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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
Water tank bought by AAI at Poblacion ES, Mindanao
Water tank bought by AAI at Poblacion ES, Mindanao

In the Philippines, religious conflict and natural disasters like Typhoon Haiyan and the increase in inter-ethnic and tribal armed conflict during 2015-16 have caused suffering of millions of Filipino children. Asia America Initiative, with local Christian, Muslim and Mountain tribal staff in the central and southern Philippines is providing essential food and water assistance, where government has failed. Thanks to GlobalGiving donors and personal friends, we are empowering elementary schools in regions where children are victims of natural and man-made disasters. Inter-faith community efforts teach students and their parents 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.

"It is an amazing process," says Principal uz Roxas at Angub Elementary School, where desperately impoverished mountain tribal children are "skinny as toothpicks." The region is struggling with a harsh period of El Nino drought and lack of rainfall, occasionally interrupted by fierce monsoon floods.  As a result, fresh food is destroyed in the fields. Children lack rubber sandals and yet walk 2 to 3 miles to school each day.  Mothers are cooking lunch on school premises with funds from AAI and our GlobalGiving Donors. The Catholic Filipino and mountain tribal children have formed a large extended family at the school. Two out of four top performing students this year are from tribal families.

"I cried the first time I saw the conditions of these children and how little and skinny they are," says AAI nurse Faith Omel dela Torre.  Nurse Faith is a mother of two elementary school boys. She impressed on AAI Director Santoli that we needed to work extra hard to make sure these children could eat and have water tanks and hoses for sanitation and clean water for cooking and hand washing.  In turn, AAI reached out to GlobalGiving's community of donors and has realized incredible results.  

In the coming weeks we will tell stories about our Muslim and Christian communities in areas suffering intensive poverty, government neglect and resulting violence. Worse, there are now reports that ISIS terrorists from outside the country are trying to recruit and spread hatred. Every child we feed is a deterrent against hatred. GlobalGiving donors show them that they are not forgotten or alone. Says AAI senior nurse Elsa Bayani: "We are truly blessed to have such wonderful friends." 

Filipino and HIlltribe graduates at Angub ES
Filipino and HIlltribe graduates at Angub ES
Lunch at Bunot ES in Mindanao
Lunch at Bunot ES in Mindanao
Mom's cooking lunch at Poblacion ES, Mindanao
Mom's cooking lunch at Poblacion ES, Mindanao
Hilltribe boyscout at Angub ES
Hilltribe boyscout at Angub ES
Muslim students at AAI supported school , Mindanao
Muslim students at AAI supported school , Mindanao
Filipino Catholic children at Angub ES, Visayas
Filipino Catholic children at Angub ES, Visayas
Rubber Sandals Thank You Art from Our Children
Rubber Sandals Thank You Art from Our Children

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First Grade children washing at Sahaya Elementary
First Grade children washing at Sahaya Elementary

Holiday Cheer to our Global Giving donors who have made clean water possible for 600 Muslim and Christian children in four elmentary schools in the Mindanao region of the Philippines.  This micro project supported better health for four additional schools under the AAI  umbrella program of Building Peace by Uniting Interr-Faith Children Through Education and Clean Water.  It was completely funded in less than three weeks.  I will be in Mindanao in mid-February 2016 to oversee and document the completion of the clean water systems.and hand washing facility being built by parents and other volunteers.  

This effort of providing equal care and comfort to these multi-cultural children in a severely impoverished and violence torn region sets an example of peace and instills confidence that they are not forgotten.  At a time when extremist and terrorist groups are seeking to recruit  young children, we continue to promote good health and a positive attitude to keep our communities actively engaged in education.  While  radical groups promote destruction and hatred, AAI's programs are a celebration of life and friendship. 

We are offering donors one more end-of-year opportunity to help us puirchase a water tank and hygiene facilities for one more school with 150 children -- Global Giving Project #22910 --  https://www.globalgiving.org/microprojects/clean-water-and-hygiene-for-150-children-in-mindanao 

We invite you to inform your friends that this opportunity for positive action is available for their participation. Every contribution maters.

We thank you for your kindness. 

