Category Archives: AAI Programs

Where News Is Scarce: Little Journalists Tell The Story

In the war zone of Indanan, Sulu where news is scarce and many residents live in fear, a small group of 5th and 6th grade journalists at Bunot Elementary School have the courage and passion to tell their community’s story via their own Internet blogs.  Sometimes the stories are fun and encouraging for a community struggling against difficult odds  –  no books, clean water and often no electricity in their school.  Yet, teachers, school nurses and students trek to school each day looking to learn something new.

The Lanking Blog was created in 2016 in the small school’s complex of 151 students and 6 teachers, including their journalism mentor, are located along a paved country road.  During recent military operations to rescue hostages held by extremists in the surrounding hillsides, the school was temporarily suspended when close to 300 families fled from neighboring villages and created a camp in the school building and surrounding schoolyard.

Bunot Elementary is one of AAI’s adopted schools in Sulu.  AAI Director Al Santoli met the children, their parents and teachers and local officials when he visited Sulu on September 7, 2016.  The mission that day was to bring emergency supplies to destitute displaced families at Bunot Elementary.  Members of the journalist team were in the forefront of the delegation taking photos and asking questions for a future blog.  When we visited the Mayor of Indanan… you guessed it…  the irrepressible little journalists were right there with the grown-ups.  They were getting the story the old fashioned way, with a pen and notepad.   After an event takes place, they organize an editorial meeting in a classroom to write and proofread the blog and relevant photos before posting it via a cellphone onto the internet.

As a symbol of our support for these determined new members of the “Fourth Estate,” AAI provided them with a new laptop computer and a copier-printer to enable them to print their stories to hand to fellow students, as well as enhance their computer literacy.

It is young students like the Lanking Bloggers who have the potential to transform battlefields into fields of dreams.  We encourage these types of inspirational child to child communications programs that will play a transformative roll within their communities.

Toys for 4,000 child cancer patients in Davao

First time visitors to House of Hope in the garden city of Davao  in the southern Philippines have difficulty holding back their tears. Located in the Mindanao region of some 24 million people — Christians, Muslims and mountain tribal groups –it is the only such medical facility that can provide healing care to children afflicted with various types of cancer.  Each week the overcrowded facility alternates treatment groups of 300 child patients and their families.  The current patient load undergoing chemotherapy and other forms of treatment is over 4,000 patients.  It is a healing center built on great love and near super-human dedication of a handful of qualified medical specialists. But conditions can be devastating, with patients and their families sleeping on the outside grounds and the floor of general activity rooms and the actual wards where children are hooked up to intravenous tubes stuffed in 100 degree [F] heat covered with exhausted bodies.

High school and college volunteers try to bring food so parents who have spent all available funds to travel to Davao have at least a little something to eat.  When our colleagues, Dr. Yolanda Stern and Pidot Villocino at One World Institute told Asia America Initiative of this situation, it felt like a mule’s kick to our gut.  Even though our budget is stretched beyond thin due to nutritional care we are providing to the Philippine Society for Orphan Disorders in Manila and raising funds to help “Baby Brielle” get a life- saving liver transplant surgery in Taiwan.  All the while we are trying to stop ISIS recruitment and terror  in southern Mindanao by improving education and livelihood.  But we could not say, “No.”  We have used professional skills learned in Global Giving’s Spring and Summer webinars to prioritize, budget and intensify our fundraising programs via social media.

As a result, we have already provided comforting stuffed toy animals for over 200 cancer patients…  we are now raising funds for one toy for each of the 4,000 patients, all of whom live in dire poverty.  Toys cost around $2 or 90 pesos per piece in local markets. In addition, an incredible coalition of small-town churches who partner with AAI in the Pennsylvania-Maryland and West Virginia area of the United States is donating large boxes of toys that will cost around $2,300 to ship from Virginia to Davao. Our goal is to assure each child has a comforting toy to assist in their healing before Christmas season begins.

Speaking from the Children’s Cancer and Blood Disease Unit at the hospital next door to House of Hope, Pidot Villocino of OWI, who also monitors activities for AAI, says, “First time visitors to House of Hope cannot hold back their tears.  300 kids cycle through treatment here each week. The isolation ward in the Children’s Wing is full.  The operating rooms are always full.  Thank God for our teen volunteers who drop in to bring food paid for by their own allowances from their parents.  They also unwrap little cooking sets for patients’ families and coloring books, crayons, toy trucks and stuffed cuddly animals provided by AAI and their USA donors.”

