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Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water

by Asia America Initiative
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Unite Inter-Faith Children via Education and Water
Muslim and Christian children receive school lunch
Muslim and Christian children receive school lunch

The holiday season reminds us of how fortunate we are to have so many wonderful donors through our Global Giving network.  Each and every one of you is a true blessing for the nearly 1,000 children who benefit from this peace and development program.

In 2014, we created this project to bring together Christian and Muslim children in need. Thus far, we have assisted close to 10,000 children in elementary schools in Sulu and Visayas regions of the Philippines. The children continue to overcome extreme poverty, natural disasters and communal violence via clean water and improved daily nutrition, thanks to your support.

The founder and headmaster of Sahaya Integrated Madrasa elementary school in Jolo, Sulu is Doctor Amy. She says,“The AAI-sponsored feeding program is contributing to healthy children, minimal daily absences of pupils, a zero dropout rate and above average academic performance – by children who live in some of the most impoverished household conditions.  Mothers and fathers of pupils assist teachers to cook daily meals. We and AAI have a partnership to provide school supplies, garden tools, garden seeds, and pipes for fresh water."

Many thanks to Asia America Initiative donors who have supported our vision of peace through social/economic progress.  Most importantly, the ongoing support for this program year after year allows the chance for a true transformation built through community dignity and cooperation.

Outdoor hand washing at elementary schools
Outdoor hand washing at elementary schools
Peer learning with AAI books at school library
Peer learning with AAI books at school library
Book donation party by AAi and partners
Book donation party by AAi and partners
Hand wash in rural school using plastic bottle
Hand wash in rural school using plastic bottle
Outdoor classroom with AAI books
Outdoor classroom with AAI books
Academic excellence through health/nutrition
Academic excellence through health/nutrition

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Cuartero NHS Students Create Clothing Drive
Cuartero NHS Students Create Clothing Drive

On July 24, 2018, a massive fire in Jolo, Sulu burned for 8 hours in the port and market areas that were crowded with wooden shacks and a number of school buildings.  More than 3,000 homes that housed over 5,000 large families were burned to the ground, displacing some 30,000 people.

Immediately, Asia America Initiative team members helped first responders and inter-faith humanitarian groups, such as Notre Dame College of Jolo, to provide emergency aid and support to survivors. Massive amounts of food, water and medicine were needed in the make-shift evacuations centers - including AAI supported schools that became emergency shelters. The centers were provided with food, clothing, soap, clean water, mats, medicine, fans, hygiene products, and toys for the children by AAI and other international donors. 

In a display of unity,  AAI school communities in the Christian region of Visayas spontaneously began a clothing drive to send to AAI Muslim volunteers helping displaced families on the southern island of Sulu. 

Students at Angub Elementary and Cuartero National High School gathered and boxed clothing to send.  Arrangements were made with Philippine Airlines who donated cargo space to fly supplies into Sulu.

Students brought in their personal clothing to school and worked together to box, tape, label and send the belongings to Sulu's displaced children. 

One month into the recovery, AAI’s support for fire victims in Jolo is ongoing, as they begin to rebuild homes and their futures.

"We are amazed by the response of good samaritans from outside of our region," says Dr. Merhama, an elementary school principal who had many students whose families lost their homes in the fire. "It was a shock that such an overwhelming tragedy could happen so quickly, with no time for any of us to prepare. The willingness to partner by AAI, Notre Dame, Muslim student associations and donors from overseas is a true example of how very different people can make a positive impact in this world."

We are very proud of our Muslim and Christian students in Sulu and Visayas for caring about each other. Multicultural AAI communities exemplify the best qualities of who we are as a representative of the spirit of cooperation that has led to GlobalGiving community's success.

Firefighters on the scene in Jolo
Firefighters on the scene in Jolo
Students Box Clothing
Students Box Clothing
Clothing is Packed and Labeled
Clothing is Packed and Labeled
Clothing in transit to fire victims in need
Clothing in transit to fire victims in need
Evacuation Center in Jolo, Sulu
Evacuation Center in Jolo, Sulu
Dir. Santoli and Notre Dame staff working together
Dir. Santoli and Notre Dame staff working together

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Lunch for refugees at Sheikh Mustafa Elementary
Lunch for refugees at Sheikh Mustafa Elementary

 

