DISTANCE did not hinder five friends from Los Baños town in Laguna from giving back to their community.
Now based in the United States and Canada, they communicated online and in 2002 decided to help the children of their town by donating books and learning materials.
The five – Sheilachu Paje-Ramos, of Granesville, Florida; Ching Redmond, of Missouri; Rhodora Maligalig, of Glendale, California; Eloisa Labadan-Anton, of Vancouver, Canada; and Arelyne Pacho-Ramos, of Deptford, New Jersey – put up an informal organization that would take charge of the project.
They called their group the Friends of Los Baños Children (FLBC).
Alfinetta Zamora, Pacho-Ramos’ sister, is the coordinator in Los Baños and has been tasked with reaching out to local schools. Her home in Barangay Anos serves as the group’s informal office.
Starting the Project
Each member exerted effort to solicit any amount from Filipinos based in the United States to at least defray the cost of sending the items to Los Baños. Some donated $50 to $100 cash.
Their friends and contacts gave the books and reading materials. When there’s extra money, they buy new reading materials.
Pacho-Ramos said in an e-mail message that the group found it ironic that no single public library for students existed in the 14 barangay (villages) of Los Baños. The friends thought of putting up one, but this was not feasible logistically so they decided to just donate the books and learning materials to the schools.
They deemed that this could help, especially the elementary pupils of public schools who were often given outdated books and did not have enough books to read.
“Each school was asked to submit a proposal so we could determine their needs,” said Zamora.
“Not all [schools] immediately showed interest, which somehow made our task more daunting,” she adds.
On its initial months, the FLBC was able to send 12 boxes containing books, magazines and other library materials.
In 2003, the FLBC started giving books to the Hasik Bagong Buhay Elementary School when it opened in Barangay Bayog. The school library was given a set of Encyclopedia Junior Britannica.
“What makes the project more interesting is that it promotes coordination between parents and school administration,” Zamora said.
The school has not been able to hire a librarian, but a volunteer started working for the library after the FLBC sent several donations.
Barely three years after its inception, the FLBC has given educational materials to 15 academic institutions, mostly public elementary schools.
“From simple books for the children, the FLBC also extended help to teachers who are in dire need of materials,” Zamora said. The FLBC donated office supplies and dictionaries for the teachers.
Ruth Camacho, principal of the Paciano Rizal Elementary School, expressed gratitude for the friends’ initiative. “The great impact of the project is reflected on the eagerness of the students to read since they see updated books in our library.”
“With the help of the FLBC, every shelf in the library is now filled with updated books and encyclopedias. This project has also motivated the teachers to teach in a better way,” Camacho said.
Before she was promoted, Camacho taught at the Bagong Silang Elementary School, one of the recipients of the FLBC. The school is found in Mt. Makiling.
The FLBC has given the school a computer set. “The students had not seen a real computer until the FLBC gave us one. There was no electricity in the area then, but we managed to request for a generator so the students could use it,” Camacho said.
She said Zamora had to walk for more than one hour just to bring the computer set.
The FLBC makes sure that each beneficiary school gives the students access to the books and other materials. “From time to time, we visit the schools to make sure that the children are getting what they need,” Zamora said.
The group is looking at more school beneficiaries. “It [FLBC] may be a small solution to a very big problem, but each part is as important as the whole,” she said.
“As long as you are determined, nothing is impossible.”