I went to He Cares Foundation in the morning of May 17, 2014 in the sunny weather of the Philippines. It took me lots of time to find the place, even sometime I wanted to give up. I got lost at SM North EDSA and walked around to ask but no one knows about Mines Street. I got into a zeepney, and the zeepney driver dropped me at … Mining Corporation. I walked more, a security told me that it is along Visayas Avenue. Wow, since it is near Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the street around named by Land and Forestry.
He Cares Foundation locates on No. 9, Mines Street, Quezon city
When I found it, after a little bit nervous, I got inside and the time I spent there was totally worth and spacious. I met and talked with different people, specially spent time with & for the kids. It kept me stay there from 8:30am until 3:30pm.
He Cares Foundations was founded 18 years ago by Kuya Joe Dean Solar. Currently, it has 15 full time employees, around 19 regular volunteers and many one time and several time volunteers. There are 15 boys in shelter for boys and another room is rented for 7 girls. They are raised and took care by the Foundation.
I have talked with Rommel, the oldest one, he was born in 1997 and was adopted since 2000. He is studying high school and the Foundation will provide for him until finish College. Rommel wants to study culinary. I have talked with Irene – full time working with the Foundation and Cathy – regular volunteer of the Foundation. Interestingly, Cathy is working in BPI Foundation – an Education, Environment, Entrepreneurship organization of Bank of Philippines Islands as well. Cathy shared with me that there are 5 employees in her department and mostly every big companies & organization have a Foundation since with them, it is their social responsibility. See Cathy always smiling and looks so happy, I think because she is full time work with charity and volunteering activities, always helping others.
Every Saturdays, the Foundation organizes a feeding program for around 400 kids from poor families in Quezon City. In which, they use a van to pick up children, bring them to the Foundation, help them to take a bath, have a nail cut and by 9am, the program is started. Children sit on long chairs look like a classroom. Then they pray and watch some movies, attend some games and are taught something in Tagalog which I don’t understand.
Left: the program. Right: Giving gifts
There were a group of French volunteers came earlier than me and played with children. They carried children on their shoulders or their lap, taking pictures with children.
I were confuse, didn’t know what to do, then I saw a girl was really shy and silent. I approached her and bring her to my lap. Her name is Monica, she is from Project 6. I tried to talk with her, but she didn’t say anything, she is both shy and doesn’t understand me. I opened my phone and show her some pictures, she paid attention to it. Then I opened the cartoon “The Croods”. It attracted lots of children around me, sometime more than ten. One of them even touches my hair to my ear to watch the movie easier. Sometime, there was an “audience” poked his head and covered the screen and other “audiences” complained. Eventually, they love the movie on my phone, not love me, but that’s fine. Next time, I will try to find something more useful. Gino, a naughty boy, often poked me to tease me. Sometimes Gino tried to say something with me in Tagalog, I didn’t understand anything, so just opened my notebook and draw something. There was another boy kept playing with the rubber band by making star or hot air balloon on his hand.
The program was finished by giving gifts to children, gifts are toys or painting books. Afterward, the feeding program is started by 11am. Now, all the volunteers help with divide the food, include rice, hot dog, fried egg, pancit, mango, chili sauce into plates with folks and spoons. I enjoyed a lot the urgently working atmosphere, I continuously found something to do: putting chili sauce, putting pancit, mango, taking cooked rice to a green bowl then put in into the plate. Many volunteers were queued to a line to deliver foods from serving area to dining tables for children. Children are served with soft drink and ice cream as well. There were some mothers came along with children. Sometime, there were children asked me “Ate, more sauce”, “Ate, Coke”, I thought “Okay, I am your waitress today”. The only thing they forgot to do is say thank, it’s not for me but they should do it for the betterment of themselves. Left: rice pot. Right: A single serving for children Left: Children at a dining table. Right: serving ice cream
There were lots of volunteers came to the Foundation by that day. I have talked with a French guy who is doing internship in an oil company here. I have talked with Ate Sophia , Ate Jocelyn and around 12 others from Light of Jesus family. They wore uniform and it is their quarterly volunteering activity. There were at least 2 others families came there and few individual volunteers. One of them, Alex, is a history teacher in a Filipino – Chinese elementary school. He joined the Foundation since 2002 to 2006, interrupted in 8 years and just started again earlier this year. When we were working together, some of them spoke with me in Tagalog, I didn’t know so I didn’t respond. When they found out that “You really look like Filipino”, I said “Many people say about me like that”.
Left: volunteers are preparing food. Right: queue up to deliver food Kitchen
When everything is finished, it’s the time for the volunteers to have lunch. Before that, I had a chance to make the barbecue sticks and have known that they will be sold to become an income source to support the Foundation. I brought this story to ask Ate Brenda, she works as an auditor in government and joined the Foundation in 16 years. She said beside it, the Foundation organizes seminars to instruct poor people in making and selling barbecue sticks for earning. The Government relocated poor people from dumpsite to better places, but if they have no source of income, eventually, they will come back. Ate Brenda shared there are lots of things to do, but with their limited human resources, it became hard. Next to the current compound, there is an under construction site. Brenda said that the Foundation plan to build a 4-storey building to accommodate 100 children, but it really depends on budget. Hopefully, with a better infrastructure, the Foundation will be able to help more children and people in the future.
