By Jenny Santos Gayondato
I moved to the dormitory of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) in 2013 after I was burglarized in the dormitory I previously stayed in. To a student like myself then (I was in my third year in college), losing a laptop computer, a wallet and clothes all in one night can be totally devastating and tragic.
Indeed, I was traumatized enough that I had to look for another place. A safer place. It should also by convenient proximity-wise to McDonald’s in Mendiola, where I worked part-time, I thought.
I started to ask around and it was a blessing that I had a classmate who told me she was staying in this dormitory called KKFI. I went to P. Paredes street just across my school, the Far Eastern University (FEU), surveyed the compound, found it to my liking, especially its affordable rental fee, and the rest is history. A very pleasant history that goes on still to this day.
Now, I am still staying at KKFI even though I already graduated from college and have passed the Medical Technology Board Exam. Why? For many reasons.
One, my workplaces are near here. I work at Mary Chiles General Hospital as a junior medical technologist. I am also a part-time lecturer at Lemar Review Hub and Pioneer Educational Review Center. I also work part-time as a faculty member of FEU-Manila.
I am also taking up my master’s degree in Medical Technology at the Philippine Women’s University (PWU) located on Taft Avenue in Manila.
Hence, a big “check” in the proximity factor.
Moreover, I love the serene surroundings of KKFI (to think that it is located in the middle of the University Belt of Manila with all its hustle and bustle). Aside from the peaceful surroundings, it is student-friendly because it has a library and many study areas and peaceful spots where anyone can study or meditate or be with one’s self.
I really think the KKFI environment it helped me focus in my studies. While staying in the KKFI dormitory, I finished my bachelor’s degree in Medical Technology from the Far Eastern University magna cum laude (modesty aside).
I passed the board examination given by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) in September 2015 and God blessed with the 10th place, among the 4,000 test takers, with an average of 89.30 percent.
I have other reasons to adore KKFI dorm. It is among the few dorms that still hold activities for its residents, like the Welcome and Orientation Party every time a semester starts. Then, there’s the Christmas Party (always a much-anticipated event).
I tip my hat off to the KKFI staff for their efforts in preparing memorable events year in and year out, while being very kind and understanding on a daily basis. The guards, for example, would always ask me how my day went whenever I get “home.”
The dormitory facilities are not perfect, not yet, anyway (although I observed that improvements are being done constantly), but I like it just the way it is, nevertheless.
What I love about the KKFI dormitory is the fact that 100 percent of its income goes to its many programs that benefit the poor and the marginalized people. After all, the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. is the social development institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
In very clear way, I, as a dorm resident who pays my rent, is helping the less fortunate. Extra-ordinary, isn’t it?
My name is Henry Kibambe. I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. When I was young, my dream was to become a civil engineer. In 2009, I left my country for Johannesburg, South Africa, not to realize my dream, but to study business administration.
But the Lord sent me to another vocation—to be a Global Mission Fellow of General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) of the United Methodist Church (UMC). I was assigned to serve for 22 months at Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) in Manila, Philippines.
I arrived in Manila in September 2015 and did not have many expectations about the country. The only thing I knew for sure was that God is calling me to participate in His mission and I had to grab this opportunity to serve Him through he least of his people.
I believe it was time to be a participant in His mission and change my world. People are affected directly or indirectly through my actions. There is nothing much one can do by being a spectator because what he/she can offer is only his/her opinions about certain things, but an active participant in God’s mission offers real solutions to societal issues such as poverty and social and economic injustice. I believe that sometimes our actions as Christians are the only bible some people might have access to.
My first day working at the KKFI coop canteen I had to find a strategy that will connect me with the people, hence I found my favorite and key words: ’’Walang barya” –Tagalog words translated to English as. “no loose change.” That helped me to connect and integrate with local people.