Teacher instructing kids on value of soap
Teacher instructing kids on value of soap
Students practice hygiene at Sahaya Elementary
Students practice hygiene at Sahaya Elementary
Brushing Teeth at school
Brushing Teeth at school
Teeth brushing is becoming a health movement
Teeth brushing is becoming a health movement

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Joyful  Marvelyn with her school Principal
Joyful Marvelyn with her school Principal

On December 3, 2015 two 11th grade  students, a girl and a boy -- Miss Marvelyn and Ruzyhan -- won First and Second Place awards in academic talent competition for the Muslim Autonomous Region of Mindanao, Philippines. Their performance qualified them for national competition.  The performance  of the two bright and energetic students was remarkable not only because they attend schools that lack adequate books and learning technology.  But also for the constant stress and trauma of living in a province where drug-smuggling, kidnapping and military search and destroy campaigns are rampant. Shortly before the students and their teacher-mentors departed their home island by boat to the academic completion  --  a 300 miles journey -- terrorists claiming affinity with the extremist ISIS radicals, placed the severed head of a kidnap victim on the steps of a government building.  This act of terror was followed by a Philippines army offensive with artillery explosions echoing across the island.  The triumph of Marvelyn and Ruzyhan's creativity, focus and talent is an inspiration not only to their own families and school mates, but to the entire province.  

Mavrelyn attends Jolo National High School which has more than 2,000 students.  Beginning in 2003, Asia America Initiative founder Albert Santoli defied the odds and established a partnership with local civic, religious and education leaders. The Muslim Region was designated an "All-Out War" zone as declared by the mostly Christian Philippine Government, The goal of AAI and Jolo leaders was to create “peace zones" surrounding public and private schools, where young people would not choose to drop out of substandard education environments.  Thus, preentng them from recruitment by militant organizations or criminal gangs.  We believed that regardless of people's religions, we could work together to overcome the darkness by emphasizing education, livelihood and basic health needs.  We were inspired by the example of Notre Dame College of Jolo, where Muslim and Christian faculty, even during fierce fighting, worked side by side with mutual respect.

Few officials in the capital or in the US Embassy believed anything positive could happen.  In fact, most community members felt hopelessly abandoned  and isolated.  Jolo National High School flooded during monsoon rains, and in classrooms, students sat on burlap sacks covering muddy concrete floors.  Santoli, himself a war veteran in his youth, understood that while the extremists offered only death and destruction, that progress could happen by embracing a “culture of respecting life.”    This required consistent long-term positive action, especially centered on the most vulnerable members of society – the children.

In 2005, a report by Jolo National High School principal Hja.Yolanda Jikiri cited AAI’s involvement inspiring a new attitude among parents, teachers and students.  “We have struggled to provide quality education.  Asia America Initiative brought about change, transcending the struggling condition for our teachers and a haven of mental enjoyment for the students….  Books, classroom equipment and seating facilities.  Enrollment in our school has remarkably increased  because we are more responsive to the educational needs….  Athletic equipment was also provided by AAI, enabling our students to compete in the Regional meet and bring home 15 gold medals and 5 silver medals.”

Following  Miss Marvelyn’s Silver Medal Performance at the December 2015 Regional Academic Talent competition, her teacher-mentor,Mrs. Aida Arola Ishmael Tee, said:  Marvelyn is a typical 16 year old high school student here in Jolo. She lives in the countrysaide in Indanan [a long-time area of conflict] with her grandparents.  She struggled a lot in her early years because of family separation issues.  But she is intelligent and as her advisor in Grade 10, I talked to her heart to heart because I knew she could be motivated because she is extraordinary, especially in writing.  To have a teacher who believes in you can change a young person's life.

"I believe that even if it is not very big, we can all make a diference in life in our own good way.  Every individual may have their differnece in religion, personalities and skills, but that cannot stop people to help mankind for the betterment of the world. Our province needs better education for all of the people so they can focus on the younger generation with peace. The time will come when the little things we do will be big enough to surpass the big challenges we encounter." 

With humble enthusiasm, Marvelyn conveyed her joy: "Thank you so much AAI and all of your kind friends for being so supportive!  We students of Jolo National High School really appreciate your kindness."

