Monday, March 31, 2014

School is Out and Summer is In for Filipinos!

by John Coffey

It's hotter than ever right now in Manila and thus the best time to give our students a break. Congratulations to all of our students for their hard work in the 2013-2014 school year. Special congrats are in order for each of the graduates of our preschool program, our elementary/secondary sponsorship program, and our ALS high school equivalency program. We enjoyed a memorable ceremony and dinner for these graduates on Saturday, March 29th. I was moved by the tears of many proud parents witnessing their children receive certificates and various medals for their successes in completing their preschool or high school education.

We were also honoured to have some guests from the city's Department of Education. After the ceremony, they had a private chat with the five passers of our high school equivalency exam where they offered opportunities and scholarships to technical schools and colleges for those motivated to pursue higher education. Gabby and I continue to encourage our graduates to pursue such dreams and not to give up hope in the face of the adversity they've experienced most of their lives. The fact that they've made it this far is a testament to their perseverance and of God's faithfulness.

The five latest passers of the high school equivalency exam (front row)
Our preschool graduates came "dressed to impress"

Our vision at IT Tender is to empower children to become educated and responsible leaders in their community. Encouraging children and youth to join our educational programs begins with going into the community and building relationships with those on the street. Our Night Life program does just that, reaching out to children and youth accustomed to living and working in the street. Some of these youth have yet to discover the hope and inspiration needed to pursue their education. Nevertheless, we are amazed by the resiliency and perseverance of our clients who earn a living sorting through junk and selling what they can. Please pray that we can deepen relationships to inspire these youth to go back to school, to attain more sustainable work, and to believe that God can use them to become leaders.

Our Night Life clients in Putatan sifting through garbage piles 

Gabby mentors these youth through a weekly bible study on Mondays
Besides the graduation ceremony and our regular weekly programs, the last month has been packed with special activities and events. I'll leave you now with a brief summary of these...

We brought each of our Night Life Putatan clients to the drop-in center where Gabby interviewed them to attain more information on their education, family situation, dreams and struggles. Janne - our social work intern from Denmark - carefully crafted the comprehensive survey and will also report the findings to her university.
The children from our Food for Life program took the initiative to create their own rules of conduct for the nutrition sessions

Health workers from the local government came to our drop-in center and led a Hygiene and Nutrition Seminar for the parents of our clients
The Hygiene and Nutrition Seminar was a great success and we're already looking forward to our upcoming Family Planning Seminar
I brought a handful of our workers to assist the Hygiene Day of our partner ministry "Batang Matinik" in rural Tiaong, Quezon Province
Martin and Gabby (in the mirror) joined me in reminding the boys at the Hygiene Day to brush their teeth and bathe every day
The vice mayor of the city invited our team to his home for food and fellowship!
Teaming up with our partners at Jesus Our Hope Church in Sucat, I helped organize a seminar about "Working and Earning" led by entrepreneur and pastor Dino Yupo and social worker Gela Basiwa 
As you can see, there's a lot of exciting things going on at IT Tender! By God's grace, we are privileged to experience every trial and success along the way in transforming communities in Manila. As the team leader, I'm constantly seeking ways to improve our programs and also myself as a leader. I'm thus thankful for two exciting opportunities that are coming up in the next month. Firstly, on April 10-12 Jamielyn and I will be in Vietnam representing IT Tender at the 6th East Asia Regional Conference of International Teams. We will learn from other IT missionaries and also share what we've learned serving the poor in Manila. Then, from April 28 to May 1 I will attend a forum for global leaders in Atlanta, Georgia. This leadership summit is called Leader Mundial and is run by one of our partner NGO's at Extreme Response. The purpose of the summit is to help leaders become more effective in leading and developing their organizations' vision, objectives and impact.

Thanks again for reading my updates, and I look forward to sharing more pictures and news soon.

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