At the end of 2017, many areas of the world are facing man made conflicts and natural disasters. In this time of confusion and fear, Asia America Initiative invites you to observe the creative joy and spirit among children in our Christian and Muslim communities.
May all hearts be filled with wondrous joy!
–– Albert Santoli, President of AAI, and all staff members of Asia America Initiative
Congratulations to the fabulous Cuartero National High School Dancers and Singers for winning their Regional Championship!Cuartero National High School has earned a spot at the National Championship Team Dance Competition held in Metro Manila the first week of December. AAI is very proud of this outstanding achievement! So much effort and hard work went into preparing for the Regionals. Due to very minimal funds, mothers of the students lent their great creative spirits and talents by designing the most gorgeous and fashionable native costumes.
What a great feat! Considering the fact that Cuartero National High School is located in an area affected by poverty, natural disaster, and armed conflict. AAI has successfully empowered this community by providing resources to build a great educational system that emphasizes culture and art. This holistic approach to education helps to instill confidence to build a positive future! Go Cuartero National High School!
A bouquet of roses was distributed in celebration of World Teachers Day 2017 at all of our project sites in the Philippines, by our President, Albert Santoli, in appreciation and respect of all teachers, mentors, school nurses and librarians. The children of Angub Elementary School expressed their gratitude and thanks by Zumba dancing to “Beautiful Life” by Sasha Lopez.
In most developing communities, the acceptance of children with learning disorders or physical and mental handicaps is sadly lacking. Many of these children are restricted to their homes without access to any form of education or nurturing. Since our founding, Asia America Initiative has placed an emphasis on education equity for all children, regardless of their special needs. We have found wonderful educators in the Philippines in both Muslim and Christian communities who champion the establishment of Special Education [SPED] programs.
In Cuartero, Capiz, the residents are both Christian and from indigenous mountain tribes. A significant special needs program is growing at Cuartero Central School, with the largest student population in the province. Asia America Initiative has strongly supported Principal Luz Roxas Mayo in setting a model that can be replicated in many other schools. In helping the children to feel accepted the SPED program includes arts and sports activities.
During the week of September 20, 2017, a Paralympics competition was conducted in nearby Tapaz, Capiz that included the Central School and a few others with similar programs. The children competed enthusiastically in various sports activities, including running, badminton and basketball. The thrill of competition and the cheering crowd of families and friends was a great experience. Mark Frugal, SPED teacher and coach for Cuartero CS, says, “We are so proud of the effort made by all of the children. They proved that our emphasis on developing a SPED Program is not only a wonderful virtue, but empowers those incredible children to prove themselves and inspire us all.”
On September 4, 2017, in a joyful ceremony with teachers, students and parents in attendance, Cmdr. Bara Jalaidi Elementary School in the area of armed conflict and severe poverty in Indanan Sulu, Philippines celebrated the inauguration of its newly renovated building. This facility that previously lacked a roof, windows, covered floors, chairs and tables offered harsh learning conditions for boys and girls eager to learn basic learning skills. With the persistence of new school leader, Nagz Sasapan, financial assistance from Asia America Initiative and donors, local craftsmen and village volunteers, Cmdr. Bara Jalaidi ES finally has become a comfortable school for its children.
For more than twenty years under a blazing tropical sun or heavy monsoon rains, destructed school shack, children had to sit on a dirt or muddy floor and their parents were volunteering as teachers. The school, which was built during ongoing civil war encountered severe damages during the never-ending military confrontations, local violence and natural disasters. School head, Nagz Sasapan, remembered how challenging conditions were from the start. “No school building, no teachers and no books,” he says.
After Asia America Initiative intervened due to Principal Sasapan’s numerous appeals, two months of construction led to school children starting to experience humane and colorful classrooms. “This achievement is a symbol of what Sulu can be if everyone works together for the benefit of the next generations,” said AAI Director, Albert Santoli, “children will benefit from the legacy and labor of love by their parents, teachers and local officials.”
The teachers and the parents devoted their time and effort to make sure their children attended school every day, even under deplorable conditions. That, in turn, inspired people from around the world to donate their hard-earned money and compassion to Asia America Initiative’s appeal. “If there will be peace and progress,” Santoli says, “the actions we take like here at Commander Bara Jalaidi Elementary School is the foundation of teamwork and trust needed for success.”
