Sumilao, Bukidnon have at times sought their help when they travel to the metropolis.

jeanny.jpg

A volunteer teacher for Likharal looks on as students accomplish an exercise

 

“But what remains is education, that’s our expertise,” Nancy says.

From offering pre-school education, they moved on to the Alternative Learning System (ALS) for poor children in elementary and high school levels starting in 2011

Development work is not an easy task, according to Nancy, as she stressed that they have a lot of support groups.relief.JPGslipper.JPG

KKFI executive director Nancy Nicolas distributes relief goods to victims of calamities in the provinces and slippers to beneficiaries in Navotas.

 

“We cannot do everything. We have to partner with like-minded organizations like the church,” she says.

MOA.jpg

Nancy Nicolas signs a memorandum of agreement with representatives of Unilab and Lighthouse Baptist Church, KKFI’s partners.

 

“Ninety percent of our budget comes from our facilities like our dormitories. We have offices, basketball courts, and of course, donations are welcome,” Nancy says.

“We have volunteers from Africa, the US and other parts of the world, but their social development skills should match those that we need. They serve normally for about a year or two, but the others extend.”

Wilma Galacio, who had been living in the Manila North Cemetery for over 20 years and whose three children enrolled in the ALS, expressed gratefulness to KKFI for what she described as a big blessing to her family. She said she never imagined it was possible to send her children to school. To express her gratitude, she volunteered to cook the meals offered to ALS students.

massage.JPG

An ALS student demonstrates her skill in massage therapy at the KKFI spa center.

 

Leonard, one of Wilma’s children, meanwhile, vowed not to waste the opportunity given to him. “Hindi ako magsasayang ng panahon. Desidido akong makaangat sa buhay (I will not waste time. I am determined to improve my life),” he says.

solar.jpg

Nancy tries to use a solar-powered cooker donated by Brainfood, a Washington based NGO.

 

Last year, the KKFI also started to provide technical education using the dual training system of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) called the training for employment program.

Under the scheme, the students have classroom education for six months then proceed to their on-the-job training wherein they will already be paid by their employers.

KKFI also helps find scholarships for ALS students who are able to pass the Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) test.

To provide livelihood for those who do not pass the A&E test, KKFI put up a spa where they could work as massage therapists.

“We are not going to stop. Otherwise this will impede the transformation of the students,” Nancy says.

While the process of transformation may seem never-ending and at times difficult, Nancy offers another important word: hope. “Kahit ‘yun man lang maibigay naming (Even if we could only give them that),” she says, explaining how some poor students who had the opportunity to go to school quickly realized they could do something to chart their future.

“Their perspective changes. They start to think that they have value in our society,” she says.

But things do not always go according to plan, says Nancy, so they always have to keep their doors open.

“When you plan, you usually have a time frame – which may not necessarily be followed. Like if the process of a child’s development is slow, then we have to extend our time frame,” she says.

“At the end of the day, you have to be flexible, you have to have a back-up plan, otherwise you will end up frustrated.”

Nancy believes in the saying that great things almost always start small, and what’s important is stepping toward the right direction, similar to what the KKFI has done throughout the years.

Ultimately, what the KKFI inculcates into the minds of the beneficiaries is that without spiritual growth, the pursuit for a better life would not be sustainable.

Spiritual growth, transformation and hope – that’s what can be found in the heart of Manila’s best kept secret.

Father of Economic Empowerment

By Rexan Dayao

Program Director of KKFI

I have known him since I was 16. He was introduced as the husband of our Executive Director and he loves to write articles for newspapers. There’s an image of him that I cannot erase from my mind and imagination whenever I see him–cuddling his cute little daughter, Jasna. Another Kuya Fort image I will always have is him talking to members of our Board of Trustees.

fort

Sir Fort, (foremost left), with daughter Jasna, wife Nancy and son Derrick

 

He is Fortunato Nicolas, or Kuya Fort as we fondly call him. He has the ability to process thoughts. That’s why, whenever we run out of things to say or have difficulty generating ideas, Ma’am Nancy, his wife and I will always go to him and let him talk. Everyone knew him as a walking encyclopedia.