Serving at KKFI canteen has taught me a lot of things about life in general that even top universities in the world cannot teach in their curriculum because these things are only learned by experience. Among the things I learned are: humility and patience. Starting with humility, the people whom I work with might not have tertiary education or formal education, but one thing I knew for sure is that they have life experience which is as important as formal education. So to adapt in this new environment without missing so many learning opportunities as a result of superiority complex, I had to consider myself as someone who knew nothing and had to learn everything.
So far this process of unlearning and learning has yield positive results and gave me another perspective to life. On the other hand they taught me patience, too, because their mind and thinking process might not be as fast as mine in the aspect of decision-making, but their hold to valuable information required patience on my part to be able to get it from them.
Of course, the canteen has many challenges that need to be addressed, but I like challenges because they give me opportunities for growth both career wise as well as socially.
I thank God for giving me this opportunity to serve his people and congratulate myself for saying “yes” to chance to participate in God’s mission to witness his spirit at work and tangible presence among his people especially the least and the lost.
And again my name is Henry Kibambe and this time I say: “Mayroong barya,” meaning there is “loose change.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I started to work for the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) in January 2012 as an Administrative Assistant. Part of my job was to check the upkeep of the compound and what building repairs should be done.
This means I have to walk around the more than 6,000-square-meter property on P. Paredes Street in Sampaloc, Manila every day. Now you know why I’m skinny.
One day while doing my rounds and visiting the dormitories, my eyes wandered toward the mezzanine of the old KKFI building called the “Gentleman’s Dorm” or GD II.
“This place is a mess!” I thought. “Whatever happened to it?”
Due to years of neglect, termites and other insects had obviously invaded the place. In fairness, the area was being cleaned every now and then, but the wear and tear of the physical structure was so much that the effort was not that successful in making it attractive.
“Woe is he or she who has the stomach to stay here?” I told to myself.
The GD II building had two floors with single unventilated room in each floor. Even if you are inside a room, you can still feel the heat of the sun that envelopes your whole body. The electric fan was of no use.
It was beyond me how transients (most of them were seamen reviewing for exams) could stand the heat. Maybe they were just simply bearing with it because they wanted to avail of the cheap rate.
This was how it was for a couple of decades. But thanks to the United Methodist Women, through its charity program Call to Prayer and Self-Denial, the KKFI was given a grant that funded the renovation of the old building.
It was the KKFI Executive Director, Ms Nancy Caluya-Nicolas, who initiated everything when she submitted a project proposal to UMW.
Last January 2016, the renovation of the new guest house was finished. Now, it has become a comfortable and (if I may say so) luxurious facility of the Foundation. A real pride and joy of Kapatiran.
Last January, the students from the LaGrange College of Georgia, USA, arrived days after the new guesthouse was inaugurated on the 8th of that same month. It was perfect time since the LaGrange students the first crack at enjoying the new KKFI offering.
And how they appreciated it! Since then, the guesthouse has had other occupants like church workers of Sta. Mesa Heights UMC and institutions like Lingap Pangkabataan Inc. (LPI). They said they found the place cozy and vowed to stay there again.
It has 11 fully air-conditioned rooms. There are three couple’s rooms with hot and cold showers. Some rooms are good for two, while others can accommodate three and four persons with common comfort and bath room. It has also a lanai and coffee tables, perfect for group talks, especially during night time.
If you are tired, you can watch small fishes swim about in a small aquarium. Truly relaxing, indeed.
If you are tired, you can watch small fishes swim about in a small aquarium. Truly relaxing, indeed.
Those who had seen the old Gentleman’s dorm could never think that and the new Guest House are one and the same. But then, it’s for you to judge. So come and visit us one of these days to find out.
Staying at the guesthouse and other Kapatiran facilities not only relaxes you physically. It will also warm your heart and stirs the spirit positively. This comes with the knowledge that the income generated from these facilities goes to the development programs and services of Kapatiran.
For reservations, please email email@example.com or call +63-2-7354153.
(Ms Nicolas, or Ate Nitz to many, is in charge of the KKFI Director for Administration and Resource Development. She is fond of turning old and not-so-aesthetically-pleasing stuff, like a guesthouse, into beautiful and useful things.)