It’s in each and every one of the 11,000+ meals for undernourished public school children that Marketmanila readers have so generously sponsored. Here is a heartwarming update on the Marketmanila feeding programs in Taguig and Cebu. First up, The Tenement School, Taguig, Metro Manila. Since classes started in January 2008, Marketmanila reader donations have sponsored a feeding program that benefits approximately 120-130 students, three days a week. Instead of fixing the number at 100, the volume of the food from a given budget determines if they are able to feed more, and often, they make the food stretch to say 130+ kids. With 8,000+ kids total in THREE shifts of just four hours each, this physically small public school with no sports facilities or open grounds whatsoever, has an estimated 1,000+ kids considered undernourished, many from neighboring squatter areas and other very low income residential areas.
Mrs. Inojales, the Feeding Program Coordinator, is amazing. Not only does she teach, she helps out with the canteen and voluntarily manages the feeding programs. There are some people with confirmed First Class tickets to heaven, and I have to hope she is one of them. She speaks with such passion about providing for the kids who are hungry, and she markets, cooks and serves with the assistance of unpaid volunteers so that these kids get nice hot healthy meals three times a week. After just a few weeks, I asked if attendance had improved and she broke into a huge smile and said “Oh yes, definitely many more kids are coming to school…” I kidded with her that it must be her cooking and she just laughed. On the menu that day was a huge kawali of saucy menudo, rice, bananas and juice. The feeding program at this school shall continue until the end of this school year.
I cannot adequately describe to you the feeling of both incredible satisfaction and yet numbing shock whenever I see the kids in these feeding programs. Aged 5 to 13, they are often inches if not feet shorter than they should be, and very light and frail. Yet you can see such hope in many of their eyes and I debate whether to feel furious that their parents would bring them into this world only to have them practically starve or grateful that at least some of them may be inspired to claw their way out of their current predicament and do something wonderful in the future. It’s kind of hard to focus on schoolwork if you are hungry. At any rate, I want you all to know they are incredibly grateful and all of the folks who have generously volunteered to manage the feeding programs deserve recognition as well.
Meanwhile, down South in Cebu, we have increased the number of children in the feeding program at the Banawa Elementary School from 70 to 100 kids, with all 30 additional spaces given to pre-school/kindergarten aged children. Check out earlier photos here. That program is also proceeding very well and we are also feeding three times a week until the end of the year. All in all, I think we will manage to provide approximately 9,500 meals by the end of the school year. There should be just enough funds for a few more weeks at the start of next school year. Of course the problem now is how to sustain this… because it breaks my heart when I think we will have to cease the programs when the funds run out…
At the Banawa Elementary School, the meals are already plated and laid out before the kids get to the feeding room… that way there isn’t a long wait in line. The second time I visited the school, they had a soup, chicken and rice and banana for dessert. Mondays must be fried chicken day as I have come across this menu often. In Cebu, the kids are offered UNLIMITED rice and often second helpings of the viand or main course and it is really an incredible joy to watch them devour the food. Food prices are cheaper in the provinces so I gather that the volume of food is greater in Cebu.
The results in Cebu are equally encouraging… with student attendance up as much as 30% and the kids being described as more lively and active. So despite all of the horrible stuff that is going on in the Philippines (particularly on the political front at the moment), take heart that this teeny tiny little effort of ours does indeed have a positive impact on the lives of young children in Taguig and Cebu. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank all of Marketmanila’s readers who contributed to the Feeding Program and while you may not get to see the kids who are the beneficiaries of your donations, trust me when I say they are most grateful… :)