Upon entering the ManuLife Gawad Kalinga Village in Soldiers Hills, Muntinlupa, I was met by a group of excited elementary school kids. They looked at me expectantly, ready to start the day with a new lesson in the English language.
It was only recently that I realized the importance of giving back, inspired by the speech of my friend’s father two years ago.
Appreciative of what I have, I decided to open an English Tutoring Center in Gawad Kalinga in Muntinlupa. I was fortunate to be sponsored by a multinational corporation, ManuLife, which provided the necessary materials—notebooks, pencils, whiteboards, markers, etc.
Weekly lesson plans were drafted to ensure a set curriculum throughout the four-week sessions with the children.
The children were wonderful; they helped get the classroom ready for the lesson, setting out chairs, fixing tables and clearing the chalkboard.
We began each lesson with a brief participation activity to recapitulate the last lesson’s main idea. We then introduced a new lesson with activities to help the students absorb it better. On a number of occasions, the girls drew beautiful artwork in their notebooks and gave them to us after the lesson.
Nothing gave me more joy than hearing the children recite what they learned from us. They looked at us with a palpable longing for knowledge, a look alien within my own school.
Even in a small way, I believe we were instrumental in improving the lives of the less fortunate.
Thirst for knowledge
I’ve spent countless Saturdays with my father and student volunteers from Brent International School Manila teaching the kids, from basic grammar to forming one’s family tree.
Each time we arrived at the Gawad Kalinga site, the children would rush out of their homes, full of enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge. “Ate Mika, how are you today?” they would ask, eager to practice the greetings we had taught them on the first day of class.
We would ask them how their week had been, encouraging them to be talkative and confident, even if they make mistakes.
They’d tell us about their favorite TV shows, food, hobbies and schoolwork. In the small, unpainted classroom, the tutors and I wrote on chalkboards while the children scribbled on their notebooks, writing small so as not to waste paper, and keeping their pencils close to them for fear of losing them.
I realized that, in a country where funds for education are misused, the need to give back becomes much more essential. Through small acts like tutoring the less fortunate, we not only take a stand against the abysmal public school system, we also provide hope for these children to go forth into the world, confident in their ability to communicate.
The change was extraordinary. Because of regular drills, the children can now speak the phrases taught them. In other English classes, students are not able to carry a “conversation” in such a short time. Thus, the experience is both priceless and fulfilling.
Perhaps the less fortunate would value knowledge more than we do because our scholarly resources are relatively easy to obtain. We go to school but ask someone to copy our assigned homework; we show an indifference to the knowledge that our teachers strive to impart in us. Though this may not be true for all, I noticed that, in the English Tutoring Center, children do the homework for the next class even as we are still trying to finish a discussion.
This brings to mind the priorities of many teenagers who come from privileged families. What matters most to them is not to cultivate knowledge, but to party and acquire material possessions.
The other day, my friends and I were talking during class about the iPhone 6, when we can possible buy Apple’s latest phone upgrade.
“I want it for Christmas,” said one.
“But I was hoping to get a new laptop,” countered another.
“This is such a struggle,” quipped another.
This talk was going on as the teacher was giving a lecture.
But seeing the look of eagerness on the children’s faces is enough to set me on a mission to do my share in giving back to my community. I feel alive knowing that I have a positive influence on the 30-plus elementary school children that the student volunteer tutors and I teach.
At the end of each session, I wave goodbye to the children, determined to help them for as long as I can.