(Photo on top: Principal Nagz Sapasan and his joyful students at Cmdr. Bara Elementary School.)
The reason I created AAI was to be a service provider in disadvantaged communities anywhere and to be an inter-cultural “bridge” for peace. For Muslims the holiday of Eid al Adha honors the prophet Abraham [Ibrahim], who is also honored by Jews and Christians. We want all people to know they are unified under One Father. There is more that we have in common than divides us. This simple article explains the beauty of Eid al Adha: http://www.teenvogue.com/story/eid-al-adha-islamic-holiday-facts
The two most powerful storms in recent memory are the current Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana and the 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Visayas Region of the Philippines. In both emergency situations, the true heroes have been ordinary people of humble backgrounds and local service providers who have made sacrifices needed to rescue their neighbours. Even though these areas are a half-planet distance from each other, the Ilongos and the Texans and Cajuns are distinguished by their unselfish attitudes and tireless acts of mutual support. These every day heroes have compensated for any lack of government resources. Resilient people are the key to survival and long-term rebuilding of devastated communities requires teamwork.
While I have relatives living in Houston who are displaced by the heavy rainfall and floods, in Cuartero, Capiz in the Philippines as director of Asia America Initiative I have had the good fortune to work for the past four years with hard-working landless farmers in rural upland areas damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Rebuilding houses, schools and churches takes time, as we have learned after four years of solid effort by residents of all ages. We have overcome a lack of financial resources through maintaining humble Faith, our hands in the soil and a consistent enterprising attitude.
Malnourished children have been fed through school-based gardens with Grandmothers and Moms cooking daily lunches on-site. Everyone eats together, without exclusions. This has built unbreakable community bonds. Texas, although better off financially, will be faced with an arduous and at times frustrating recovery period.
Shared lessons learned: Teamwork and community-spirit beyond any politics is vital for rescue and recovery.
In most developing communities, the access for children with learning disorders or special needs to quality education is sadly lacking. Since our founding, Asia America Initiative has placed an emphasis on education equity for all children in our beneficiary communities. The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao is one of the most impoverished and underserved territories in the world. AAI and the province of Sulu’s Department of Education, with a 98 percent Muslim population and a poverty rate of well over 50 percent, has developed a model education program for children with special needs.
At the present in a climate of martial law, a fierce war on drugs by the government and the arrival of members of the ISIS terror organization seeking to recruit children as young as 11 and 12 years old, our compassionate and dedicated education programs serve as a deterrent to violence and extremist ideologies. We have found in more than a decade of providing holistic educational and health programs into communities often considered too dangerous to improve that success is possible.
At the Nursing Section of the Sulu Department of Education, Head Nurse Hja Shareen Lakibul says, “The reason for our success is because even with so many people who have suffered and are in need, the programs we are creating have fundamentally changed their attitudes about what is possible. These programs – such as inclusion of children with special needs – have made the entire community think differently toward overcoming their fear of failure. A new attitude of joy and contentment has taken root, no matter how much they have suffered in the past.”
On August 17 and 18, the second group of 50 nurses’ assistants representing more than ten elementary schools concluded their training session to conduct first aid and promote safety measures in their schools. The girls and boys, between the ages of 10 and 12 years old, have become enthusiastic helpers of their school nurses. The Training, conducted by Red Cross volunteers, introduced them to healthy lifestyles and opening their young minds to consider careers in public health services.
The training for “mini nurses” is crucial to places such as the Philippine islands of Sulu where unstable militancy and natural disasters seem to be never-ending. By empowering the 4th to 6th graders, their joyful awareness of public health reaches the whole community and creates a continuous source of health services.
The Mini Nurses program on Jolo island is supported by the private NGO, Asia America Initiative, the Sulu Department of Education, the Red Cross, local nurses, teachers and college volunteers. The program has expanded in its second year from three schools to almost thirty. The recent mass training is the first community-wide “Child To Child” [C2C] peer learning opportunity since the idea blossomed in 2014.
Red Cross volunteers and the Sulu’s Department of Education school nurses instructed attentive mini nurses how to create bandages for head wounds in the case of earthquakes or other natural disasters. “The children’s focus speaks highly of the encouragement from their families and teachers in their communities,” AAI Director Albert Santoli said.
The program is intended to prepare future generations of healthcare professionals within isolated communities. This is essential in rural areas where public health is not available. Positive results, starting with a positive attitude, are already apparent.