Every Child Needs A Champion: The Visions of Hope Foundation Story in Malungon, Sarangani (Part 1 of 3)

I remember a blog post where I shared about God’s answer to my prayer many years back about expanding the four walls of our classroom.   Indeed God truly  continues to expand as He has brought me to various heights in merely passing what I have learned in our 16 years of non-stop homeschooling journey. From mentoring mini classes of homeschooling parents, to workshops for larger parent groups; from moderating a dynamic homeschool community of almost 9000 members to speaking in homeschooling conferences, it has been a truly an unforgettable journey of learning and passing on. It could be as simple as a FB message, a comment on a post or a call, or an email, God has been allowing His grace and encouragement to overflow from one home to another. I am truly blessed to part of this cycle of blessing.

Never did I think that God would enlarge the borders even further and really allow me to even cross continents to learn about  best practices in working with  poor children/ families in Guatemala  in an exposure trip last year.  And God opened the doors to eventually help oversee the educating of 160 children from the indigenous groups of B’laan and Tagakaolo in the Visions of Hope Christian School in  a province of Sarangani, the southernmost  tip of Mindanao Island.

Only God could have orchestrated it all.   With the help of good friend Steph De Los Santos who invited me to be part of the Visions of Hope Foundation and my now BFF in ministry, Arlene Sy, the homeschooling experience would prove to be a gold mine in “helping” home educate the many children who  need to live in boarding facilities in the school since their homes were just too far (2-3 hour walk, one way!)  Aligned with our mission/vision, we are now test running a curriculum that seeks to be a Christ centered, holistic, practical, relevant and indigenous culture sensitive. One that will celebrate the beautiful community of the B’laans and Tagakaolos  and help them as well end the cycle of poverty by helping raise productive citizens that will one day give back to their municipality, their province. And by careful crafting, we hope and pray that our graduates will be able to meet th needs of this community in the future. We truly seek to promote culture identity and preservation through lessons and activities.  Indeed a daunting task  but one the Lord never designed to be addressed by one group or individual. God indeed uses a multitude to  lovingly raise His little ones.

Sarangani is one of the poorest provinces in our country.  According to the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 2015,  Sarangani is the 3rd poorest province with a poverty incidence of 61.7% meaning 6 out of 10 families do not earn enough to provide for basic food and non food needs.  With poverty, education  becomes a non-priority as the children are expected to help add to the family income . Some opt to let their children marry early (early teens) so as to pass the burden of care for others.  Armed with  our mother organization, Center for Community Transformation‘s call to work in the poorest of the poor,  we knew Visions of Hope Foundation needed to provide better access to quality and relevant education for our indigenous children.

So after many meetings and several visits to Mindanao, it is  with the deepest gratitude for  Our Jehovah-Jireh (The Lord , our Provider) and greatest joy that I would like to share the photos of our recent Thanksgiving and Inauguration Ceremony  last September 13, 2017 as our new school building was turned over to us by our generous donor, the Security Bank Foundation as they continue to roll out their commitment in their  “Build a School. Build a Nation: Classrooms Project!”

Let me share our journey as we saw this day unfold and as we marvel in  witnessing God’s faithfulness to His children through these photos:

During my initial visit,  I met the students and teachers of Visions of Hope Christian School in both Malungon, Sarangani and General Santos.

With Teacher Carol:) Our B’laan music and dance teacher. She is also an ALS teacher ( Alternative Learning System)
With Teacher Lei, our Social Studies teacher.

Construction workers from partner ministry, Kaibigan Ministry
I had a chance to meet our Visions of Hope Christian Preschool teachers, students and parents in General Santos. The school here is constructing new facilities as well and will need our help!
Sunday Worship with Malungon Church in Malungon Retreat and Training Center

 

Photo courtesy of Malungon Retreat and Training Center FB Page

I had the chance to stay over at the beautiful Malungon Retreat and Training Center (MRTC) run by CCT (Center for Community Transformation).  

Check out FB page of Malungon Retreat and Training Center

Set in a hilly and sloping property in Malungon, the training center has mini buildings with a meeting hall and several rooms for lodging.  A highlight of this center is the Bamboo Worship/School Structure !

i really love this “palace”!

Look at this beautiful “bamboo palace” at night.

Photo courtesy of Malungon Retreat and Training Center FB page
Situated on a hill, with many coconut trees surrounding the Visions of Hope Christian School in Sitio Lao, Nagpan, Sarangani Province was donated by the ever generous SB (Security Bank) Foundation. Here is the the 6 classroom 2- story building in its early stages of construction.

I toured the grounds to see the current classrooms being used for preschool up to level 7 . They all were in bad shape, needing major repairs.  But  really, I loved the native feel of the materials in these rooms/cottages. Hopefully, we can add a bit of natural feel into the new school building that had to meet design requirements of our donor, Security Bank Foundation.

I  also had a chance to witness the B’laan way of weaving as I visited  the Lamiflew Living Museum and School of Living Traditions.

