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Young Ateneans craft concrete solutions for poor communities

08:44 AM July 14, 2018

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Interviewing young members of a community while helping them out with their academics
—PHOTOS BY BOK PIOQUID

The Christian Service Involvement Program (CSIP) has been part of the Ateneo de Manila High School since the early 2000s. It is an immersion program that allows students to come face to face with poor and marginalized communities.

In the past, first-year students spent a day with kids at various urban-poor communities, while second-year students spent their Saturdays at an orphanage. Third-year students spent three days and two nights in communities with foster families.

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The immersion programs are still being done, but now only in junior high school.

After the Department of Education implemented the K-12 curriculum, the Ateneo came up with Dulot, a new program that catered to DepEd’s call for a “work-immersion” requirement, while still bringing the Ateneans to the peripheries.

“The junior high school CSIP program mainly focuses on receiving and accepting the learning. In senior high school, we want to share the learning to our partner communities,” says Erick Salonga, CSIP subject area coordinator of the Ateneo de Manila Senior High School. “We want to know what we can do to help the needy.”

Dulot

Observing members of the community at work

Dulot allows students to generate a direct positive impact toward marginalized communities. Students first observe communities through a 12-hour immersion program, where they survey and interview members of the communities to get a grasp of the problems affecting them.

From there, the students spend the entire academic year coming up with concrete and readymade solutions depending on their strand: Humanities and Social Sciences students focus on education; Accountancy, Business and Management students focus on social business; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math students focus on health and wellness.

On its first year of implementation, the students already produced studies that were on par with college theses.

Studies last year included collecting itik (duck) feathers polluting one community and turning them into fine aggregate for making cement; inventing a pilferage alarm system when jumpers attempt to steal electricity; using water hyacinth as fuel for cooking; using pig manure to create fuel; crafting a flood alarm system, and other researches aimed toward community development.

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Positive change

Ateneo Senior High School students staying in a small fishing
community

“This program is how we interpret the DepEd work-immersion integrated project,” says Salonga. “In the DepEd program, they need you to be employed. But once you start working for a company, that’s it. You find out about the issues of workers, but will you actually help? In this program, you can affect positive change right away.”

And that positive effect impacts not only the partner communities, but the Ateneans themselves.

“The CSIP program immensely changed my perspective of Filipinos living in the peripheries,” says Richard Canlas, a graduate of Ateneo Senior High School. “It’s very different once you get to immerse yourself in the lives of these people whom you only read about—sharing and cooking with them, trekking through mud with them. CSIP sparked in me a desire to help put an end to the inequalities they experience.”

Rodge Santos, another Ateneo Senior High School graduate, adds, “What makes Dulot an essential program is how it makes us directly experience the different challenges in our respective communities. The program allows students to respond to the issues.”

Now on its second year, Dulot faces one major problem: how to sustain the students’ projects. The Ateneo Senior High School can only fund the best project from each strand.

“There are 132 projects all school year and, sadly, we can’t support all,” says Salonga. “We will support as many as we can. The challenge is how to make them sustainable.”

Salonga says Ateneo is open to outside entities who might be interested in funding the students’ projects.

“We are one with those who want to help,” he says. “All these studies can be found in the Ateneo library soon.”

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