Send Vulnerable Filipino Children to School

by Fundacion Ponferrada Van Stone (FPVI)
Send Vulnerable Filipino Children to School
Send Vulnerable Filipino Children to School
Send Vulnerable Filipino Children to School
Send Vulnerable Filipino Children to School
Send Vulnerable Filipino Children to School
Send Vulnerable Filipino Children to School
Send Vulnerable Filipino Children to School
Send Vulnerable Filipino Children to School
Send Vulnerable Filipino Children to School
Send Vulnerable Filipino Children to School
Chasing a signal under the blue sky
Chasing a signal under the blue sky

The start of the school year has been moved again to October 5 because the COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Under this circumstance, FPVI continues its own version of Distance Learning for the children in its care with the monthly assignments consisting of book reviews, grammar exercises, math and science lessons, with side projects in journal keeping and art. With regular follow-ups from FPVI and with the help of their mothers, this exercise is proving to be helpful not just for the children’s productivity and continued engagement but also as a dry-run for a similar learning format that the Philippine Department of Education is planning to adopt for those living in remote areas like our FPVI students.

The children have been coming to the FPVI Center only once a month to receive individual and group feedback on their assignments and briefing for the next set of work, and collect their care packages. Also, they present their respective art works to the group. The last assignment was a “self-portrait” but not necessarily physical depiction. Having enjoyed the collage project in July, the children’s August self-portraits were exercises in creative use of found materials. Here are two examples:

 I am a jolly person and like singing and playing the guitar. The colors represent my personality and I like to help others color their lives with my colorful wings. ---- Gaby

 I compare myself to a bamboo tree---it is strong and hard to break, withstanding typhoons, storms, flooding. In my life, I try to be strong and resilient when I encounter problems. --- Hannah

The four college students who were under the FPVI program in their senior high school have their classes online under the misplaced assumption by the schools they are attending that all students have access to both technology devices and good internet connectivity. They don’t, and so in the absence of internet access where they live, they go out to the open fields where they get a signal using their precious and limited mobile data sometimes on borrowed phones. There they do the downloading of lessons. When quarantine regulations are eased and they are allowed to enter the town proper, they do their online lessons, quizzes and assessments at FPVI Center where the internet connection is more reliable than the rice field wifi.

Jolly Gaby
Jolly Gaby
Resilient Hannah
Resilient Hannah
Downloading class materials in the rice field
Downloading class materials in the rice field
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Remote Learning, FPVI way

(in the absence of photos, we invite the readers to create from their mind’s eye

images that would go with this narrative)

With school classes suspended when the quarantine was enforced in mid-March, two weeks away from the end of the school year, FPVI sessions were also suspended, as was the FPVI Summer Program that the children were looking forward to. Gone too was the 10-day Summer Camp for 60 elementary pupils in a small barangay (village) where they were to be reading mentors. COVID-19 has brought the realization to FPVI that the ubiquitous mobile phones are not created equal, or more specifically, not all mobile phone users are created equal. If you think touchscreens are the norm in this day and age, think differently, for in this remote hinterland town where FPVI is located, the antiquated flip phones are more popular than smartphones due mainly to economic and practical considerations. The mobile phones used by the families of our FPVI fellows are the basic tiny flip type, with the keypad and screen, and no internet access. Short text messages are what they are good for; rarely are they used for calls, and therefore not very useful to conduct online lessons. Or so we thought.

The absence of a learning environment and structure in dire circumstances at home under an extended period could cause the children to lose a lot of the learning momentum at school and at FPVI. In re-calibrating the idea of effective learning remotely, FPVI has devised a way to make the antiquated phones work for the children: by putting a regular credit on each family’s phone, FPVI is able to reach out to each child by text message or call; they then are encouraged to text or call if they have questions and need clarifications. Very basic form of distance learning but this system has ensured continued contact between the children and their parents and guardians, and the FPVI Center. Each child received a care package plus materials for their assignments: milk, chocolate drink, biscuits, bars of soap, hand sanitizers, journal and drawing notebooks, bond papers, crayons and colored pencils, pens, pieces of multi-colored clay, origami papers, and vegetable seeds requiring short turnaround time to grow that they can plant in their backyards. Their assignment includes journal-keeping to record their thoughts, experiences, and observations under quarantine not just to keep them occupied but to some extent help them process this disruption in their lives and routines. They were to keep a sketch/drawing notebook of their surroundings, an attempt to make them more mindful of nature around them. And to sustain their reading and comprehension skills, they have short essays to read and work on (one each week) with questions to answer at the end. They also have a book that they picked to prepare a book review on---the assignment they took home at the start of the quarantine.

 The opening of the new school year is now being contemplated for August 2020 instead of June. Meantime, FPVI’s improvised remote learning will continue. The children have also been assured that when the quarantine is lifted and when it is safe enough to resume the weekend sessions at FPVI, they will come back to their learning routines, the camaraderie they enjoyed and the nutritious weekend meals they shared.