I met the wonderful teachers of our school. I spent time with them sharing what it means to be a creative teacher and how to inspire creativity.

With Alternative Learning System Consultant (ALS)  “Ate” Ms. Flonette de Castro

At the core of making this all happen are two of the most dedicated workers I have ever met and worked with. Meet Ms. Arlene Sy, the Visions of Hope Foundation Executive Director  and our every so young, multitalented and gracious program developer and researcher, Ms. Abi Limpin.

With Professor Romeo, Arlene Sy and Abi Limpin as we met in creating a curriculum that promotes and preserves indigenous culture.

We are also to privileged to have Professor Romeo Dela Cruz to be on board in curriculum development.   Prof Romeo or Kuya Toto to  others is a former assistant professor of CAS-DH (College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Humanities) University of the Philippines, Los Banos and former commissioner at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

On my next visit, our building was taking shape.

I had more time with the teachers as we discussed how to use Unit Studies in their lessons.

Please say a prayer for our teachers, our battle front liners!
I was also able to spend early morning devotions with the teachers 🙂


Professor Romeo had a very productive workshop with our teachers in culture identity and preservation!

Last Wednesday, was a big day for all of us.  It was a perfect day. Not hot, not rainy, cloudy with just enough cool wind and see how the day went:


The newly built building is behind us. That’s Ressel and Gina, students of Visions of Hope Christian School, Malungon.
More of the children! I had a great time talking about their passions and interests. Praying for their hearts’ desires,,, I am believing that I talked to future teachers, chefs, engineers, doctors, artists, pilots, architects.

A simple program featured short messages from  Malungon Mayor Tessa Constantino, Security Bank Foundation Chairperson, Mr Rafael Simpao, Jr (yes that’s Papa!), and Visions of Hope Foundation Chairperson Ms. Stephanie De Los Santos.  It was a delight to see the gathering of other committed partners from CCT,  Security Bank, and local government.  I even had a nice chat with a friend, quite close to my father in law,  Ms. Anastasia  Dy, executive director of Security Bank Corporation and President of Security Bank Foundation (Papa’s Boss!) .

From Left to Right: Ms. Anastasia Dy, Papa Rafael F. Simpao, Ms. Stephanie de los Santos and yours truly!

A favorite part of the event was being to share this entire experience with my last homeschooled son, Gino, who had an out of this world “school” exposure trip.

Here is Gino with “Papa” Babes whom my children call as  “Daddy” because 1) Gilbert is Papa and 2) there was resistance to be called Lolo many years back 🙂 It was priceless to have Gino see Lolo  “Daddy Babes” and “Mama Donna” in action. Truly an unforgettable experience  for us all!

The kids presented an indigenous dance number.

Please include of all these committed and loving teachers in your prayers. The new curriculum is not easy to execute, we are challenging to go beyond what they have been used and to try new things.
Mayor Tessa Constantino made sure to attend our inauguration ceremony and donated giant story books for our children. It is truly heartwarming to have an ally in government, Thank you, Mayor Tessa. L-R  Melchi Uyasan ( Save the Children), Mayor Tessa,  Steph de los Santos (VOH) , Arlene Sy (VOH) and Lalaine Naquita (CCT’s Executive Director for Tribal Ministries.

We then proceeded to our new school building for ribbon  cutting and turning over ceremony.

Here together with other partners! I was so thrilled to have co Board of Directors of Visions of Hope Foundation Atty Weena Mendoza with us. She brought her colleagues, Rob and Therese from Wholistic Transformation Resource Center (WTRC).
L-R Ann Dy (SB Foundation), Rafael Simpao (SB Foundation), Steph de los Santos (VOH), Joy Limen ( Principal, VOHCS, Malungon) with 2 students
The uphill climb to our new building. Photo courtesy of Ms. Arlene Sy. More photos to follow on our building in my next post.

I shall end and take a pause here.  I was able to take a school tour and observe a typical school day and will create a part 2 post for that. Part 3 will be about how to help if you’d like to join us in becoming a champion for the kids.  I will cite different options where your talents and resources may be of use in blessing our school .

As I close, let me share a photo of our teachers having a light moment here.  Photo was posted by Teacher Jen Bag-o Pido on  her FB page.   The challenge is truly enormous but these teachers are simply empowered and encouraged by God to press on. Their faith and commitment blesses me tremendously.

Like the weaving masterpieces of cloth seen in the skirts of our teachers, I can’t help but feel the warmth of  God’s “woven” work among His people. Different threads, different colors coming together to create a beautiful work of art that will be showcased again and again.  We all need partners as we fight for children at risk indeed, and I thank you all, all the threads coming together for this worthy, God given endeavor.
Indeed, God loves His children. (We are all His children, remember??!!)  The experiences shared here show just that.  We are all part of His labor of Love. We are doers and at the same time recipients of that love. That thought just blows me away.
1 Corinthians 12; 12, 20
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 20 As it is, there are many parts,[b] yet one body.
 
Psalm 127: 3 Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.

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