Sulu Academic Festival of Talents delegation
Sulu Academic Festival of Talents delegation
Jolo "Pop Quiz" team
Jolo "Pop Quiz" team
Mindanao ProvinPop Quiz winners including Marvelyn
Mindanao ProvinPop Quiz winners including Marvelyn
Mentor Teacher Aida with Marvelyn
Mentor Teacher Aida with Marvelyn

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Angels on Parade in Indanan
Angels on Parade in Indanan

 

In life we find that sometimes communities or individuals who seem to have no chance to succeed because of an impoverished or life-threatening environment end up doing incredible achievements.  The southern Philippines is such a place, especially in Duenas, Visayas where landless farm laborers were devastated by a Noah’s Ark type of typhoon in 2013 which destroyed many homes and schools.   In Visayas region, tens of thousands of families remain without adequate homes. Malnutrition is rampant among children who attend schools where the classroom chairs and roofs, sanitation and textbooks were largely destroyed. Today, governmental support is scarce and most foreign charity groups have already departed. Fortunately, Asia America Initiative values hard-working partnership above sympathy. 

In southwest Muslim areas of Mindanao, there is an ongoing prevalence of armed conflict and shootouts between the army and kidnap gangs and feared meth-amphetamine dealers supplied by the Chinese military and local criminal gangs creates a climate of fear.  Sulu Province is rated by the United Nation and Philippine government as the most underdeveloped area of the Philippines and at the bottom of the international human development index.  Despite the very real jeopardy, Christians such as the priests, brothers and nuns at Notre Dame College and the inter-faith Asia America Initiative are considered as partners in development by most Sulu Muslims. 

The schools are our neutral “peace” zones and form the basis of our ‘Youth Spark” campaign to unite Christians and Muslims through education.  Thanks to Global Giving donors and some matching from Microsoft we consistently help feed and provide clean water to more than 30,000 children combined in the Duenas area of Visayas and the Sulu area of Mindanao.  We are eliminating malnutrition and helping to reduce disease through clean water programs.

In August-September 2015, I made a working visit to both regions to conduct unity and oversite activities and to touch base with my dear friends, no matter their religion or language.  The night before I traveled to Sulu, a schoolteacher called and had me listen to the very clear sound of artillery explosions not far from her home.  She asked, “Are you sure you want to come here now?” I responded, “If a friend is not with his friends when times are difficult, then how can any of us stand against the darkness.”

Please see the attached pictures which speak thousands of words about my visit and our progress based in full community partnership with teachers and parents. Last week all 11 elementary schools in Indanan district, which is among the most feared due to kidnap gangs and some armed extremists, stood up against the darkness by conducting a three-day outdoor music, dance, academic and sports festival.  They defied evil through the joy of learning and performing positive competitions.  AAI receives no support from any government at this time.  None of this could be done without the support of our extended community of donors. 

Rural Timbangan Elementary School, is one of AAI’s 20  Models of Excellence schools in Sulu Province.  After a morning-long library and school textbook distribution, I boarded the crowded mid-day ferry boat for the 5 hour ride on the Sulu-Celebes Sea to Zamboanga.  A delegation of school principals, teachers and nurses extended their Salams and other statements of friendship.

As I boarded on the wobbly wooden plank, carrying a bag full of fresh tropical fruits, I was handed a heartfelt thank you card from Head Nurse Jubalya Damlan of Timbangan Elementary.  “You are angels that answered our prayers,” she wrote.   “The needs of our school children are now in reach thanks to you.  We believe our dreams for them nearly may be coming true because of your support.   We will never forget you throughout our lives.  Thank you so much!!"

Majorettes for peace and unity, Indanan
Majorettes for peace and unity, Indanan
School officials & Elementary principals march
School officials & Elementary principals march
Moms pushing decorative floats with their children
Moms pushing decorative floats with their children
Moms cook lunch at Sheikh Mustafa Elementary
Moms cook lunch at Sheikh Mustafa Elementary
overcoming malnutrition w/ home cooking in schools
overcoming malnutrition w/ home cooking in schools
School hygiene with support from AAI and community
School hygiene with support from AAI and community
walking the robot  in culture and sports parade
walking the robot in culture and sports parade
AAI books and school supplies for Sulu schools
AAI books and school supplies for Sulu schools
School garden assists daily school feeding program
School garden assists daily school feeding program
thank you note from Grade 4 student in Duenas
thank you note from Grade 4 student in Duenas

