Sunday, July 26, 2009

FEATURE: Making little dreams possible

By Russtum G. Pelima, MA Ed

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (July 27, 2009) – It’s a day in the city that these kids would never forget through all their lives.

Just a few weeks ago, volunteers from the Provincial Governor’s Office and staff of the Quality Education for Sarangani Today (QUEST) braved bad weather and trails to Kiangkos, New Canaan and Banlibato Elementary Schools. They climbed up the mountains of Pag-asa in Alabel town for eight hours to reach the schools, crossing a river 25 times.

Then the volunteers brought along workbooks from QUEST for the school children. Now, with their parents’ consent, the team brought the kids to the city -- the sight of flickering lights they and the barangay’s upland community can see only at night.

Excitement, joy and happiness painted the innocent children’s faces. There were 30 of them, all in Grade VI, of the New Canaan and Kiangkos Elementary Schools whom Annalie Edday, QUEST program manager, identified and promised to show them the lowlands for the first time.

“Making Little Dreams Possible” is more than an educational tour.

“We want them to see their dreams coming true by experiencing the world (place) they longed to see from afar, a life they would want to enjoy after finishing school,” Edday said.

This is the first time these children would see tall buildings, moving cars, schools where pupils wear uniforms, ships and airplanes, sleep in a concrete house, enter a mall, eat at advertised food chains they heard from the radio.

Kiangkos is 2,149 feet above sea level. Being unreachable by any transportation other than horses, Kiangkos and New Canaan have no electricity hence there’s not one TV set in the community.

On their tour last week, the Southern Philippines Power Corporation provided them with P8,000 shopping money while the Holiday Bus Company provided them free ride for a day.

“Bahala na gutom ug kapoy basta makakita mi ug syudad (We’re tired and hungry but we don’t mind just to see the city),” pupil Michelle Palawan sighed.

At first I thought these kids were just too excited to see the city to walk for eight hours, but I was wrong. For I discovered later that they were more interested about something else - going to school and finish their studies.

Teacher Leo Lecita said his pupils Leah Mayo, Ariel Martin, Wenie Mayo, Jenesa Lagalkan, Analyn Padayag, and Adelyn Mayo had never been absent from school since June. Most of these kids walk an hour everyday from home to school in bare foot or worn-out slippers.

Families of the 200 pupils in Kiangkos and 384 from New Canaan live through corn farming and hunting. They must rent a horse to bring their products to the barangay site for P150 per trip.

“Making Little Dreams Possible’s aim is to really inspire them to finish their studies,” Alcantara Foundation (AF) executive director Cecile Dominguez said. AF initiated and organized technological transfer of QUEST from Synergeia Foundation and find linkages from the private sector to help parents, community, and the local government work for better education of their children.

At the Bombo Radyo station, they greeted their parents and the community in Kiangkos and New Canaan on air. Transistor radio is the only means of communication there.

Lecita, one of the three teachers assigned in Kiangkos, thanked sponsors QUEST and the Alcantara Foundation for the children’s once-in-a-lifetime tour in the city.

“After ten years of teaching, it’s the first time that I see my pupils very happy,” he said.

“Murag dili na ko muuli pero kinahanglan nako maghuman ug eskwela ug mubalik ko diri aron mag trabaho para matabangan nako akong parents (I feel like I’m not going home, but I have to finish my studies and come back here soon to work in order to help my parents),” Analyn Mayo, a 16-year old Grade VI pupil said.

It is quite surprising but all pupils gave me the same answer while talking to them at the end of the day.

Funny how these children were amazed seeing crushed ice at the fish port given to them by a quality controller. They tasted the crushed iced as they laughed at themselves.

For the volunteers and the sponsors, enjoying by themselves the gain of giving, will surely never forget the word of thanks and appreciation the children left them in handwritten letters. (Russtum G. Pelima/SARANGANI INFORMATION OFFICE)

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