He is very jolly and will surely crack a joke even in the middle of a very serious conversation. I must admit, that nearly all the proposals and reports I wrote passed through his meticulous editing, grammar check and proofreading. In the end, I’ll end up loving my reports even more.

We had countless breakfast sessions together because the Nicolas family adopted me for a time when I had to stay at the office beside their residence since mine was far from our place of work in the metropolis. I saw his family’s genuine love for each other that made me aspire to have the same when the time comes that I’ll have mine.

When I moved to Davao to administer a shelter for trafficked children, Kuya Fort incidentally was also there to try setting up business in order to provide for his family. While in the southern part of the country, Kuya Fort mentored me on how to effectively write articles (I do hope that I was able to live up to his expectations).

He has been my mentor for more than half of my life.

Last December 2014, while the KKFI staff members were having breakfast, I saw Ma’am Nancy teary-eyed and uncharacteristically seemingly unsure of what to do. I learned that she had just received a call from her son. He told her that there’s an emergency and that his daddy had just suffered a stroke!

I remember feeling numb of sort, definitely something terribly uncomfortable. I felt a sort of panic because of the thought of losing someone that I considered as my father.

Few months later, there he was, up and about again, albeit with a cane. I saw Kuya Fort talking to trainees of massage therapy at KKFI. Our foundation has been providing skills trainings to hundreds of individuals and equip them to provide wellness while generating income. He has been undergoing therapy in order to bring back his health.

But while being provided with healing, Kuya Fort became interested in learning massage therapy himself. In less than three months, he was able to graduate and secure a national certification in therapeutic massage.

While being with the massage therapists, Kuya Fort came up with strategies on how to enhance the economic status of his colleagues. He facilitated BEST or Basic Entrepreneurship Series of Trainings and was able to provide entrepreneurial mindset to more than one hundred individuals.

Last Monday, the KKFI inaugurated its latest livelihood venture—a bakeshop called, Daily Bread. It has the sub-title that states, “every bread you purchase gives life to a child in need.”

Our bakery is just one of KKFI’s innovations aiming to provide people with decent income and uplift their quality of life. We also have our spa and canteen that provides jobs for at least 20 individuals.

The KKFI considers Kuya Fort as the Father of Economic Empowerment. For overcoming a debilitating stroke and becoming a better version of himself, he was able to help individuals realize their worth and become productive members of the society. We thank him for his service and his concern to KKFI programs and its participants.

As for me, I just want to thank him for being my father. Although we are not related by blood, our passion connects us to bring change in the lives of people we work with.

Being a father is not just having a family. It is not measured by how much wealth you acquire. It is measured by how much passion you have given to hopeless and helpless individuals a fighting chance to survive.

Happy Father’s Day to all!

THE LAST BROWNIE

By Rev. Floyd Alcantara

 

(The Rev. Floyd Alcantara was still the chaplain of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. [KKFI] when he wrote this piece. At the start of the new conference year this June, he assumed his new assignment as the youth pastor at the Knox United Methodist Church in Manila. He served the KKFI for two fruitful years.)

FLOYD
Pastor Floyd Alcantara with wife Jen

Have you watched the movie Notting Hill? It is one of my favorite romantic movies. It is about a popular actress who fell in love with an ordinary guy.

However, I will not talk about romance. Instead, I will discuss an unforgettable scene, which I call the “Last Brownie” scene: The movie’s characters were eating brownies for dessert, and then came to the last brownie. They decided to play a game where the one who could tell the unhappiest story about his or her life can take the last brownie.

One person talked about his career and miserable life, while a woman talked about her appearance that causes her to have a low self-worth. Another person, talked about her sickness. Another person told them of his failed marriages. Then Julia Roberts, who played the famous actress in the movie, told them about the loneliness and stress she endured as a celebrity.

Everyone was surprised!