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Lucky, Host of "Heroes Live"
Lucky, Host of "Heroes Live"
OPEN MIC – ENHANCED VERSION
MOVING FORWARD WITH ORATORY DEVELOPMENT AND CONFIDENCE BUILDING 
Reported by Nonna Ponferrada

In 2019, Open Mic was introduced into the FPVI Program with the view of developing the students’ public speaking skills and building confidence to foster their individual capabilities to speak in front of their peers. This was usually followed by Q&A. Initially, this was a painful exercise but slowly became a session much anticipated by both students and teachers. In January 2020, the Team Open Mic, an enhanced version of the original, was introduced where each team is tasked to choose a famous personality (local or international) whose life and work they have to present in any format of their choice - an open invitation to further their creative potential. The point is to spur them to learn to do research, understand the materials they gather, and learn how to work as team.

Get to know Andres Bonifacio, a Filipino revolutionary hero who fought for Philippine independence, the first subject portrayed. The team of Lucky, Hannah, and Marky decided to do “Heroes Live”, a television special feature hosted by Lucky. From the studio, the host gives an introduction of Andres Bonifacio then turns over the spotlight to Hannah, a correspondent interviewing Marky, a Bonifacio fan and scholar. The format was creative and impressed school teachers who were invited to rate the performance.

The second team picked Regina “Gina” Lopez, environmental activist and Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) who passed away last year. The team used a game show format with an in-house made bell, a unique way of presenting the life and work of their chosen famous personality. Angelo played the game show host with Manuel and Lyka as competing players. The game, which amply covered Sec. Lopez’s many accomplishments and contributions in protecting the environment to benefit many, especially the marginalized, amazed the teachers/judges.

It was clear that the two teams understood the objectives of the exercise: working creatively on material/topic and mode of presentation of their choice and working cooperatively together. The third team’s presentation is yet to come and will be tackling the impact of the works of Martin Luther (seminal figure in Protestant Reformation) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Christian Minister and Activist) on humanity in another format that will surprise the audience. Another Sunday to look forward to at the FPVI Center.

Hannah, interviewing Marky
Hannah, interviewing Marky
Game Show in action
Game Show in action
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Halloween Group Photo
Halloween Group Photo

FPVI Fellows Act as Big Brother/Big Sister: Experiencing a Holloween Celebration for the First Time

In the Philippines, Halloween is not celebrated in the way it is in the West. Instead, Filipinos celebrate All Saints Day, also known as All Hallows' Day, or Hallowmas, in honor of all the saints from Christian history followed by another holiday called All Souls Day, a day of alms giving and prayers for the dead, giving the gift of time to their dear departed by spending the entire day in the cemetery, tending the graves and mortuary stones.

FPVI, in collaboration with Beengo Farm organized a version of a Halloween Party for a group of children in two of the town’s Barangays (villages) to give them a taste and experience of a Halloween celebration. The idea of holding the party was received with a lot of curiosity and, of course, excitement. The FPVI fellows played along as big brothers/big sisters to the kids in the community, each assigned to lead a group for the games and competitions. The children arrived in costumes, some with painted faces, many of them assisted by volunteers to make the occasion festive. 

The photos eloquently show the fun each one had at their first ever Halloween party. While the games and program numbers had particular winners, with corresponding prizes, everyone went home with a bag of goodies after the merienda cena as, in essence, they were all winners for having actively and enthusiastically participated in the activities.

Halloween Party Performance
Halloween Party Performance

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    Bevy of teen tailors
    Bevy of teen tailors

    The FPVI students dedicated their semestral break in late October to preparing a unique Christmas program of festivities at the FPVI Center.  First, they focused on the tailoring of their costumes for the Nativity Play, corresponding to their assigned roles. It was agreed at the outset that each one would make his/her own costume. They went online to get ideas and then let their imaginations run riot. Surprisingly, and drawing on past creativity classes, they all opted to do their sewing by hand instead of using the sewing machine.

    FPVI had purchased a bulk supply of muslin flour sacks from a nearby bakery and after washing the sacks and cutting them into full square pieces, each student dyed the material in his/her preferred colors using natural dye and, once dry, proceeded with the cutting and sewing!  As the tailoring began to reveal the whole panoply of nativity costumes, they conferred with one another about how the concept had caused them to consider what it was actually like for Mary and Joseph in a stable in Bethlehem.  Were cast-off flour sacks really so far from the truth? Is Tunga, home of FPVI, not actually in some way like a Judean town?

    And so, sandals emerged for Joseph and wings for the angels; crowns for the three kings along with their gifts and, yes, beards. And by the time the week ended, they had their costumes tucked, folded and stored---ready for FPVI’s first full staging of the Christmas Story, with shepherds and angels in attendance, on December 21st.

    “I searched the internet for an angel’s costume. It was my first time to make my own costume and I was excited.  It was fun, too, though there were times when my finger got pricked with the needle.” --- Marky

    “I was excited as it was my first time to make my own costume. It was not difficult for me because I learned to sew from Grade 7.  In fact, it was fun and also nice getting help from the others.” --- Lucky

     “I was happy and proud to have made my own costume. My first time to do it. We all had a fun time and laughed a lot.” --- Candy

    Candy and Hannah working on the angel's wings
    Candy and Hannah working on the angel's wings
    Hannah's version of Mary
    Hannah's version of Mary
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    Organization Information

    Fundacion Ponferrada Van Stone (FPVI)

    Location: Tunga - Philippines
    Website:
    Project Leader:
    Leonor Ponferrada
    Tunga, Philippines
    $29,068 raised of $40,000 goal
     
    195 donations
    $10,932 to go
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