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Munding Mini Nurses in action and having fun
Munding Mini Nurses in action and having fun

 

In Jolo, Philippines, the struggling and very crowded Haji Hassiman Higad Elmentary School suffered a devastating blow in 2013 when a fire destroyed the school. More than 800 elementary age children from some of the most impoverished communities in the region nearly had their educational futures destroyed. Out of the ashes rose a new community spirit to overcome this cruel fate and build a better future. Supported by local non-profit groups, labor from parents, and now Asia America Initiative (AAI) with Global Giving’s donors, they began clearing out the ashes and reconstructing their school. Among the first buildings was a new school clinic. This success led to the formation of a new group of volunteers consisting of 5th and 6th grade boys and girls who volunteered to help in their school clinic and clean up the ruins from the fire. Their program is called the Munting [Mini] Nurses and is led by school nurse, Myrla S. Kiram.

“The Munting Nurses are our little [Florence] Nightingales,” says Nurse Myrla Kiram. “They volunteer to do the hard jobs and are absolutely delighted to help their fellow students. Thanks to AAI we have been able to double their number to 25 participants. They are a joyful inspiration to us all.”

In the Philippines, natural disasters and social conflicts have caused suffering of millions of Filipino children. Poverty, storms, and inter-cultural violence are abundant in the Philippines. A school-aged population of more than 65 million 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. Christian communities in Visayas are still recovering after the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, where close to 3 million people still lack adequate shelter. In both regions, few schools have sufficient text books, clean water, or adequate nutrition, and most lack basic tools for livelihood training.

AAI programs empower elementary and high schools as the centers of progress in struggling communities. Currently, we have expanded—thanks to many donors through Global Giving and gifts in kind from many sources – to provide clean water and hygiene tools to close to 35,000 children and youth. We support literacy, livelihood, gardening, and school lunches cooked by parents to enhance health and nutritional progress which is needed to have the strength and energy for a child to be alert and active in the classroom. Our first targeted goal in 2014 was to aid 10,000 children in ten schools. We have expanded carefully with a tight budget to provide support to close to 35,000 elementary, high school, and college students this school year.

Our child-centered programs build inter-faith and intercultural trust and friendship. We act as a bridge between communities by posting pictures on social media and short descriptions of best practices being developed in our programs. That generates appreciation of the common bonds among teachers, parents, and school nurses in disparate Christian and Muslim communities. And we emphasize our equal respect and support to all school communities.

Dr. Nur-Aisha Gonzalez, principal of Kasambuhan Elementary School in Sulu says, “AAI has been a blessing with their continuous respect and support to our schools. The faces of primary learners glitter with much happiness and their pride to receive the white book bag painted with bold AAI acronym. Definitely, they were all full of energy to attend their respective classes because of the essential classroom supplies from AAI. The educational assistance can be categorized into such instructional materials, nutritional support, cookware and utensils, clean water support, medicines, and hygiene. Mr. Santoli's mutual respect with our community brought about the expansion of AAI educational supports to many schools. Similarly parents are also proud of their school children receiving such supplies from donors and educational partners around the world. They intensely feel the value of their children's education shown by those supporters in pursuit of quality education.”

Rebuilt School Clinic at Haji Hassiman Elementary
Rebuilt School Clinic at Haji Hassiman Elementary
Munting Mini Nurses and their mentor at clinic
Munting Mini Nurses and their mentor at clinic
Munding Mini Nurse applicants taking test
Munding Mini Nurse applicants taking test
Playing in the ruins of the burned schoolhouse
Playing in the ruins of the burned schoolhouse
HHES Mini nurses after a good day's work
HHES Mini nurses after a good day's work
water tanks store rainwater at AAI schools
water tanks store rainwater at AAI schools
Flower pot veggie garden at Haji Hassiman ES
Flower pot veggie garden at Haji Hassiman ES
Ruins of Haji Hassiman Elementary after the fire
Ruins of Haji Hassiman Elementary after the fire
Flower pot veggie garden at Haji Hassiman ES
Flower pot veggie garden at Haji Hassiman ES

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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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