The point is we all have problems. We all go tough times. No one is exempted. I, too, went through and am now going through difficult times myself. I believe you also have a sad story to share in an attempt to win that last brownie. Of all the stories we have, who then deserve the last brownie?

Let me introduce Job of the Bible. Job probably was unluckiest person.  Here are his misfortunes:

  1. His servants were killed and all his donkeys and oxen were stolen
  2. His sheep and shepherds were killed by a lightning
  3. A tornado killed all his children
  4. And then sickness of a painful and ugly-looking sores from head to foot

Amid his agony, his wife told him to “curse God and then die!” However, Job’s response was surprising as well as remarkably brave: “Shall we, indeed, accept good from God, and shall we not accept trouble?”

In other words, Job is saying: “We take good days from God—why not also bad days?” However, I like the good news translation better, “When God sends us something Good, and we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” Even in all this suffering Job said nothing against God.

Job’s gave a powerful declaration. His declaration tells us that life is not full of good things. That in life, there is the reality of good days and there are bad days. Similar to familiar words like, “Not every day is your birthday.” On the other hand, “It’s not Christmas all the time.” In addition, there is what we call “The Wheel of Life,” sometimes you are up and sometimes you are down.

That is life. We should accept that fact of life. Expect it. Accept it.

Problems in life are a reality. We cannot escape from a reality. Moreover, we hold to that comfort that, yes, soon all of these will pass.

The question is, “How do we receive or accept problems in life?” Do we receive them well? Do we question God and then turn against God? Do we nurture bitterness so much that we would want others to feel and experience the problems that we have experienced?

Did you know? If there is one person who suffered so much. It is not Job, who, by all measures, deserved that last brownie. But the last brownie should go to Jesus. He suffered so much for all of us when we suffered and took the shame and pain on the cross of Calvary. Yet he has overcome.

And that last brownie? No, he did not eat it for his own pleasure. He gave it to us.

After 66 years, we are still rising, still uplifting others

(Reflecting on last year’s performance, Mr. David Gutierrez wrote an article for the latest issue of Kapatiran Newsletter wherein he enumerated some noteworthy accomplishments of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) in 2015, his last term as chairman of the Board of Trustees after one and a half decades of being at its helm. This year, Mr. Gutierrez opted to occupy the position of the Foundation’s auditor and chairperson of the Committee on Infrastructures, aiming to focus on improving and constructing buildings for KKFI. We are reprinting his article in our Kapatiran Stories blog site.)

 

Proverbs 11:25 (MSG), which says: “The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped,” aptly intones KKFI’s theme for the year 2015 – “We Rise by Lifting Others.”

Sixty-six years had passed since the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) was founded as a United Methodist Church-related social development institution, yet it has not lost sight of its commitment that aims to serve the most underprivileged and economically disadvantaged members of our society.

Since then, education and training have been the heart of KKFI’s programs and services. This is the main vehicle and methodology used to transform people, sectoral groups and whole communities as embodied in the Primary Purpose of our Charter.

We have enhanced our educational program and our vocational and technological training through our partnership with DepEd and TESDA, respectively as follow:

  1. The KKFI Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) has been offering Nursery, Kindergarten, and Supervised Neighborhood Play in three communities at present.

DSC_0012

CDC children color drawings of the Philippine flags in commemoration of the Philippine Independence day

 

  1. Alternative Learning System

We are now into the 4th year of implementing the Alternative Learning System (ALS) program and there are more than 100 out-of-school children and youth who enrolled this year.

IMG_20140507_101100

ALS students at Magsaysay, Tondo, Manila during a group dynamics.

 

  1. Training for Employment

In order to help address the problems of education and employment of youth, we have partnered with Next Generation Technological College to implement a new program that will allow out-of-school youth, who graduated from high school but who, because of poverty, could no longer pursue education, whether college or technical-vocatio-nal courses.

001

The training program offers TESDA-accredited courses using the Dual Training System (DTS), a training delivery system that involves two venues of learning: the training center where theoretical inputs are given and the industry-based training, where practical training is held. The course design is based on the need of the industry-partner with the approval of TESDA.The training had officially started in December, with an enrolment of 37 students, most of whom came from various municipalities of the Apayao province.