“It is our hope that the stuffed animals can, somehow, ease the pain these kids are going through….  Every time I tag along on these visits, I think, ‘Who am I to complain?’  Thank you Asia America Initiative, your donors and all those people who send their prayers.”

Good Food = Happy Children & Great Schools

Poverty, storms and inter-cultural violence are abundant in the Philippines. A school-aged population of more than 65 million children and youths are mostly impoverished and malnourished. Sulu Province with a majority Muslim population remains at the bottom of the UN’s worldwide Human Development Index. Christian communities in Visayas are still recovering after Typhoon Haiyan. In both regions, few schools have books, clean water, adequate nutrition and lack basic tools for livelihood training. Asia America Initiative works in both provinces with a special emphasis on nutrition and clean water, no matter if a child is Christian or Muslim. We are a model building bridges through positive action at community level.

This program is began by assisting 1,000 children in two elementary schools in Sulu and in Visayas.  We overcome extreme poverty and communal violence, through integrated literacy, livelihood skills, and health support. We have created a social media network for Muslim and Christian educators and children to share their new skills, hopes, and dreams. Mothers and fathers of pupils will assist teachers to cook daily meals. We will provide school supplies, garden tools, seeds, and pipes for fresh water.  When necessary, AAI staff rolls up our sleeves and works the land and plants seeds of fresh food and hope alongside our beneficiaries — who are also our friends.

The long-term positive impact of this program empowers Christian and Muslim communities to learn from each other through their respective best practices. Asia America Initiative serves as a communication bridge. Our social media networks facilitate transparent communication and dispel fear and myths that alienate communities who feel alone and abandoned. The program has been expanded from 2 to 4 elementary schools with a total population of nearly 2,000 children.

“We are receiving requests from many additional schools,” states Nurse Shareen Mariwa, Head Nurse of the Department Education in Sulu, Muslim Mindanao. “We need to extend our partnership programs as we have already met our early goals last year. This is because of the confidence community leaders and parents have that there is more help coming from the AAI through your friendship.  No matter our homelands and language, we work best when it is for the interest of others.  The success of our schools and wellbeing of the children are the results.”

We extend deep gratitude to GlobalGiving and our donor community.

Equal Opportunity for Muslim Girls

Editor: Jordan Cain

A large percentage of the world’s Muslim women and girls are denied the opportunity to receive a quality education to progress their professional goals. The School of Nursing in Sulu State College in the Philippines, has provided an opportunity for livelihood and public service by women. Asia America Initiative’s program “Support 50 Muslim Girls to Become Nurses” is a global model for equal opportunity. At the school, AAI has provided textbooks, clinical materials, and school supplies to aid students in their studies. We have seen a dramatic turnaround in performance. In 2011-13, only 30% of students attending the School of Nursing passed the national license exam. With Asia America Initiative’s support providing necessary school textbooks and supplies, we are proud to say that in November of 2015, 84% of graduating students passed the national nursing exam. The students of Sulu State College act as models demonstrating the capabilities of women worldwide.

Read our full report on GlobalGiving website.

Sustained Typhoon Relief: Charity to Self-Reliance

The 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is considered the most devasting storm in recorded history. Some 9 million people were rendered homeless and hundreds of schools and clean water systems were destroyed. As we approach the third annivertsary, many communities and schools are still in recovery. Many international organizations intervened with million of dollars worth of emergency aid, but today only a few outsiders remain on-site and continue to assist the rebuilding of broken lives. Asia America Initiative learned valuable lessons about supporting a transition from charity to self-reliance at the community level as the key to sustainable development. This has been made possible by the generoisty provided by our many private Global Giving donors and a small number of non-governmental foundations.

The emphasis of Asia America Initiative has been to support clean water systems and vegetable gardens, utilizing public schools as non-partisan community centers. Our goal, with the input from community leaders is to make a transition from emergency relief to self-reliance based on local enterprise and volunteerism within a 4 year period [Christmas Season 2014].  “Our community never expected such generosity and has truly appreciated the loyalty and substantial improvements in the eduction and health conditions of our children,” says Principal Luz Roxas Mayo of Angub Elementary School in the rural hillside farning community of Cuartero, Capiz that was heavily damaged by the super typhoon.

