The holiday season is a time when traditions and joyful celebration spread across the Philippines, from the cities to the highlands. Yet, for some families, the New Year does not herald a great difference to their daily lives. While the nation beams with warm, smiling people, poverty and a lack of socio-economic opportunity brings uncertainty to many Filipinos.
Three years ago, on a family trip to my mother’s home town of Davao, my sister and I spent Christmas Day walking through the village of Adecor, on Samal Island. As we stopped to meet the local children, we couldn’t fail to notice how many were without shoes, much clothing, or materials and food for school. It wasn’t only on Christmas Day that they were without such necessities, but every day. I realised the futures of these young Filipinos were certain to be stunted if they weren’t given the opportunity to work towards a life they deserved. It was then that I vowed to try to help at least some of the children of the island to see a future beyond their circumstances.
In 2008, I founded the community initiative Project Matuto with the help of my sister. The name Matuto, ‘to learn’, is the essence of the project which aims to bring traditional and digital literacy opportunities to young students in ways that are creative and sustainable.
Since its founding, Project Matuto has worked to help the students of a village school on Samal Island, providing Adecor Elementary School with laptop computers, reading books and hygiene supplies, as well as computer lessons.
The students have used the computers to enter educational competitions, and staff members have incorporated them in lesson planning and school projects. It is this self-driven learning that Project Matuto seeks to help achieve, and it’s inspiring to see the students and teachers apply new resources and opportunities through their own initiative.
‘At present, there is no other elementary school on Samal Island that is teaching computer lessons. Adecor Elementary is the first one to have them through this initiative,’ says the current school principal Jocelyn Ladres.
In December 2010, Project Matuto will return to Adecor Elementary. Working together with the staff, we will be implementing activities and programs based on the major issues impacting the school’s learning environment.
This year, Project Matuto will continue to provide computers and other learning resources for the school to share. Our key initiatives to improve literacy levels are:
The teachers at Adecor Elementary have identified that many students are unaware of basic hygiene practices and the importance of keeping healthy. They requested the Project Matuto team’s assistance in developing strategies to resolve this issue through:
The school’s teachers have also expressed their commitment to teaching the children the culture of the Indigenous peoples of the island, the Sama tribe. While many traditional customs and ways of life have vanished, the school is seeking to preserve this heritage and integrate it into the educational curriculum. We share this goal and through close collaboration with the school we plan to work with the teachers in creating new and different ways of preserving the language, dance, stories and crafts of the Sama tribe. We plan to:
Project Matuto’s aim in all of its work is to be a facilitator of learning. Above all, we hope the students are empowered to use their own initiative to address their needs through new opportunities.
This work could not be achieved without the help of friends in Australia. In 2008 and 2009, Project Matuto was fortunate to have the support of organisations and individuals in Brisbane who offered several laptop computers and other resources. These donations are now being used well by those in real need of educational support.
This year, we are excited by the growth of support we received from Filipino organisations and individuals in the community. In future years, our aim is to extend the program to other nearby village primary and high schools, who are also in real need of resources.
As the program grows, we are grateful for any support, advice and resources that can be offered. If you would like to help, or would like to find out more about Project Matuto, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website, http://www.projectmatuto.com.
For the greater benefit of the Filipino communities that Project Matuto supports, we thank you in advance for your consideration. We wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!