  1. Livelihood Training and Entrepreneurship

The KKFI is an accredited training and testing center of TESDA. In 2015, we were able to train 230 individuals in massage therapy and beauty care, specializing in hair science.

Through the years, KKFI was able to carry on its mission, to be an agent of revolutionizing change through education and community empowerment. And it has not only survived, it flourished. We are able also to continue our social services such as Student Ministry, Youth Advocacies, Healing Ministry & Community Outreach, Day Center for the Elderly and others.

The KKFI has been blessed as our theme for the year and the Scripture verse suggest. On KKFI’s self-reliant objective, I am pleased to announce that KKFI, based on the audited Financial Statements as of December 31, 2015, is now financially self-sufficient to carry out its various programs and services. By God’s grace and His Divine intervention, KKFI has greatly enhanced its resource mobilization through the following:

bakery

BLESSING KAPATIRAN’S NEW BREAD STORE. Asking for God’s abundant blessing, the Rev. Riche Sagun reads the Gospel as the staff members and volunteers of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) listen to him. Pastor Rich also asked for God’s blessing for the new business venture of the Livelihood Program. To complement the bakery that has been operating for several months inside the KKFI compound, a new bread store called “Daily Bread,” located along P. Paredes Street, Sampaloc, Manila, was launched yesterday, June 13, 2016. During the launching, the newly assigned KKFI chaplain cited the Bible verse found in John 6: 35, which says: “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’.”

 

Networking and Partnership

We have established networks and partnerships through LOVE (Learning Opportunities thru Volunteer Engagement) with the United Methodist Agencies that helped us advocate in addressing issues and mobilize resources for our programs.

  1. We continue to receive grants from United Methodist Women, General Board on Global Ministries through Advance, North Georgia Conference-Bridge Program, LaGrange College and from individuals and local churches in the US to support our various programs.
  2. The US Peace Corps chose KKFI for the third year to be the venue of their initial orientation to new batch of volunteers. “A Day with Peace Corps” was done at the Manila North Cemetery on September 9, 2015, participated in by at least 105 children and parents.
  3. Established a Vocational School in partnership with Next Generation Technological College that offers TESDA-accredited courses using Dual Training System (DTS)

Effective Management and stewardship of Resources

  1. Effective operational and financial management plus enhanced team work among the Staff.
  2. Continuing upgrade and renovations of facilities such as the former gentlemen’s dorm now converted to air-conditioned Guest House, conversion of the 2nd floor of Nellie Mercado Hall to a Training Center for Great Seas Mariners, upgrade of Student Center and the Gymnasium with a built-in small office being rented out.

Amid everything, KKFI remains committed to its Vision, Mission and Goals of serving the poor.

We give our thanks and praises to God for the chance to celebrate the challenge in working with our network partners . They have helped us realize our mission as we move into the future. Yes, “We Rise by Lifting Others”!

To God be the glory!

MY MOM AND RIZAL

by Rex Dayao

 It was four in the morning. I woke up to the sound of roosters and motor boats passing by the shallow river nearby. It’s another pre-sunrise scene in our small Manila Bay island. My mother sat near the stove made of recycled tin, fixing slippers. She would cut those which were too big, sew which strands were broken or have it burnt to fix holes. They were those seen floating in the sea the day before.

“These are for your brothers and sisters”, she told me with a smile.

My mother always smiled. She never complained.

I know that our daily work in gathering oysters and algae is causing a toll on her and it wasn’t easy to raise twelve children.  Still, our daily struggle to have food at the table seems bearable because she can make any difficult situation to be easy, worn out things to be something new.

“Drink your coffee and grab a piece of bread, we will gather oysters with your brother. I’ll paddle the boat while you can throw away the water that’s coming in. Our boat has many holes and you need to be quick in getting rid of the water for us not to sink”, my mother said. I immediately had breakfast.

