Archive for category TREK: Trails to Empower Kids

Delivering Books, Delivering Hope

In Sitio Saybuan, Barangay Tinongdan in Itogon, Benguet, Grades 1 to 4 students share a single classroom and one teacher. Students do not mind walking miles on muddy terrains just to reach school.  Their uniforms are the work clothes they also use when they attend to their vegetable plots. Resources like textbooks, pencils and notebooks are scarce, yet they continue to be filled with hope.

Though reachable two hours by foot from Itogon town proper, the school seems to be separated from the rest of the world, especially when aid is concerned.

Upon learning this story, a group of mountaineers organized an outreach program called Trails to Empower Kids (TREK) and approached Diwa Learning Systems with a plea for help.

Diwa Learning Systems has been supplying textbooks and scholastic enhancement materials (SEMs) to top schools nationwide for more than 25 years.  Together with Bato Balani Foundation, the educational publisher fulfills its vision of a better Philippines with quality education for all. One of its projects is Tulong sa Paaralan, Tulay sa Kaunlaran  (TSP-TSK), which provides deserving schools in underserved communities access to quality textbooks and other reference materials.

Bringing with them Diwa’s textbooks and SEMs, plus donations from other good citizens, the mountaineers trekked to Sitio Saybuan and thus began a series of outreach programs to other isolated areas in the country.

The students showed up early in their best Sunday clothes during the turnover of the donation.  The village elders joined them in welcoming their first ever visitors, who organized a fiesta style party, complete with food, games and prizes.

“At first, the children were very shy but they responded positively soon after” say Myrla Punongbayan, one of the TREK organizers.

After Sitio Saybuan, TREK reached out to the Dumagat students of Sentrong Paaralan ng mga Agta (SPA) in Casiguran, Aurora, then to the village of Lubo in Kalinga.

“While some students take for granted textbooks, there are students who haven’t even touched or owned one.  Textbooks are very prized possessions for students from the schools we visited and delivering them gives us much joy” says Punongbayan.

The TREK experience  with each school is a unique and heartwarming story.

” SPA students go home on weekends and their return are not assured because of the long travel.  Hopefully the aid we brought them encourages them to strive keep on striving, ” explains Jong Navarro, also a TREK organizer.

In its most recent project onto the village of Lobo in Tanungdan, Kalinga, the TREK organizers were not daunted by the size of the project, which is their biggest so far. Though a 6-hour bumpy mountain ride from Tabuk City plus a steep hike, the mountaineers proceeded with vigor. “Even if we encountered difficulties like walking extra eight hours after our truck carrying our supplies broke down, it was still a good experience for all of us,” says Ms. Punongbayan.

The students of Lobo used to consistently top the schools in the province of Kalinga. The children had to walk long hours each day to get to school. But they were determined to learn. Many of them grew up to become judges, engineers, and leaders of that province. But, their tradition of excellence is becoming more and more difficult for them to maintain as they are deprived of the resources available to other students.

Again, with the assistance from Bato Balani Foundation, the students of Lobo found new lease on life.

Since its implementation in 1993, the foundation’s TSP-TSK program has benefited more than 1,200 public schools nationwide, with a total of almost 69 million worth of donations spread across the duration of the program, now reaching even the most remote areas of the country.

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Storm didn’t stop TREK

Relying on the power of goodness to be just enough, a group of mountaineers and friends proceeded with an outreach mission for the Aeta children of the Aeta Resettlement and Rehabilitation Center in Subic, Zambales, despite the presence of Typhoon Ondoy.  The group is called TREK or Trails to Empower Kids, which is now on its 5th mission.

While some members of the team decided to stay in Manila, more than 20 brave souls decided that charity should happen, even in the most difficult situation.  And indeed, with God’s providence, everything, except for a little delay in the schedule went on as planned.  Even the trek up to the mission site was blessed that God only allowed drizzle, just enough to keep everybody cool while carrying the goods the group aimed to deliver to the children.

As soon as the Aeta children gathered inside the outreach site, wide eyed and cheery, staff of the Philippine Science Centrum Foundation (PFST) started delighting the children with how fun science can be.  This is despite the fact that the group’s home at the Science Centrum at the Marikina Riverbanks were being flooded by Ondoy.

Karen Jayne Santos of PFST shared “despite our worries for our museum in Marikina, our family and friends, we are happy we are able to share the wonders of science to these children.”

The one-hour show thrilled children with what seems to be magic but which were really cool tricks based on real science principles.  Most were eager to participate and volunteer for some of the activities.  The children lined up to try some of the exhibit modules that were equally fun and educational.

More than 80 children went down their houses scattered around the resettlement site to participate in this outreach program.  The children were from families displaced by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1999.  The area is being managed by the Foundation of Our Lady of Peace Missions (FOLPMI), headed by Sr. Eva Fidela Maamo.  The site is located at Sitio Gala in Barangay Sacatihan in Subic, Zambales.

After the science show, the children participated in some popular party games organized by members of TREK.  They also took turns in singing their favorite tunes to delight all gathered in the mission site.  After the games, children lined up for their loot bags provided by members of the team, Hazel Henson and Leah Ypil, who decided to celebrate her birthday there.  Then, they proceeded to the dining area for their spaghetti, sandwiches and desserts.

Every member of the TREK team was in good spirits while serving the children.  One of them, Maribel Romero couldn’t keep her tears from falling while a nine year old child requested for plastic so that he can bring home a portion of his spaghetti for his sister who stayed home.

After the outreach program, some members of the team stayed overnight in the mission site to plan for the next outreach program and to learn the basics of mountaineering from Sabit Mountaineers and supported by Conquer Outdoor Equipment.

Trails to Empower Kids was established in December 2007 by a group of mountaineers from different organizations to bring help to children who live in remote areas, not usually reached by help by other organizations because of their inaccessibility.

The group already conducted missions for the Ibaloi children of Itogon, Benguet; Sentrong Paaralan ng mga Agta of Casiguran, Aurora; Lubo Elementary School and High School in Kalinga and several schools in Apayao.

The group is set to embark on its next mission before the year ends.

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