ANG NASIMULAN NG LIKHARAL

FB_IMG_1494578213164ni Joanna Marie Merced
 
Matapos ang dalawang taong pakikibahagi ko sa “LikhAral” ng Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI), dumating din ang pinakahihintay kong pagkakataon ngayong taon na ito.
 
Dati ay tagasaway lamang ako ng mga makukulit na batang kasali sa LikhAral. Bukod nga pala dito ay taga-ayos din ako ng mga kalat at tagabili ng pagkain ng mga mag-aaral at titser na nagutom matapos ang dalawang oras na sesyon. Ngunit ngayon taong ito, iba na ang level ko. Isa na ako sa mga guro ng LikhAral!
 
Nag-umpisa ito nang anyayahan ako ni Ate Christian Love D. Gagno na maging bahagi ng “Trainor’s Training” na ginanap sa Baguio City ilang buwan lamang ang nakakaraan. Nakasama ko doon sina Flora Mae Tatoy at Raquel Fabre, na pawang staff ng KKFI. Maraming iba pa ang nakasali sa nasabing pagsasanay at sila ay pawang nagmula sa mga local churches ng United Methodist Church (UMC).
 
“Tell the Good News” ang tema ng Vacation Church School (VCS) ngayong taon, at ito ay pinag-aralan namin sa loob ng tatlong araw. Ang mga participants ng training ang may responsableng ipahayag ang nasabing mensahe. Naitanong ko tuloy sa aking sarili: “Kaya ko ba?”
 
Ito at iba pang mga tanong ang naglaro sa aking utak. Siyempre pa, kinakabahan ako pero, ewan ko ba, may galak akong naramdaman sa aking puso. Totoong natutuwa ako sa karanasang aking pinagdaanan sa Baguio. Nakakilala ako ng mga gurong may kanya-kanyang katangian at kakayahan. May masungit at may mabait. Ngunit hindi ko naramdamang hadlang ang iba’t ibang pinagmulan dahil iisa lamang ang aming layunin—ang maipalaganap ang Mabuting Balita sa mga kabataang lalahok sa VCS, o ang KKFI version nito na LikhAral.
 
Nakakatuwang isipin na may iba’t ibang pamamaraan upang ipahayag ang pag-ibig ng Diyos sa sanlibutan. Sa Baguio, nakita ko kung paanong pinagsama-sama ng Panginoon ang mga taong hindi magkakakilala upang magkaisa. Sadyang kahanga-hanga kung paano itinuturo ang pag-aaral ng mga kanta, ang paggawa ng mga bagay-bagay mula sa malikhaing kamay ng mga kalahok at ang paglalagay ng tamang aksyon sa mga liriko ng kanta.
Tinuruan kami kung paano magpatawad at humingi ng tawad sa mga taong nakasakit at nasaktan namin. Kung magagawa umano ito, masasabi mo na kung kaya mong magpalaganap ang salita ng Diyos.
 
Maaaring maiksi lamang ang tatlong araw sa ganoong klase ng pagsasanay pero ang mga aral na natutunan ko ay naipunla na sa aking puso at isipan. Siyempre, hindi natatapos sa Baguio ang aking pagkakatuto sapagkat ibinahagi namin nina Flor at Raquel ang aming mga natutunan sa mga kabataan mula sa Tondo, Manila North Cemetery at Bulacan. Ang isang guro ay patuloy na natututo habang siya ay nagtuturo.
 
Ang pinakamahalaga kong natutunan ay ang katotohanang Malaki ang impact ng tatlong araw na LikhAral sa buhay ng mga bata. Nakakagalak sa aking puso ang makita silang nagpupursigeng magawa ang iniatas sa kanilang gawain. Kay gandang tingnan na ginagamit nila ang kanilang malikhaing kamay, mga boses, mga kamay at paa sa pagsunod sa liriko at ritmo ng bawat kanta.
 
Wala ngang imposible sa Panginoon. Sino ang mag-aakala na 40 kabataan ng Tondo ang tatanggap sa leksyon ukol sa pag-ibig ng Diyos? Kaya’t ang epekto sa akin nito ay tagos sa aking pagkatao dahil nakakataba ng puso ang kaalamang mahal ka ng mga kabataang-Tondo.
 
Alam kong naituro namin nang maayos ang mga dapat matutunan ng aming mga estudyante, na siya namang magtuturo sa mga batang lalahok sa limang araw na pag-aaral sa Tondo, Paredes, MNC at Bulacan. At hindi nga nila kami binigo dahil maayos nilang naisagawa ang LikhAral sa mga lugar na nabanggit.
 
Nakakapagdulot ng ligaya na maisalin sa mga estudyante ang mga leksyong aming natutunan sa Baguio. Kung minsan nga ay nananaginip ako na nagtuturo ako at nag-uunahang sumagot sa tanong ang aking mga mag-aaral, sumasali sa bawat palaro, gumuguhit gamit ang krayola at papel at nagbabasa ng mga assignment.
 
