Saturday, June 14, 2014

From the Street to the Classroom

by John Coffey

Education is empowering. I first joined IT Tender because I admired their fight for the basic human right of education - a right effectively denied to the poorest in Manila. Even public schools with free tuition are a privilege reserved for families who can afford school supplies, packed lunches, and transportation to and from school. This reality in Manila challenges our belief that we value education for all. Is there something we can to do change this situation?

At IT Tender we empower the poor by providing an education to all ages. By God's grace and the support of volunteers and donors, we already have an early childhood education center (SMART Kids), a preschool (Simula Learning Center, or SLC), a sponsorship program (Sponsor-A-Child Now, or SACN), and a tutoring program for out-of-school youth (Alternative Learning System, or ALS). We also partner with the government to connect our high school graduates with opportunities for technical schools and higher education.

Providing an education for the poor is just the beginning. At some point I realized that if I truly care about long-term empowerment of the poor then providing an education is the minimum we should do. Providing a quality education is what we should strive for. Children of any background deserve to experience the best curriculums, enriching field trips, out-of-school tutoring, and more. All of these must also be combined with programs that address the nutrition, hygiene, and financial needs of the poor. This is what we strive for at IT Tender.

Lovely and Lucy (sisters and clients of IT Tender) stop by the IT Tender Center to say hi on their way home from public school.
Reynalyn is also excited for the first week of school. She regularly attends our Night Life program after school.
June marks the beginning of the school year in Manila. Each of our educational programs thus begin again this month, including our SMART Kids program for toddlers and youth mothers. SMART Kids is an opportunity for mothers to bond with their children in a safe environment and to be a part of their early education.

Meeting the mothers at a two-day trial and orientation kicking off the new school year of SMART Kids
 The two-day trial was packed with excited children and eager mothers ready to enroll
At SMART Kids, the mothers themselves are empowered to teach and learn with their toddlers

Jam watches over one of the infants so a mother can focus on her toddler
The new school year of our ALS program also started this month. Through ALS, Gabby helps to prepare out-of-school youth to pass their high school equivalency exam. When Gabby isn't busy in the ALS classroom, he can be found on the streets mentoring and leading bible studies with our Night Life youth and encouraging street youth to join ALS and complete their high school degree.

I share a brief message of encouragement in Tagalog for the new ALS enrollees
Gabby mentors street youth in Putatan who make a living sifting through garbage piles along the railway
Our short-term missionaries from Denmark, Janne & Martin, led an activity that broke barriers and strengthened relationships with the Putatan street youth whom Gabby is mentoring. This activity of service and humility was modelled after Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus said to his disciples "You call me teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them" (John 13:13-17, ESV).

Jesus modelled the example of a teacher and leader who is willing to get his hands dirty and serve the very people who look up to him and follow him. We should have the humility and grace to do the same. Many of the youth were nervous at first to let Martin & Janne touch their street-worn feet. But their initial timidity was replaced by smiles and laughter when they saw how easily and joyfully Martin & Janne stooped down to wash their feet.

Jomel giggles as Martin scrubs his ankles
Gabby washes the feet of his disciple Javar
A memorable moment of humility - Javar himself chooses to wash the feet of his younger brother
Finally, I want to leave you with photos from our recent field trip to the Mind Museum in Manila. This unforgettable experience was enjoyed by the children in our Sponsor-A-Child Now program and our Food for Life nutrition program. Thank you to all of those who sponsor a child at IT Tender for contributing to this event through your monthly support. Thanks also to Adam Hussey, Karin Jose, my personal supporters, and the staff and volunteers of IT Tender for their contributions. Finally, we want to give special thanks to Children's Hour and the Extreme Response Children's Home for partnering with us to make this event possible.

Please enjoy the pictures from this fun and enriching experience for our children...

On the bus ride to the museum the staff (behind) are just as excited as the kids
Upon arrival we are greeted by a friendly robot named Aedi

The kids enjoy some very advanced, interactive exhibits

Cecille and Gabby get "re-energized" to keep up with the kids all day
Just some of the "wild creatures" you can study at the museum 
We enjoyed meals from the Filipino-favourite "Jollibee" on the bus between our museum tour and a stop at a local playground
As if we didn't have enough fun at the museum, we ended our adventure-filled day at a giant playground

Thanks for reading. Please remember these children in your prayers for the new 2014-15 school year.

Take care!

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