More than three years after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, Sailors' Society is still rebuilding communities and the lives of seafarers and their families. During a recent visit, I was encouraged by the massive hearts of the local people of Bantayan who are driving change in their own communities. The heart of the Philippines is its people.
At Sulangan Integrated School on Bantayan Island, we have built a new general purpose classroom (the Noah's Ark Building), provided computers for the IT room, and bikes for the children who travel the furthest to get to school.
Sailors' Society is now the main sponsor of the school and is pleased to be working in this seafaring community with such passionate people.
Elisa Matulac is the principal and really is the heart of the school - working seven days a week to make a difference in these young lives. She is the best fundraiser and has enabled the school to grow to serve more than 1000 children. And although the school needs funding to accommodate more children in this community, Elisa already has plenty of room in her heart.
The school boat project now ensures that children can get to school without having to wade up to two kilometres from one of the five islets surrounding Bantayan. While I was there I saw the boats and the journey the children have to make each day. The boats are making a huge difference by keeping the children dry and safe. The project is supported by the Barangay chiefs - local community leaders who also have big hearts. They help with fuel and maintenance of the boats, and are a great example of leading from within the community.
Having grown the school over the past few years Elisa Matulac always has a new idea for improvement. After providing more classrooms, boats and bikes, computers and internet access, she now wants to focus on home economics. This will include everything from cooking to cleaning, budgeting to bed-making, to give the children a rounded education of academic and practical skills. They will need help to fund the necessary equipment but the children will benefit greatly from this project.
Projects that give practical skills will greatly enhance the opportunities for employment when the children leave school. Just like the sewing classes, home economics skills will be attractive to employers and build sustainability into the community for the future.