Alam naming hindi perpekto ang aming mga nagawa. Maaaring may kulang. Pero tiwala kaming naihayag namin ang kailangang iparating na tema na “Tell the Good News.” Nananampalataya ako na ang bawat batang nakilahok sa LikhAral—sa kanyang bawat pagkanta, pagkembot sa saliw ng awit, pag-memorya ng Bible verse at pagpapatotoo na mahal sila ng Diyos—ay nakapiling ang Panginoong Jesus sa mga panahong iyon.
 
Alam ko na hindi natatapos dito ang mga katuruang inihatid namin. Sa kapangyarihan ni Jesus, ito ay simula lamang.

The Privilege of Serving

Halie DeGuzman

 

Since being in the Philippines, the homeland I never knew, many people have asked me how I’ve enjoyed my stay.

I’ve been living with a host-family and interning with Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) for nearly three months and I have learned more during this time than I ever have before.

My experience with KKFI thus far has been educative, enlightening, and inspiring in many ways. I have learned not only about the way an NGO functions both organizationally and relationally but, more importantly, how those who have a heart for the poor and marginalized turn their “calling” into tangible work that improves the lives of families and communities.

I have been able to observe several of KKFI’s ongoing programs in various communities including the Livelihood Training in Tigbe, Supervised Neighborhood Play in Manila North Cemetery, the CDC kinder classes, and the ALS youth class.

While these programs are unique, the commonality between them is the beauty and authenticity of the people they involve.

The women in the Livelihood Training program, most of them mothers, are intelligent, eager to learn, and encourage one another.

The children in Manila North Cemetery have wonderful laughs and marvelous minds and their devoted parents only want the best for them.

The children in the CDC are so very malikut but bright, happy, and good learners. The ALS youth are incredibly cool teenagers who I admire for their desire and dedication to continue their education.

From spending time with each of these groups, I have learned that there is something to learn from everyone, regardless of their age, gender, or background. I am also extremely thankful for the welcome, hospitality, and care everyone here at KKFI has shared with me. I am thankful for those who have brought me with them into the communities or allowed me to observe their classes despite my limited capacity to truly help since I can hardly speak Tagalog.

All of the staff members have been very kind and patient in answering all my questions, taking the time to explain things, and, of course, making sure I eat lunch!

I love the way the staff and volunteers relate to one another like a family, as family is surely the most important virtue and value of life in the Philippines. And these relations are extended to the communities as everyone works together to bring about the peace, social justice, and progress of the Filipino people.

Maraming maraming salamat to everyone at KKFI for a wonderful experience so far.

I count it a privilege and blessing to learn from you and be welcome here.

 

KEEPING THE DREAM ALIVE

By Glenda Gutierrez

“I always wanted to be a teacher; it was my childhood dream,” Marjorie Seda, 21, confessed.

Marjorie knew how important education is in achieving one’s dream. But then, she got pregnant when she was just 16 years old. She had to stop schooling and married her boyfriend. They now have two sons, aged 6 and 3.

Her condition in life drastically changed, but not her dream. Little did she know that the opportunity to finish her high school was just around the corner.

“When I learned about the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Program of Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI), I immediately grabbed the chance,” Marjorie narrated. “I was one of the members of first batch in 2014.”

It was Teacher Lovely Joie Orgado, an Instructional Manager, who promoted the ALS Program of KKFI in Navotas City, where Marjorie resides. When she learned about it, she excitedly enrolled with high hopes.

However, there was not straight road to success. In fact, it was extra-long and extra-winding for a young mother like Marjorie.

“I almost gave up,” she said. “I was a bit embarrassed because I had to bring my two sons to ALS classes.” Her children slept while classes were ongoing.

But her desire to offer a better life to her family prevailed. She knew that education is the key to a better future. Inspired by her sons and husband, Marjorie struggled on.

“I failed on my first attempt so I studied harder,” continued Marjorie.

She was determined to pass the Accreditation and Equivalency (A & E) examination of the Department of Education. She borrowed modules since she could no longer attend classes when they moved to Malolos, Bulacan. She read and practiced writing essays at home.

She and her husband were overjoyed when she passed. She had to set her dreams aside however, to work in abroad as a domestic helper. She flew to Saudi Arabia a few weeks after learning she passed the A&E exam so she was not able to attend KKFI’s 66th Founding Anniversary celebration, where a graduation ceremony was conducted by KKFI for the new batch of passers.

She was unlucky, however, with her employer so she came back to the Philippines in October 2016. She is now looking for a scholarship grant so she could pursue her dream of being a teacher. Her back up plan is to take a course in welding or tailoring in Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Indeed, the pathway to success may involve crossroads. We need to choose and go on. That’s life.