"Sometimes an outside organization with a big heart can act as a bridge to bring a divided community together to inspire the common good,"  says teacher Tarhata, who teaches 5th grade in the town of Jolo in an area of Muslim Mindanao historically known as "the islands of fear."  Natural disasters and sudden communal violence are abundant in the Philippines, which is anchored by the southern Sulu island region, near the borders of Indonesia and Malaysia. In Sulu, a school-aged population of close to 500,000 children and youths are mostly impoverished and malnourished. Sulu Province with a majority Muslim population remains at the bottom of the UN's worldwide Human Development Index. Few schools have books, clean water, adequate nutrition and lack basic tools for livelihood training. In 2017 martial law was declared across the province by the national government in Manila. However, violent crime and kidnapping for ransom has once again increased.

Unusual harsh weather, such as flooding caused by the recent out-of-season Typhoon Vinta has intensified the suffering of families caused by the ongoing conflict in the southern Midanao region.  Many school aged children and their families have become displaced especially from outlying rural areas. Even though Sulu schools and public health services are already overburdened and underfunded by local goverments, there are no large international agengies engaged in providing support to tdesperate diplaced communities. It takes a small and maneuverable all-volunteer organization backed by modest international donors to come to the rescue and fill the gaps.  Asia America Initiative has 16 years of experience in Jolo and surrounding rural areas. In addition, AAI Director Al Santoli has used lessons learned from community-based relief efforts in the Christian Visayas region to structure programs in Muslim Sulu such as the mass feeding of school childen and community teamwork.

"With financial contributions from GlobalGiving," says Santoli, " our voulunteers of all ages from grandparents to elementary school sudent nurses, have come to the rescue on numerous occasions."  AAI Feeding and Reading programs are providing a nutritious meal each day, cooked and served by parents.  The summer reading classes emphasize "child to child" mentoring to the displaced children whose schools have been closed or burned down. The teachers in the community have noticed many of the children are older in age and would normally already be working to help support their families rather than attending school.  But education is a statement of hope that many families hold on to in a merciless environment.

An extra benefitof the program," says Principal Merhama in Jolo, "is it createas a rare opportunity for meeting and bonding with these children and their families.  With help from AAI  we can provide comfort through nutrition, washing facilities, clean drinking water and medical support. Of course, exposure to reading classes may open up an opportunity for the children to attend regular school year classes at least part time and keep them away from violent revenge activities. If not for AAI and their donor support, practically none of this could be possible." 

Younger children who have been displaced can be identified and registered to attend the regular school year in the more urban Jolo region. "Often times, children from deeply rural areas, especially girls, do not attend school as they may be very far away and conditions may be too dangerous for them to travel alone," observes Teacher Tarhata.  "AAI sponsored feeding programs offer an incentive for the families, especially mothers, aunts and grandmothers, to participate in the preparation of a daily meal during the regular school year."  

Thanks to our experiences in Cuartero Capiz in Visayas, Asia America Inititative has learned how to empower elementary schools in regions where children are victims of natural and man-made disasters. Inter-faith community efforts teach students the value of cooperation. We provide clean water and hygiene tools. We support literacy, livelihood, gardening, and school lunches by parents to enhance health, economic progress and peace.

Using the schools as community mediation and planning centers, AAI encourages positive interaction through equal treatment of various cultural and religious groups.  "AAI is a good listener and allows everyone to provide good ideas.  This patient engagement transcends cultural differences,and fosters mutual respect and inspiration,"   says Principal Merhama, "This bond of communication is the foundation for building trust and long-term progress."

Reading classes for refugee children w AAI books
Reading classes for refugee children w AAI books
Firemen  deliver water containers to 536 families
Firemen deliver water containers to 536 families
Nurses prepare vitamin and first aid for refugees
Nurses prepare vitamin and first aid for refugees
AAI US team packing relief supplies for refugee
AAI US team packing relief supplies for refugee
Child to child learning at Salih Yusah Elementary
Child to child learning at Salih Yusah Elementary
Refugee children enjoying a meal provided by AAI
Refugee children enjoying a meal provided by AAI
Refugee child happy to be provided with food
Refugee child happy to be provided with food
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Hand made aprons by Moms and kids in Sulu
Hand made aprons by Moms and kids in Sulu

 

BUILDING BRIDGES TO PEACE THROUGH COMMUNITY COOPERATION

Principal Kauzar Ibrahim, Manilop Elementary School, Indanan, Sulu, Philippines

February 27, 2018

 

This school year of 2017-18 was full of more successes than we could imagine! How did this happen? Well, as the saying goes “Two or many heads are better than one.” We will never succeed if there is only one person willing to stand and do every little thing.  It takes full community teamwork to build a bridge from poverty and violence to achieving peace and academic success.

