By MARITA VILLAFUERTE-PIERCE
MANILA, Philippines — Here is a school adventure to share with your children that will certainly generate gratitude and appreciation for what they have. It will also elicit an attitude of generosity. This is a true story.
In a land faraway from people, automobiles and malls, there live dirt poor families at the foothills of the Sierra Madres in San Miguel Bulacan. The people were so poor that they could only afford to eat once a day.
Farming was the only thing they know and so they farm day in and day out. There is only one farming technique they understand and that is to slash and burn the land. The lands once lush and fertile became barren like the African desert. The land could not produce enough crops to feed the poor farming community. Desperate farmers took up arms to become communists.
Hike for Life
This undiscovered community is isolated. The nearest town proper is across a bridgeless river. The townsfolk have to trek kilometers of dirt road, and risk their lives to possible attacks from insurgents and violent elements, even kidnapping for the poor children, in order to reach the river. If they are lucky to reach the river, they have to brave wading into it to cross to the other side. While most would walk or swim in the river, some ride on their carabao while small children ride onto the shoulders of their fathers. Older children walk cautiously, balancing their school things on their shoulders to keep them dry.
It takes about one to two hours for children to go to school and another one to two hours to walk back home. From dirt road to river, up and down the slopes they trek. By the time they reach home after class hours, it is already very late.
While most children complain about the horrendous traffic that hassle them daily to go to school or grumble about waking up early, these unfortunate children in San Miguel, Bulacan are literally faced with the daily life and death adventure of going to school. This has been going on for many years.
Out of the Dark
One day, not so long ago, a Filipino born and U.S. trained doctor visited these isolated lands and saw the great need. She established a non-stock and non-profit foundation called Green Earth Heritage Foundation. A donor gave a generous parcel of lands and she began to introduce positive livelihood, literacy and lifestyle practices to this poor community. A community of hope was born. Many farmers turned their backs on insurgency and embraced the organic method of farming to produce healthy crops that are now being marketed in the metropolis.
As this true story was shared countlessly in many ways, a network began to form. The children began to receive many basic supplies most children take for granted. A modest Literacy Center was constructed for them too.
For so long, these poor children were not only deprived of material blessings, but also of their basic rights as a child such as dignity and freedom to learn in a safe and happy environment.
They learned to enjoy every moment of each class hour and felt sad when it was time to go home. They felt at home with the gentle teacher and the safe and comfy center. The Literacy Center was built right within this isolated community. The travel time has shortened and they are no longer fatigued or compelled to cross the river.
This story does not end where this article ends. The story will continue as there are so many more adventures to unfold.
As we open classes this June, we are still raising funds so that we could continue school operations. I have personally adopted this school. Our students “adopted” the children as their buddies. Generous individuals and corporate partners support us as we operate this school. Beautiful things take time. It will take us time to realize the full dream. But we are currently operating conservatively as funds allow.
If you are a blessed parent desiring to share your blessings, contact www.greenearthheritage.org or www.preppischool.com.
Saturday, 11 June 2011
By MARITA VILLAFUERTE-PIERCE