Success is Kind to Those Who Persevere

Success is Kind to Those Who Persevere

By Glenda B. Gutierrez

 

The reason why Lilibeth Eliver, 38, decided to pursue high school diploma was she wants “the best for my family. She said she wants to help her husband earn money so her children can enjoy the best they, the parents, can offer.

Lilibeth is the wife of Vicente “Vincent” Eliver, a social worker of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) who is in-charge of the organization’s Alternative Learning System (ALS) Program. Vincent knew the value of education and that of ALS as another route in achieving one’s aspirations. Hence, he encouraged her to pursue her dreams and the journey starts with ALS.

But the destination did not come easily nor immediately to Lilibeth. Nothing did. Lilibeth hails from Lucena, Quezon. The youngest in a brood of eight, she had to stop schooling because her parents could not afford it. So she looked for a job to help augment her family’s income. She worked as a secretary to a photo printing company. She gained the skills in photo printing and was promoted as printer.

She was in the first level of high school but was able to pass the Philippine Educational Placement Test (PEPT) of the Department of Education to qualify for third level of high school.

In 1997, she met Vincent, fell in love, lived together and had four girls. Their eldest was born deaf, a   challenge they hurdled by learning sign language by observing their daughter’s class.

Lilibeth enrolled in the Massage Therapy training of KKFI and graduated in October 2013. She became a certified massage therapist when she received a National Certificate II (NCII) from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

The next year, she set her eyes on finishing her high school studies and enrolled in the ALS Program. She came upon another bump on the road when she failed to pass the Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) examination in 2015.  However, she was unfazed. She pursued and dedicated whatever free time she had in studying her lessons.

She borrowed and read the modules at home. She took the essay portion of the exam seriously and practiced at every opportunity.

Indeed, perseverance and dedication are the key to success. Lilibeth was able to pass the A&E exam on her second try. She was among the 23 who successfully passed in July 2016 who were honored by KKFI on its 66thFounding Anniversary.

 

WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO

By Hanna Flores

 

In the past weeks, the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) held outreach programs that I was lucky enough to be a part of – the “Project Slippers” in Barangay Pamarawan in Malolos, Bulacan and the “Wow Christmas” in the Manila North Cemetery. In these two activities, about 250 people were given new pairs of slippers, free haircut, free massage and early Christmas presents.

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Free hair cuts were given to the residents of Pamarawan

It was really great to see how we made people happy. You could see it in the spark of their eyes and their big bright smiles.  The volunteers were also inspiring because despite the heat and long travel, they remained approachable and accommodating. You could sense the enjoyment radiating from them all throughout the program.

It reminded me of the reason why I chose this career path in the first place – to touch lives and make a difference. However, the journey is no rainbows and butterflies.

The life of a humanitarian aid worker is never easy. We are expected to fight the ills of society and yet we must remain hopeful, positive and patient at the same time. What most people fail to realize is that we are no superheroes; that just like them, we are also humans with emotions.  We get tired, we get frustrated, and, sometimes, we feel helpless.

What we do can be overwhelming.  There are times when we question the impact of it or whether our efforts really matter. Nonetheless, despite our inner turmoil, we still want to be able to give our best. Regardless of our current state, we want to be able to make people see that there is still goodness in this world; that there are still people who are willing to go through lengths just to put a smile on their faces – the kind of smile that will also put a smile on our faces.

And we do this because they are worth it.

DREAMING DREAMS

By Christian Love Daroy-Gagno

“Wow! Ang ganda!” (Wow! Beautiful!) 12-year-old Annie Murillo exclaimed as she absorb the sights and sounds of the University of Santo Tomas, which is just a stone’s throw from Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) compound at P. Paredes Street, Sampaloc, Manila.

“Paglaki ko, gusto kong mag-aral dito” (Someday, I want to study here), she added still obviously dazed as she continued to gaze at the inside of the campus from behind its gates.

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Annie at the University of Santo Tomas

 

I accompanied Annie to the country’s oldest university after we attended the Philippine National Children’s Conference held at the Lancaster Hotel in Mandaluyong City  last May 18-20. I wanted her to see the institution where our national hero, Gat Jose P. Rizal, graduated.

I wanted her to realize that Rizal dreamed a dream a century ago and realized it.  I wanted to impart a message, albeit indirectly and without saying the words out loud, that she, too, can do it.

Annie is among the 30-plus children I met during my first visit to the dumpsite of Pulilan town in Bulacan. They were among the 100-plus children-participants of the KKFI program called, “Kalinga Mo, Kinabukasan Ko” (Your Care, My Future) in 2014.

Out of the many faces, that of Annie’s instantly struck me. I got to know her more as days passed. I learned that she is the eighth of 10 siblings. None of them was able to finish high school. The income of her parents, both scavengers, were too meager for such a “luxury.”