Our community had been plagued by generations of instability and poor quality of health and education. In 2015 we began a remarkable transformation at Manilop Elementary School in Indanan District on Jolo island in the Philippines.  From the very start, we emphasized that Manilop community is composed of hard work, cooperation and smiles. Teachers here are hard-working -- whether they’re paid or not. The majority of the teachers here are unpaid volunteers. Luckily we have a supportive and cooperative barangay [village] captain who is always there to understand what we really need. We also have a District Education Supervisor who stands with us.

How do we emphasize this so-called 'cooperation’? It started when the caring and fun loving President of Asia America Initiative Professor Albert Santoli sent us library books, games and artistic equipment for our young students to ease the trauma from what we called the violent Manilop Incident in July 2016. We immediately informed our Barangay Captain and he responded by giving pencils and crayons to make use of those fun books. WOW! That was a good start of our partnership! 

Another issue was our Kindergarten Classroom. Without a budget for construction or repairs, our Kindergarten learners were suffering in a small, over-heated bamboo shack. We made a project proposal, solicitations, and contributions from PTCA [Parent – Teachers Cooperative Association] and Prof. AAl sent us 50,000 pesos [1,000 US dollars]. So with our cooperation, a government proposed hundred thousand-peso project was reduced to only half of that. The 50K from “Prof. Al” was matched by the community by our school donating hollow blocks. Ply wood, cements, sand and gravel were donated by concerned friends. Wood and construction materials came from Barangay Captain and what mattered most -- the FREE LABORERS’ FEE. Some women in the community prepared food and meals for the carpenters. That’s the least thing we can do because we could not be able to give money to the carpenters.

During the last quarter of School Year 2016-2017, AAI sponsored the Mass Feeding Program where all of our students were able to eat. That was also a 50-50 partnership program.  But rather than letting the child or the parents provide eight pesos to make it 16 we agreed to let them bring veggies, spices, fire woods, water, and most of all, the time and effort they have spent with us during the feeding program.

Just recently, Manilop Primary School was elevated to a full Elementary School, grades Kinder through Six.  We therefore needed to have a classroom to cater our Grades 5 and 6 enrollees. As usual, we informed our Barangay Captain, the PTCA and other stakeholders about it. Alhamdulillah we had an immediate positive response. Like before we knocked on our beloved supporter’s heart and “Prof Al” sent us funds for the classroom shack construction. Then, a few days later, Prof. Al sent us a number of armed chairs so that our new fifth and sixth graders can sit comfortably.

Indeed, teamwork really matters. For it is the key to success especially in a school or any other social organization.  And now just like other schools in our Indanan South District, Manilop Elementary School, is a school which overcame violence and the lack of basic food and water. This was due to hard work, cooperation and smiles.  We are now well-prepared to assist learners achieve their goals in life and serves as a bridges to peace to walk on the right path. 

 

Thank you Asia America Initiative and your donors at GlobalGiving. 

 

Hand washing before lunch
Hand washing before lunch
Christian children praying before lunch
Christian children praying before lunch
Muslim children praying before lunch
Muslim children praying before lunch
Moms cooking lunch at Manilop Elementary
Moms cooking lunch at Manilop Elementary
Bamboo school shack built by parents, Manilop
Bamboo school shack built by parents, Manilop
Donated AAI school books to Manilop Elementary
Donated AAI school books to Manilop Elementary

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Muslim teacher shares fun with Christian Children
Muslim teacher shares fun with Christian Children

In October 2017, I was aboard an airplane to the Christian inhabited Panay Island, in the Philippines which is in the fourth year of recovery from massive destruction caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan. I was accompanied by public school teachers, including Jamila from Sulu Province, a 5th grade teacher of Muslim heritage.  She nervously cried and voiced her concerns. She feared that ethnic Ilongo Christian teachers and children would fear and consider her a "terrorist" or "bad person" because it would be the first such meeting and skills exchange between Christian and Muslim teachers who are connected through programs created by Asia America Initiative.  I was confident that her fears would be unfounded because all of our schools -- whether Christian or Muslim -- shared a commitment to a better life for their children.  The role of AAI members are peace builders who "bridge between cultures."  The results of our first "bridge" meeting were truly inspiring.

