Tzu Chi Foundation took part in the Department of Education’s (DepED) annual Brigada Eskwela project by donating bags and school supplies to 500 students of Rosauro Almario Elementary School in Tondo, Manila on June 1. Eighty percent of the school’s population come from the marginalized families.
At the heart of Manila, a large community of informal settlers make a living collecting other people’s garbage or peeling garlic –whatever job is available. Between these narrow streets, where tangled electricity lines cover the skies and shanties are built one door in front of the other, illnesses particularly tuberculosis (TB) spread easily from one resident to the next. This is Manila’s urban slum where poverty is ubiquitous.
To these least privileged of families, there is only one thread of hope left: their children. Hence, parents send their kids to school against all odds, daring them to dream a life far from these slums, and Joebelle Tiorica is no exception.
“My only wish is to see them finish their studies. I was not able to do so that’s why I didn’t find a permanent job and couldn’t give them a better life,” she said, adding that she only managed to finish grade school.
Joebelle’s husband recently acquired TB. He is currently under medication and could not work so Joebelle, 29, took over his job at a vulcanizing shop in order to support their three children.
As school opens this month, Joebelle’s worries grew from bringing food into the family table to providing her children’s daily school needs.
Two of her kids will attend their classes at Rosauro Almario Elementary School (RAES) this year. RAES is one of the nearly twenty public schools that cater to the children from Tondo’s ghettos. For this academic year, the school will serve over 8,000 students. About 80% of their population come from the marginalized families of Parola and Baseco Compound, Happyland, and Aroma.
Despite their circumstances, students are determined to learn.
“There are times when the students come to school without any money or food for lunch. As teachers, we help by providing them food from our own pockets. It is part of our job to provide what our students need,” said faculty president Gil Guevarra.
Hoping to contribute to the parents and teachers’ efforts of creating a better life for these children, Tzu Chi Foundation volunteers solicited donations from residents and business owners around Binondo, Manila to purchase school supplies for the students of RAES.
On June 1, in time for the Department of Education’s (DepED) National Schools Maintenance Week, or Brigada Eskwela, Tzu Chi volunteers distributed school bags containing a notebook, pencil, sharpener, and eraser to 500 Grades 1 to 6 students.
When her youngest son, 9-year-old Pascualito received the gifts from Tzu Chi, Joebelle’s worries were somehow eased. School opening was only three days away and she had not been able to buy her children school bags yet.
Grade 6 student Lorenzo Erde, a resident of Parola, also received Tzu Chi’s gifts. “Because of these, my mother is able to save money. She will be able to use it now for my younger siblings’ education instead. I am very excited to go back to school and I promise to do my best,” he assured the volunteers.