Thursday, November 29, 2012

Paaralang Pinoy’s Sapatos (Shoes) Project

A Report from Teacher Valerie Malabonga

Teacher Valerie Malabonga with the Magdalena House of Friendship girls wearing their new shoes
(Photo by Noeh Vios, CCT staff)

During school year 2011-2012, students and teachers of Paaralang Pinoy of Northern Virginia partnered with a Christian, nonprofit organization, Mission East Asian National Support (MEANS USA), on a service project providing shoes to poor children. MEANS matched Paaralang Pinoy’s contribution, so a total of $520 was raised towards the purchase of shoes for the beneficiaries in three sites of the Center for Community Transformation (CCT). 

CCT is a Christian organization with the mission of “changing lives, strengthening families, empowering communities, and transforming the nation.” The three sites were Malungon, in Sarangani province, Mindanao; Kaibigan center (a halfway house for the homeless) Pasay, Metro Manila; and the Magdalena House of Friendship, Laguna, where homeless children and teens are housed and educated while their parents are still obtaining housing.

On October 20, 2012, I had the privilege of visiting the Magdalena House of Friendship to distribute the plastic shoes. The CCT staff determined that “crocs”-like plastic shoes are better suited to the stony terrain around Magdalena House of Friendship than ordinary slippers, so they bought plastic shoes for the children.

I was accompanied by Cristina Gellor and Noeh Vios, then Manila-based staff of the Visions of Hope (VOH) Foundation, CCT. VOH administers all the CCT schools. When we arrived at the site, we were greeted by a drum and bugle band composed of the teens living in Magdalena; and the children gave me a special ribbon they had made. When we reached one of the dorms, the younger children presented a program of songs and Bible verses they had memorized. The CCT staff and I distributed 52 pairs of shoes to the children and a few Tagalog or bilingual books from Paaralang Pinoy teachers. Most of the children showed their respect by taking my hand to ask for a blessing (i.e., the Filipino gesture of mano po).  Each child also wrote a personal thank you note to Paaralang Pinoy and MEANS.

After the program, I observed that some of the children were wearing their new shoes proudly while the others were still wearing their old shoes or slippers while clutching the new ones still in the plastic bags.  Teacher Ester Baes-Mendoza explained that the shoes are so precious to the kids that ayaw nilang maluma kaagad (they do not want them to be worn out quickly).

The staff gave me a tour of the site and I witnessed how loving and dedicated the house parents, teachers and pastor were toward the children.  The children also ate a nutritious lunch and had adequate sleeping and recreational arrangements. I also saw the parents of one of the teens enjoying their visit with their daughter. CCT is definitely deserving of the support from Paaralang Pinoy and MEANS.

It was such a blessing for me to meet and greet the children. Because the children seem very happy, it is hard for me to imagine that just a few months or a few years ago, kids like Patrick Leano were living on the streets of Manila.  I hope someday you may meet these precious children too.