Some of her sibling married early. I was afraid Annie might take the same life-path.

“Teach them to dream,” is my mantra as a community development worker. I know that I can’t free all of the children like Annie from poverty, but if I can put a dream in their hearts. If I could successfully do it, I always tell myself, there’s a good chance something good will happen.

Part of the “Kalinga Mo, Kinabukasan Ko” program in 2014 is teaching children about what we call “life-skills.” On one of our sessions, I asked Annie what her dream was. “I want to be a fashion designer” she replied.

After a several months, I read an essay Annie wrote and I found out she has gift of writing. I told her about it. After about a couple of week, she came to me and said, “Ï have a new dream. I want to be a writer.”

A good dream, I thought to myself. I encouraged her to constantly practice the craft of writing. I asked to particularly write poems and short stories. I thought they were promising because her outputs, I noted in particularly, come obviously from the heart.

Last April 1, she graduated from grade school as Top 3 in her class. Where to?

When I heard Annie say she wanted to study at UST, I silently wished this her dream will come true. I know that her family’s financial situation could never get her the educations she wants. If only I could afford it, I would gladly sponsor her studies.

I cried inside. Teaching children to dream may be easy, but keeping it alive in their hearts is the real challenge. I felt helpless at the time. I could not do anything.

Thankfully, I realized that it was not me who holds the future of my dear Annie. As Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I decided to keep my faith that one day that Annie would, like Rizal, would study and graduate. Maybe not necessarily from the University of Santo Tomas. Maybe from some other school. All I wanted was that she would be able to break the vicious circle of poverty and ignorance in the family. That she will live a better life.

If this is God’s will, it will be done.

 

AVATAR

He is Avatar.

The kid’s name fascinated me. I thought of the movie “Avatar,” where animated characters are blue-colored. But this kid is not blue but gray. After all the dumpsite would turn anyone’s skin into gray.

At six, most kids go to school to learn their ABCs and 1-2-3’s, but this ash-covered boy learns life through first-hand experience of poverty, hunger, garbage and flies.

He is Avatar.

The kid’s name fascinated me. I thought of the movie “Avatar,” where animated characters are blue-colored. But this kid is not blue but gray. After all the dumpsite would turn anyone’s skin into gray.

The dumpsite becomes the playground for Avatar with his cousins and other little ones whose parents work as scavengers in the dumpsite.

Like in the movie, their community is almost isolated and not known to many. Who would have thought that people could survive living beside the dump? Instead of flowers, plastics and bottles are the common sight around it. Instead of butterfly kisses, they feel flies kissing their faces. Instead of playground, the dumpsite is a place of fun.

After serving in the Looban, KKFI saw the need for little ones to have a safe space for playing and learning. It was June 2015, Supervised Neighborhood Play started for 0 – 6-year-old children in the community living beside the dumpsite. It aims to prepare the children when they enroll in Grade 1. Avatar is one of 20 children who sing songs, create an art work with their little hands, and play together.

Maliligo na ako!(I will take a bath now!),” he would exclaim whenever he sees me coming. He would do this every time he spots my pink bag, where I put the things that I use for teaching.It was a signal for him that it is class time again.

He tries to clean himself and wears any clothes he could find at home.Nobody’s there to attend to him. After that, he would show up to me and say: “Naligo na ako” (I have taken a bath!) and waits for my affirmation “Good job, Avatar!”

There are times when he refuses to come during our special events because he has nothing decent to wear. One day I asked him, “Where is your mom?” Innocently, he replied, “I don’t know. She doesn’t love me because she left me.”

My heart broke when I heard these words coming from a little boy. Later, I learned that his grandparents are the ones taking care of him. It is usual for him to say during class, “Ate Love, gutom na ako (Ate Love, I am hungry).”He rarely takes any breakfast before coming to class. What we feed him serves as his breakfast and lunch.

Yet in spite of life’s difficulty, he remains positive. And responsible, too. He can be told to do things like fixing the things we use, clean the classroom area, and even call his friends.

One time after class, as I was holding him in my arms, told him: “You will go to a formal school soon, sweetheart.”

“But I don’t know how to write my name yet,” he replied shyly.

With the help of volunteers, he started tracing his name.

Kaya ko na, Ate Love! (I can already do it, Ate Love!)”he declared one day. With a pencil in his hand, he slowly wrote M-A-R-K J-A-S-O-N.

At last, he has succeeded in writing his real name. There are still many things to conquer as he grows up. With God’s grace, despite the inevitable failures along the way to the greater successes, Avatar will pursue and keep his faith.

Like in Avatar, the movie, goodness will prevail. Avatar, the once and still sometimes colored-gray kid, will likewise enjoy a happy ending.

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