Under construction building
After lunch, there were different activities for the children. Tutoring activity is applied with 14-15 years old children with the support of HSBC. Younger children were instructed to dance by a lady, it made me wanted to dance with them (next time I will ask who is she) or folding paper airplanes.
I spoke with Ate Jinna – the one who organize the tutoring activity from HSBC. She told me that this activity happens every two weeks and is managed by HSBC Learning and Development Department. This time there were around 30 employees from Alabang branch joined. The Department decides which set of volunteer would in charge of each time. Jinna came up with lesson plan, manage to print and prepare all materials, organize one day training seminar for her group. Ate Jinna shared that, with HSBC employees, it is a chance for them to see there is a life outside office, to experience new thing and see life with new perspective. They need not to become entrepreneur to help others, they can do it right here. For the children, they are still young and still in the period of building their dream & hope. The lesson plan specially designed to enhance their English and communication skills. To have a better English, they will be able to work not only in the Philippines but also over the world. And if they know how to communicate, confidence will come along. When they already have confidence, they can do whatever they want, go to any place and reach as high as they wish. Jinna and her team prepared things very carefully, they even have someone to write observation to maximize the results. It helps them to access study and specially behavior of students individually. For them, the more important is the ability of students in focus & study and character. In Jinna’s point of view, here is a seriously business, a win-win situation. For the students, it’s their chance to change their life, to escape of poverty. For HSBC, who knows the little girl there will become a valued customer, an excellent employee or leader of the bank. For socio, there will be more good citizens, who knows that little girl will be a millionaire and will help others. I asked Jinna how long the session would be, she said around 2 hours since the focus ability of students is just in 2 hours. In the story with Jinna, she also mentioned about Vietnamese refugees who have been living 20 years in her hometown – Palawan. They created a Viet village there, they now have good lives with their own business or lots of them immigrated to US, Canada or Europe. Jinna said that she knows clearly the nice taste of Vietnamese food. Sometimes, she goes into a Vietnamese restaurant but if the cook is not Vietnamese, she realizes it right away, by the taste.
HSBC Alabang branch volunteers are tutoring children
Took Ginna email address and said goodbye, I joined Leylei and Michael to observe children fold paper airplanes. Leylei comes from Bulacan and Michael is a lawyer comes from US and has a business in Makati. Michael said, it’s his second time with the Foundation in this compound, but he joined several tutoring sessions in Barangay Hall. There were 13 to 50 kids and 10 – 15 volunteers. They teach kids English & Math. They asked the kids to bring their homework but the kids never bring, so they just teach freely as they think it should be. The kids can select volunteer and were running around to the volunteer can attract them most. Normally, the kids are better feel easier with English more than Mathematic, so they are more enjoy, engage, enthusiastic with English. So, to help the kids, he needs to cleverly mix teaching English & Math. I asked Michael have he taught kids before. He answered he had teaching experience in classroom but not with kids, but he taught lots of his nieces and nephews. Unlike with his nieces and nephews, he can command them, he can’t do it with the kids here, he needs to be patients, especially with language barrier.
See me interested in tutoring, Michael referred me to Ate Tina, the one in charge of tutor volunteers of the Foundation. It shocked me when knowing that Ate Tina is an artist by profession. She is a designer of her family business (papemelroti.com) and didn’t have teaching experience at all. It was really hard for her when she started 6 years ago, she didn’t know what and how to teach. Previously, she and other volunteers tutored at home for the children. Later, the barangay captain said they can use the room on 3rd floor of Barangay Hall for free. Since then she arranges volunteers to conducts tutoring 2 times/month. Previously, one tutor is in charge of 10 students, now one on one, from the time Tina published the activity online. They focus on children who dropped out from schools. Currently, they just covered 1/8 of Quezon City, and if there is a contest, exam for the children in the city, mostly the barangay Project 6 which they are helping will be the winner and it’s not fair for other barangay. Thus, their goal is to have tutoring in all 8 areas of QC. However, their long term goal is to have graduated children help young children.
When started, Tina most concern is not study ability of children, but their craft mentality. If a student becomes better, others will put he or she down. If someone had a hard time to answer question or the answer is wrong, others will laugh or tease. Tina ever got upset, she was raised in a family which all members help each other, when she does well, she got courage. So with her, the culture is the main problem. Now, she is really happy when see students improve a lot, not only knowledge but also attitude and confidence. Before, they would never express what they want, now they already expressed it. Tina said it is just the result from teaching, what if we build a relationship with students, how significant it would be. What Tina really sees longer is that if one person got success, be on higher level and is able to provide for the family, that person will be a star, a statue for others to see and try. And it will change the life of whole family. Tina also realized that children who had to bear with physically punishment at home, they will get pressure and can’t have good result at school. Thus, she and her group also conduct seminars for parent on how to treat children nicely.
I walked around with Rommel to see pictures were drawn by children in the Foundation or was sent by Convergys Philippines. I met Ate Brenda again in storage room when she was fixing the donation in kind from people. There are various things from cooking utensil, shampoo, soap, noodles, etc which make the storage looks like a grocery. At the entrance door, there were thousands of books were donated, a little girl kept in reading the picture story “The smallest bear”. She is likely that smallest bear, who found love and care here. Left: donated books. Right: donated in kind in storage room Left & Right: Pictures were drawn by students. Middle: Picture was sent by Convergys Philippines
I left the Foundation will full of emotion, in my mind, a song suddenly appeared: “And every boy and girl. As they come into this world. They bring the gift of hope and inspiration”.