Building peace and preventing hostility between neighbors of diverse cultures and religions in many countries often begins in the public schools, which can become de facto "zones of peace." Although teachers are targeted for murder or kidnapping by terror groups such as al Qaeda or ISIS, in many places the every day struggle is against dire poverty, hunger and lack of social justice. To create neutral environments we incorporate security, effective social progress and fun activities for kids, in order to lure kids away from violence, extremism  and drugs.

In AAI partner schools, as part of the public school system, children of all factions and economic sectors of a community sit in the same classrooms to develop tools that will improve their future. Parents, teachers and students work together to grow school gardens.  And Moms cook daily lunches made of nutritious local fresh foods to strengthen the childen's health and learning capacity. In addition, we purchase water tanks that catch rain to provide clean water for hygiene, including hand washing and tooth brushing.

We have chosen the Philippines as a model because it is a nation of 7,000 islands and numerous cultures with more than 100 languages spoken.  The vast archipelago has pervasive poverty and other social and health issues that create tension among the country's 100 million people. During the past ten years, these picturesque  islands have also been among the hardest hit areas of world by massive natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes and  powerful typhoon rains and wind.  In addition, the southern Mindanao region has the longest standing civil conflict in the world between native Muslim tribes and the mostly Christian national government. 

Beginning in 2002, Asia America Initiative has worked to deter prejudice and violence by demonstrating equal amounts of  humanitarian and educational support to storm devastated Christian and Muslim communities and areas terrorized by lawlessness, armed conflct and martial law in the central Visayas Region and in the southern Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.  We use innovative approaches that involve feeding the hungry, providing hygiene where clean water is difficult to access and modernizing classrooms with shipments of textbooks and school supplies. The children in these areas come from large families with parents earning less than $2 or $3 per day.

AAI has relied upon electronic communication and social media to share and discuss the various techniques and methodologies of full community support in our elementary and high school programs. This brings various families and clans together for the common good of their children's success. This October 2017 in the midst of heavy typhoon rains  AAI Director Albert Santoli had the opportunity to bring a small group of school teachers from Sulu in Muslim Mindanao from the Tausug tribe and language to Cuartero, Capiz in Visayas to exchange views and observe programs with ethnic Ilongo teachers and pupils.  The results have been inspiring and wonderful.

Things that I've learned in creating school and church recovery programs after the Great Typhoon have been applied successfully been applied  in Christian and also Muslim communities in Sulu at schools and mosques. As we walked into the school yardof Cuartero National High School, a nervous Teacher Jamilla and our Muslim delegation from Jolo was pleasantly greeted by traditional Ilongo music and folk dances. Following the colorful folk dances we first created a structured question and answer session for the hosts and visitors to  "break the ice" and get to know each other. 

All of us - Christian and Muslim -- discovered  that our mutual concerns as teachers are universal, as in any place in the world.  In 2018, Asia America Initiative seeks to expand the interaction between teachers of diverse faiths and cultures to be a foundation for peace building that can be replicated in other areas of the Philippines and other regions of the world.

We hope that our loyal donors in the GlobalGiving community and new partners who discover the benefits of our holistic educational programs will extend your support to empower our noble educators.  They deserve our support  to buiild peace in frontline areas and to overcome poverty, hunger and armed conflict.

Christian high school dancers perform in Visayas
Christian high school dancers perform in Visayas
washing hands at school in Muslim Sulu Province
washing hands at school in Muslim Sulu Province
Ilongo peewee folk dancers in Visayas
Ilongo peewee folk dancers in Visayas
hand wash facility at elementary school in Sulu
hand wash facility at elementary school in Sulu
Water tanks provided by AAI in Sulu and Visayas
Water tanks provided by AAI in Sulu and Visayas
Electronic classroom in Sulu w/ decor by teacher
Electronic classroom in Sulu w/ decor by teacher
Moms cook lunches in Sulu and Visayas schools
Moms cook lunches in Sulu and Visayas schools

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Organization Information

Asia America Initiative

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Albert Santoli
Washington, DC United States
$35,863 raised of $50,000 goal
 
271 donations
$14,137 to go
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