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.
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 !
Look at this beautiful “bamboo palace” at night.
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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!) .
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.
We then proceeded to our new school building for ribbon cutting and turning over ceremony.
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.