My brother helped me in pushing the boat out of the bamboo podium and my mother started paddling the boat towards the oyster farm.

We had the boat full of oysters. I ran towards the nearby deep well and took a bath. I needed to rush since I still had to go to school. It’s almost eight in the morning when I reached the school. Teacher Evelyn was checking the attendance when I arrived. After that, I she started to narrate a story of Dr. Jose Rizal when he was young.

“Pepe, the young Rizal, decided to roam around Laguna Lake with his older brother Paciano. He was so fascinated with the water that he soaked his feet on it, and his slipper was taken by the strong current. Long before Paciano can ask him what had happened, Pepe grabbed the other slipper and threw it the water. Paciano asked Pepe why did he throw away the other piece and Pepe replied, ‘to make sure that the one who may get it will have a complete pair’.”

I smiled. Somehow, Rizal and my mother are almost the same. Rizal cares for those who may get the slipper while my mom is making scavenged slippers into something new.

In August 2014, the maker of our slippers died. That was the first time we encountered death in the family. We grieved, but the amount of support that we got from relatives, friends and co-workers made the process bearable. Even at the time that we were able to bring her to her interment, there’s still money left out of the benevolence.

 

I told my family that the said money was not ours, but our mother’s. And she couldn’t bring the money to heaven. “Is it possible for us to give back to the community as our mother’s legacy?” we thought.

 

We came up with the idea of connecting our friends to the people of our small island-barangay by introducing “Project Slipper,” an opportunity for the generous people to extend acts of kindness by donating a dollar or its equivalent to buy a pair of slippers for someone in Pamarawan island in Bulacan who might be in need of them. The said slippers would be named after the donor so that the recipients would realize that someone cares for them. We asked for the assistance of Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) to provide its services.

Inhabited by more than 5,000 people, majority of which are children who are sons and daughters of fishermen, the way of living here has not changed for generations.

I posted a status in Facebook in September about Project Slipper. In less than 24 hours, more than one hundred people responded to the call and are willing to be part of the project. Few days before my mother’s 40th day in heaven, more than 300 donors gave their pledges.

The first Project Slippers in 2014 were able to reach 384 children. In 2015, pre-schoolers from the Seigakuin International School sold cookies to raise funds and donated it to KKFI. Together with the students of La Grange College Georgia, we visited six communities in Manila and Bulacan and have provided more than 600 slippers to children. In summer, local donors also gave slippers to participants of the Vacation Church School and made more than 400 children beaming with pride.

 

In January 2016, the Seigakuin students raised at least $700. KKFI staffs immediately facilitated the purchase of slippers and with the help of the students of La Grange College Georgia, we have provided 700 slippers to students of West Fairview Elementary School, learners of Alternative Learning System at the Manila North Cemetery and to children living at the dumpsite in Pulilan, Bulacan.

SLIPPER pamarawan

Children of Pamarawan during the First Project Slipper. 

 

After 22 months I could still feel the agony of the terrible loss. There were mornings that I wished that I’d woken up to find her by the makeshift stove fixing slippers. It was her who taught us how to care, and now it is her legacy that told us to care for others. Caring for others heals me.

I have more than 20 pairs of slippers and shoes now. I thank my mother and those who helped me have a better life. My mother was able to give me hope through her hand sewn slippers, KKFI and its donors were able to give children dignity. In less than 22 months, we were able to give more than 3,000 slippers.

slipper2

Children posing with their slippers at the Manila North Cemetery last January 2016. Funds for the slippers were raised by Seigakuin students.

 

I thank Rizal for teaching me to think about other people. I thank my mother for setting a good example on how to live, and how to help others and appreciate life. My mother and Rizal are my heroes and I will always remember their examples in reaching out to people.

Project Slipper’s journey has just started and I know that there will be more feet that will be in need today, and in the coming days. It will always be my personal mission to provide soles for the souls.

 

(Rex Dayao is the Program Director of KKFI. He is very close to his mother and wishes to honor her memory. He hopes more partners would continue support Project Slipper.)