Friday, June 8, 2007

Because They Have Been Loved

For the past three years now, hubby and I have been rallying some of our family and friends to help us send to school a number of our Gawad Kalinga-Prayer Mountain Siga members. This school year, we have 7 High School scholars and 4 College scholars. Of the 7 HS scholars, 2 are new. We have 2 more college scholars waiting for their sponsors to come around and make good their pledges.

It was during a GK (Gawad Kalinga) Rally in ULTRA that I was convicted to see that all our Siga members would get their chance to an education that will help alleviate their families from poverty. An elder of our Catholic Renewal Community led us in prayer and when he said, "I will not stop serving until I see all our youth back in school..." I found myself crying unceasingly. That weekend, when we went to Prayer Mountain, I did the unthinkable (at least for my hubby) --- without looking into their family backgrounds, their past grades or even how much they had in unsettled balances at school --- I promised all those who were not yet enrolled (due to financial concerns) that I would find a way to put all of them back in school. They simply had to do their part, to enrol.

HS education is supposed to be free here in the Philippines, however, our youth were having difficulty coping with their daily transportation fare (about $0.30 a day) and school project expenses. Their day-to-day survival included making a choice between sacrificing a meal for the family over completing a school requirement. Thus, for their families, education was just another cause for their poverty.

I've learned from last school year (SY) that a verbal agreement with our scholars is not enough. For the HS scholars, we had agreed that they were supposed to maintain a grade average of 80 in all their subjects, with no grade lower than 75. For the College scholars, no grade of 3 or lower. Of the 12 scholars that we had last year, only 2 would have remained for this SY if we held true to our verbal agreement on their grade requirements. But thanks to the sector head of the Siga program, we were reminded of what was essential in our work in GK, "It's better to love than to be right."

There are some more gray areas in all this. In fact, 3 of the scholars from last SY "didn't make the cut" this year. A male scholar due to poor attendance at our weekly values formation assemblies and for 2 female scholars (who fortunately still got their HS diplomas) behavior unbecoming of Siga members. In effect, they took themselves out of the scholarship even before we could really decide to do so. Tough love was the order of the day when one of the female scholars presented herself to be interviewed, still hoping for a chance to a college scholarship (the other two scholars sent "feelers" but didn't arrive that morning). She was laughing and crying at the same time when I had ask her why she still deserved the scholarship...what made her more deserving than the others. She said she didn't know. A wasted opportunity? Possibly. However, ours is a God of nth chances. So who am I not to give her another chance? But maybe not this year. Thankfully, she remains to be an active member of Siga.

This year I've come up with a written agreement with our scholars and their parents. Some sort of a "contract" pledging their commitment to get good grades and to show good moral conduct wherever they may be. However, I have put our new scholars on "probationary status" and last year's scholars (those who didn't make the grade cut) have been served their "1st warning". They get 3 warnings before they have to give up their scholarship.

I hope that nobody gets served that final warning. I want to see all of them with their college diplomas. Not for anything else, but for the promise of a better future because they have been loved.

For more information on Gawad Kalinga:

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sick Children

I remember how much I would appreciate the last few minutes of "Doogie Howser, M.D." when Doogie would be seated at his PC recalling/writing down the day's lessons. It was something I wanted to do (Maintaining a diary, that is. I did want to be a doctor also, but God had other plans for me.) and well, up to now, have yet to be successful in. I have a few diaries sitting in my closet with 2 or 3 entries each, but that's about it. I even tried to start a diary together with my ex-boyfriend (now my hÜbby), however, it didn't work out. My hubby prefers drawing over writing so his entries contained more illustrations than words. I really hope that it would be different that I am older (and wiser, perhaps). hehehe.

I hosted the 10th Nephrology Camp at the Philippine Children's Medical Center (PCMC) yesterday afternoon. It was a lot of fÜn!

I remember how I used to hate having to go to PCMC for my MA practicum. After work, I would drive from CCE (Center for Childhood Education) to PCMC crying. It was quite a struggle for me since I was coming from work where I taught happy, healthy, well-provided for children. Then in the afternoon, I would have to cater to the emotional needs of underpriviledged, chronically-ill children and their parents. I was miserable and bitter. In fact, there was a time that I simply didn't want to go anymore but a co-teacher of mine wouldn't hear of it. She made sure to ride with me going there, in fact, I think she even accompanied me once or twice into the hospital. She was God sent! It was then that I came to realize that I was bitter because I felt that there was so much that I couldn't do for the children and their families. What I had failed to acknowledge was the fact that my mere presence was enough for them. There were several kids who would request for me to be at their bedside when they'd have to undergo chemotherapy or when bone marrow had to be extracted from their hipbone. Ugh! But I was there for them to hold their hand, to comfort make things a little better. I even had a teenager die on me and I had to be there for her mother. It was quite an experience. It has kept me grounded.

I relate so much better now with the kids and their parents. Just one call from ate Beth of the Special Activities Office of PCMC and I'm there. I hope to be able to go there on a regular basis again. Come to think of it, I didn't do much yesterday, I simply held some hands, hugged some children and talked to a few parents and a grandparent. I was just there for them...and they were there for me, too.