Scam. Fraud. Deception. With the very controversial pork barrel issue circulating in the news today, these are just some of the ideas that Filipinos have started to associate NGOs with.
It is sad that a lot of legitimate non-profit organizations, foundations and sincere advocates working in this sector are now experiencing a hard time getting the public’s trust, unlike before. One of these organizations is Acts of Hope for the Nation (AHON) Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of Filway Marketing Inc. AHON Foundation aims to raise the literacy rates in the Philippines by developing newly refurbished public elementary school libraries.
With 93 partner public elementary school libraries, and over 250,000 student beneficiaries, AHON does not stop with just bringing books and children together. It provides free training to the partner schools’ custodians about basic librarianship. And recently, it held a storytelling event in an advance celebration of International Literacy Day.
“Literacy is much more than an educational priority – it is the ultimate investment in the future and the first step towards all the new forms of literacy required in the twenty-first century. We wish to see a century where every child is able to read and to use this skill to gain autonomy,” says Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General
Keeping this idealism in mind, AHON Foundation, in partnership with the UNESCO Club of UP Diliman, invited grade 3 students from Ponciano Bernardo Elementary School in the UP Bahay ng Alumni to enjoy an afternoon of learning and fun. Education advocates, friends from Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance & Ethical Leadership, and the Philippine Center for Mass Communication decided to share one Saturday afternoon to volunteer as storytellers, food distributors, registration head, game facilitators, and documenters. Tessa Atentar, the barangay captain of Barangay Kaunlaran, was also kind enough to support this event by providing transportation for the kids to and from the venue.
The program started with the kids introducing themselves, and was followed by stories adopted from the fables of Aesop entitled, "The Greedy Fox," and "The Frog and The Ox." The first story was told by Shy Castillo who, with the use of her exceptional storytelling skills, was able to capture the attention of all the kids and taught them the lesson of greed bringing nothing but trouble to a person. Despite his timid nature and him feeling the pressure caused by the previous storyteller, Kimo Cea, the second storyteller, succeeded in narrating the story seamlessly by just imitating how animated and enthusiastic the previous storyteller was.
After hearing the stories, the kids were asked to use their creativity to invent a story of their own by contributing three words per child. With a 15-minute time limit, the students were able to produce a story of a rabbit looking for her deer friend but ended up meeting an injured squirel and helped him get medication. The students’ vocabulary and grammar were also put to challenge during the second game in which each of them were given a letter. They were divided into two groups, each having their own mentors. The rule was to create three, four, and five letter words, and use them in different sentences. Few, sum, bike, tao, pawis and wagi were some of the words formed during this activity.
Before the kids went home, they munched on the boxes of sweet treats and claimed their free game coupons from the event’s major sponsors, J.Co Donuts & Coffee Philippines, and Timezone. School supplies from the Hero Channel, and the Andres Bonifacio Foundation were distributed to those who recalled the moral of the stories read earlier in that afternoon, and the names of their Ate’s and Kuya’s who were present.
“Sobrang saya po. Gusto ko nga pong bumalik dito eh,” replied by one of the participants when asked if she enjoyed the storytelling.
The volunteers, in return, were given the opportunity to voice out their reasons for joining this cause.
"It's a fulfilling experience knowing that you've widened the kids’ imagination through a simple story," said Cea, the most active AHON volunteer.
“With how political controversies are going, we really should cling to the hope that lies with the next generation. They are worth investing in because soon they'll be taking care of our nation. Seeing their enthusiasm to learn last Saturday made me optimistic. We need more of it especially in light of all the negativity in our political scene,” commented by Danise Macaraya, another AHON Foundation volunteer .
As Harvey Keh, the executive director of AHON Foundation, stated in one of AHON’s library inaugurations, “Maraming mga estudyanteng galing sa public school ang nag-e-excel sa mga colleges at universities.” He is convinced that capitalizing on the aspirations of the 90% of the Filipino children who are studying in the public schools is one of the best ways of alleviating poverty in the country.
A lot of Filipinos may still doubt the intentions of organizations like AHON Foundation, but with the help of groups and individuals who share the same dream with us of a better Philippines, we will continue our pursuit of using the culture of reading and books as a weapon to build more libraries and fight illiteracy. More importantly, help build dreamers of this nation.
For more information about AHON Foundation, you can visit us at http://facebook.com/ahonfoundation to see what you can contribute to the fulfilling of this dream or you can also contact us at (02) 433-1440 if you would like to be part of our dream of helping every Filipino child learn how to read.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.