Pangasinan, Philippines

Why the Philippines?

philippinesFlagBigOn December 19, 2010 a group of 10 volunteers traveled from Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., Melbourne, AUS and Amsterdam, the Netherlands to the province of Pangasinan, Philippines. These ten individuals would make up the inaugural group of volunteers of the One Desk Foundation. After a full day of travel, they would find themselves in the small rural town of Dasol, located 5 hours north of Manila.

Their purpose was to positively impact and teach children who came from parents of farmers and field hands making $1-$2 a day. Little did the volunteers know that the humility and graciousness that they would receive from these children would change their lives forever and they would go back to their respective countries with a renewed spirit.

Attended by 30 children from the surrounding local, elementary and middle schools, the 5 day camp focused on areas of educational and social development. Classroom exercises focused on reading comprehension, vocabulary, and grammar. The program was administered by Kristy Oliver, an elementary school teacher form California.

During the camp, the volunteers and students created Christmas paroles, planted trees in the local town and prepared care packages for their parents. President Calvin Coolidge once said, “No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” This was true back then and is still true today and therefore performing community service and acts of kindness are a cornerstone of the foundation.

Volunteers focused on the themes of teamwork, communication and courage during the daily games of basketball , soccer and volleyball. Skills such as self confidence, self awareness, decision making, and problem solving will better prepare a child for the challenging decisions faced during and after adolescence. Participating in sports is a great way to learn some of these life skills. The camp ended with an emotional heartfelt closing dinner with the parents. The volunteers came to give, but they took back with them something much more valuable, something they never knew they lacked before. The kids expected nothing and appreciated everything. They will be a part of their lives forever.

The Pangasinan Story

The Philippine population in 2006 was 88.7 million and is expected to grow further. In 2006, almost 27.6 million people lived below the Philippines’ poverty threshold level, representing 26.9 per cent of Philippine families and 32.9 percent of the population. According to international data, a staggering 44 per cent of the population subsisted on less than US$2 a day. Recent increases in the price of food are estimated to push another 2.7 million people into poverty.

The Philippines is one of the poorest countries in Asia, although, during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, there had been great expectations concerning its economic growth. The Philippines was expected to become a focal point of economic development in Asia, but due to corruption, and government mismanagement these expectations were not fulfilled. According to human capital theory, the economic development of a nation is a function of the quality of its education. In other words, better education of a nation’s people fosters a greater chance of successful economic development.

The Philippines Department of Education has attempted to implement educational reforms, programs and projects to address the key issues of access and quality of basic education, relevance and efficiency of the educational system. This includes support for school based management, rationalization of teacher deployments to ensure coverage of remote schools, text book provision and school building construction.

However, many problems are stifling the progress of these programs to offer quality education in the Philippines. These challenges include unqualified and poorly trained teachers, inadequate facilities and equipment, and lack of instructional materials (textbooks and teacher’s manuals). Overarching issues include the aforementioned high percentage of poverty, low educational attainment and illiteracy of parents, and poor health and nutrition.

From the onset of United States colonial rule, with its heavy emphasis on mass public education, Filipinos internalized the American ideal of a democratic society in which one’s dreams and goals could be achieved through hard work and individual merit with a good education being a cornerstone to build upon. Middleclass parents make tremendous sacrifices in order to provide secondary and higher education for their children.