In the Philippines today, in the last weeks of 2016, tension is mounting between Muslim and Christian communities fueled by a war on drugs by the government which has claimed an estimated 6,000 lives and has fueled a climate of vigilante reprisals throughout the country. In addition, a confused peace process between the government and rebel armed groups has left the potential for true peace and social/ economic progress in peril. More than 150,000 people - at least half are infants and children -- are internally displaced from their homes due to rebel attacks and military operations. Another 126,000 are displaced after their homes were destroyed in recent devastating typhoon storms. Basic human needs such as clean water and basic nutrition remain in a state of peril. As a result, Asia America initiative has stepped up the pace of our work to build cooperation and shared reconstruction between people of all faiths and cultures.
Asia America Initiative operates in some of the most deprived and violent areas of the Philippines. Our message of mediation and building for a better future is based on total community involvement. Our centers of peace and self-reliance are through local "Models of Excellence and Peace" public and private schools, which are usually politically neutral and cater to all families in the school district. We provide modest funds to jump-start and sustain programs emphasizing food, clean water and educational books and classroom supplies. Parents and local residents add to our funding for materials and provide the volunteer labor needed to repair damaged facilities, grow, school gardens and Moms cook school lunches. School nurses train "Mini-Nurses" in 5th and 6th grade to be all around helpers of their fellow students.
Last November 25, 2016, the School Supervisor of Indanan District, Mr Moore Ladjahali coordinated with AAI to instruct school heads and nurses how equal distribution of AAI first aid medicines assistance would be distributed to 18 elementary schools in Indanan South District. Supervisor Moore says: "At the meeting the school nurses expressed appreciation and gratitude for the unselfish adoption of AAI for all schools in the District without bias or prejudice. To assure success of the program, certain requirements must be followed like the designation of authorized persons to receive the funds, usually school heads or school nurses. The purspose of the requirements are to officially identify the total number of learners actually enrolled in the schools so that equal distribution of the first aid medicines would be realized. For accountability and oversight, either the school head or school nurse may receive the monetary assistance and keep records on the number of children who are attended to.”
During the last week of 2016, in order to expand our “Peace Zones” that surround each school, we ask for our donors and new friends to please consider our efforts to set an example of hope and cooperation. Providing children with adequate food, basic health needs and clean water is a great first step! We thank you for your previous support. May you all be blessed in 2017.
Poverty, storms, and inter-cultural violence are detrimental to economic and social development 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 seeking autonomy, remains at the bottom of the UN's worldwide Human Development Index. Christian communities in Visayas infiltrated by a militant communist party and lumber smugglers are still recovering after Super Typhoon Haiyan. In both regions, rural populations are caught in a deadly crossfire of hard drug and kidnap gangs and official corruption, Few schools have books, clean water, adequate nutrition and lack basic tools for livelihood training. Since 2002, Asia America Initiative has been working in both regions with a special emphasis on nutrition and clean water, no matter if a child is Christian or Muslim. We have learned from our initial misconceptions to always seek local elders' inputs and listen to include the community to build bridges of progress through positive teamwork and unselfish partnerships. Programs are tested and sustained through the sharing of "best practices" via social media.
When we began in 2002, we had a combination of private donations and modest US government funds to conduct a brief 12-month program. We made the mistake of thinking US government foreign aid agencies would welcome innovation if it led to progress. By 2003, we received awards from the Philippines President, the Regional Governor and the Philippine Secretary of Defense for creating "peace zones." But after stretching the funds from one year into a two-year program and raising matching funds from private donors, we were shocked when our grant was not renewed. We learned that it was because we were not appreciated by bureaucrats for "revising" our "work plan" and "adjusting" how we spent funds based on suggestions from honest local leaders.
Our mistake was expecting bureaucrats to not act like bureaucrats who value the letter of the contract whether or not it is leading to success. However, we "failed forward" by adopting a more independent and appropriate development strategy based on community meetings and consistent oversite and testing of results. Since, 2006 when we suffered with the disappointment of the initial grant not being renewed, our programs have grown 5-fold. We have not taken a single dollar of US government funds, yet we have grown by utilizing basic modalities of grant writing and crowd fundraising through partners such as Global Giving. We have earned the respect of our beneficiaries who have become full-fledged development partners in addressing nutrition needs, clean water and improved education opportunities.
The long-term positive impact of this program empowers Christian and Muslim communities to learn from each other through their respective best practices. Asia America Initiative serves as a communication bridge. Our social media networks facilitate transparent communication and dispel fear and myths that alienate communities who feel alone and abandoned.
"AAI has the reputation of being good listeners. As a result, are welcomed and protected by local people. We are receiving requests from many additional schools for AAI support," states Nurse Shareen Mariwa, Head Nurse of the Department Education in Sulu. "We need to extend our partnership programs as we have already met our early goals last year. This is because of the confidence community leaders and parents have that there is more help coming from the AAI through your friendship. No matter their cultures, religions and languages, we work best when it is for the interest of others. The well-being of the children is the proven result."
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 Typhoon Haiyan. In both regions, few schools have books, clean water, adequate nutrition and lack basic tools for livelihood training. Asia America Initiative works in both provinces with a special emphasis on nutrition and clean water, no matter if a child is Christian or Muslim. We are a model building bridges through positive action at community level.
This program is began by assisting 1,000 children in two elementary schools in Sulu and in Visayas. We overcome extreme poverty and communal violence, through integrated literacy, livelihood skills, and health support. We have created a social media network for Muslim and Christian educators and children to share their new skills, hopes, and dreams. Mothers and fathers of pupils will assist teachers to cook daily meals. We will provide school supplies, garden tools, seeds, and pipes for fresh water. When necessary, AAI staff rolls up our sleeves and works the land and plants seeds of fresh food and hope alongside our beneficiaries -- who are also our friends.
The long-term positive impact of this program empowers Christian and Muslim communities to learn from each other through their respective best practices. Asia America Initiative serves as a communication bridge. Our social media networks facilitate transparent communication and dispel fear and myths that alienate communities who feel alone and abandoned. The program has been expanded from 2 to 4 elementary schools with a total population of nearly 2,000 children.
"We are receiving requests from many additional schools," states Nurse Shareen Mariwa, Head Nurse of the Department Education in Sulu, Muslim Mindanao. "We need to extend our partnership programs as we have already met our early goals last year. This is because of the confidence community leaders and parents have that there is more help coming from the AAI through your friendship. No matter our homelands and language, we work best when it is for the interest of others. The success of our schools and wellbeing of the children are the results."
We extend deep gratitude to GlobalGiving and our donor community.
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."
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.
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