The new 2016-17 school year began in mid-June. Already at least 10 schools with more than 2,000 student kindergarden to elementary students have benefitted from AAI’s partnership with Moms and Dads in Parent-Teachers Associations who are assisted by teachers and pupils to grow and cook nutritious lunches each day of the week on school grounds. Malnutrition has dropped from close to 35 percent of all students down to around 5 percent. Each school now has a water tank and wash basins to provide for adequate sanitation. The quality of drinking water has dramatically improved, reducing water-borne and mosquito related illnesses. AAI and our donor-partners are viewed as reliable friends while communities re-establish farming and fishing as means of livelihood and basic sustenance. “The parents really cooperate,” says Principal Rowena Ortizo at Catig-Lacadon Elementary school, “Because they know their kids like to go to school to enjoy their delicious lunch…. From the bottom of our hearts, the kids wish you and your partners’ families many blessings.”

Supporting 50 Muslim Girls to Become Nurses

Around the world Muslim Women and Girls have been denied education and the opportunity to support their families and communities. This program provides quality education to 50 college students in a predominantly Muslim province to achieve their dream in a nursing career.


Muslim females of all ages around the world are being denied the opportunity to receive a quality education and to develop professional skills to remedy the health, social and economic needs of their communities. At Sulu State College in the predominantly Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in the Philippines, the School of Nursing has provided such opportunity. However, the school is surrounded by high poverty and communal violence. Students struggle to complete their studies.


By supporting 50 female nursing students with their basic educational needs, classroom materials, graduation fees and the cost of licensing exams, AAI is not only assisting them as individuals but demonstrating potential success for Muslim women around the world. In addition, as health care providers, the nurses are providing vital services to all community members and expanding the employment base in one of the most economically deprived areas of the world. They also are symbols for the youth.

Long-Term Impact

The nursing program at Sulu State College is a beacon of hope for the entire community. As compared to just 30 percentage pass rate of its students in the national nursing exams two years ago when the school faced closure, students are now performing among the top of all such schools in the Philippines. The challenge is to sustain this success by supporting bright young students in their studies.

Click to Donate*

*Donations to AAI are used for expenses required in field programs as designated by each donor. Management of each program may require that 10 percent of a donation is used for administrative needs.

Celebrating #RareDiseaseDay

A fundamental principle of Asia America Initiative (AAI) is that every life matters. This includes our dedication to impoverished children living with cancer and other rare diseases. We enthusiastically join with organizations in the United States, the Philippines, and around the world in recognizing “World Rare Disease Day” on February 29, 2016.

Since 2011, with the contribution of many donors, we have aided the recovery of 49 out of 50 women and children who have overcome cancer by helping to provide not only medicines, but also art supplies to instill a positive attitude needed for recovery. During 2016, we are assisting some 350 children in Manila and Davao battling cancer and other rare diseases, such as Gaucher and Pompe genetic disorders.

At the same time, we support service organizations such as the Philippines Society for Orphan Disorders (PSOD) to supply 200 children with monthly vitamin supplements and other nutritional support. We hope to make a new delivery of supplies and nutritional support to PSOD and House of Hope today as a message to the children and their care providers of our commitment and love.

                            rare disease children

We are grateful to our donors and welcome additional support for this heartfelt program.  Please join us in remembering these beautiful children on World Rare Disease Day.


A Nursing School’s Reversal of Fortune

At AAI, we believe that a community’s potential can be realized beyond expectation. A wonderful example is the Nursing School at Sulu State College (SSC). The Nursing School is located in Sulu province, one of the most impoverished and war-torn areas of Southeast Asia. The province, consisting of 1 million people on 125 islands, has only one public hospital and a total of two nursing schools. The Sulu State College Nursing School was in danger of being shut down due to its failing performance and an almost complete lack of books and lab equipment.

AAI intervened at the behest of the College’s new President, Dr. Russ Arasid, in 2014. The need was urgent because of the lack of funding or other support for the State College from the government. Between 2008-2010, the school’s students had less than a 30% pass rate in the National Nursing Exam—arguably the least satisfactory rate in the entire country.

In November of 2015, after one year of the SSC and AAI’s collaboration, there was a dramatic turnaround. Close to an 85% National Exam passing rate by  SSC students was  among the highest in the country. SSC President Arasid attributes that minor miracle to the motivational partnership between a new Nursing School Chairperson, Nurse Frissida Daud, the encouragement of student’s parents as well as the material support of textbooks, reference books, lab equipment and nursing training supplies from Asia America Initiative and our donor private hospitals in the United States.

In a recent correspondence, President Arasid writes,

“This nursing program helps our people by giving them opportunity.  In terms of emergency response, nurses in metro-Manila are afraid to go to Sulu [because of the armed conflict]. Thank you and all of your donors for you untiring efforts in helping us to improve our education. Peace and order go side by side with development…  Keep up the good work.”

Read the full report.