Hand in Hand

Name:Ronan Bennett
Location:Cebu City, Philippines.
Aiming for: Silver Award
About the Author:I am a student teacher in my final year. I enjoy working through mediums of art, literature and theatre in expressing ideas, both my own and with children in class. I look forward to using my experience in The Philippines to enrich the learning of children in my class.

Hand in Hand

Thursday marked the halfway point for SERVE Philippines 2016 and I would like to take this opportunity to again thank you all who generously supported my endeavour to come here, both financially and emotionally.
Financial support is a huge issue for the Badjao so the money donated to SERVE Philippines 2016 makes considerable and facilitating differences. The Badjao do not receive money or aid from the Filipino Government for community development nor do they receive any sort of social welfare. Their lack of financial resources has led many families, especially children, to resort to begging which has tarnished their reputation as a people here in Cebu.

Through solidarity with the Badjao community, SERVE work with the money they have to bring change and benevolence to the Cebuano Badjao. In the past, SERVE has contributed and participated in the construction of ‘quads’ which are buildings of four rooms that hold one Badjao family per room. The quads allow some families to move from the unstable and often hazardous huts into sound dwellings. Life in one of these rooms is unfathomable for one not experiencing it first hand. The families cook outdoors and have outdoor toilets. There can be over ten people residing in one room; content, close and supportive of one another.

Many of the people living in this way are very young children, under five years old and this is something else SERVE funds and develops. These children are discouraged from begging through the provision of kindergarten classes where I have been fortunate enough to to work in the past two weeks – Nano Nagle Badjao School. Sister Evelyn, one of the presentation sisters here, was pivotal to the founding of this school and indeed the entire development programme. She secured salaries to allow teachers to work her full time, a permanent settlement to allow for the continuity and longevity of education and a permanent settlement for the whole Badjao tribe here in Cebu. This building allows children and adults alike to come and be educated in order to reach their full potential and better themselves and their community. Education is the way forward out of poverty.

The money that SERVE raises funds materials and resources for this school like the art supplies for our workshops and teacher training, paint for the walls and murals and classroom resources, including Montessori equipment. Being here and witnessing the materials being utilised is both rewarding and humbling. Today the school is a thriving environment with computers, libraries, electricity and bathrooms. Without donations from our families, friends and communities, these developments would be hindered impossible.

Looking to the future, SERVE will be involved in the construction and establishment of a community garden for the Badjao as a further element of the ongoing community development work here. But aside from financial matters, working with the Badjao means providing hope and inspiration through our actions and words and this is reciprocal! We as volunteers can instill hope and determination here in order for the Badjao to continue to develop and thrive but we are also taught, as Irish people, that hope can be found in the most challenging of places and there is much to be said about sticking together through whatever life has in store for us.

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