Our schools in Cebu

This month we were delighted to have updates with the Sisters of Mary schools in Cebu, Philippines. The girls’ school in Talisay and the boys’ school in Minglanilla, and to witness all the humanitarian progress that our generous supporters have made possible.

Two young children in red
Youngsters in the poorest areas of Talisay, 2024

Update with the Sisters in Talisay

On 6th June we spoke to Sr Belinda and Sr Chelo in Talisay. It has been a very busy time of year for these Sisters as they are in the midst of their community work meeting new children in need of their care. Also in May the Sisters had just finished the graduation ceremonies for 585 girls.

They reported that this year their Sisters have travelled even more extensively than usual in their community work. With the assistance of the graduate network, the Sisters are extending their help to more remote poor regions. They have discovered new remote mountain tribes living in extreme poverty. These families are desperate for a chance for their youngsters to have access to education. The Sisters met many girls from here hoping for a place at school.

In other regions of the country, the sisters have witnessed that families are still struggling to recover from the typhoon in 2021. Damaged dwellings still need repair, parents don’t have jobs and families live in poverty. Food for these families is in short supply. They eat just once a day and exist on root crops, corn, tomato and occasionally are able to buy rice. The families eat rice soup in the morning and sometimes the children have only milk and coffee, just to warm their stomachs.


Poverty is Growing

The Sisters met 3670 girls in need of a school place during this year’s community work. 800 of them will be accepted later this summer.

“Poverty is growing, especially with those parents who are not educated, have no job and just farm. They have 4,5,6 children, they cannot send them to school and can hardly offer them a proper meal. That is why we expect 800 to be welcomed but there are really so many more who are in need of our help” (Sr Chelo).

A classroom of girls holding up tumblers of milke

Transforming lives

For the 558 girls who were accepted into the Talisay school last July, life has been transformed. Very many of the girls entered school underweight and undersize for their age. The sisters measure the weight and height of the girls to check the rates of malnutrition and focus their attention on ensuring these girls receive the proper medical attention when they arrive at school. The next priority of course is three balanced meals a day – the diet that will make such a difference to their health.

In particular the Sisters ensure that the girls have milk every day. It is highly nutritious for the bone health and growth of the girls and they love it. Over the year the improvements in their health are dramatic and they are delighted with their new energy and fitness. Sr Belinda reports that the new girls, now entering grade 8 say “Sister look at me! Look how I have grown and please be reminded of our milk!”

Girl shaking hands with a man
Final year student in Talisay on graduation day May 2024

New graduations

585 girls graduated from the Talisay school in May. The first graduation for two years whilst the schools aligned their school year with the national timetable. All these girls have used the early part of the year for work experience (what the sisters call on the job training) with local employers and so they were fully skilled and ready to graduate into employment.

Thanks to this practical experience, the Sisters reported that 100% of these girls are now fully employed – either with these employers or with other organisations within the Philippines and many are already earning enough to send money to their poor families. Many of these girls are also studying part time for further or higher education qualifications to progress towards professions. What an amazing achievement.

Young boy and his mother
One of our young students with his mother

Update from the boys' school in Minglanilla

On 20th June we spoke to Sr Eva at the boys’ school in Minglanilla.

The Sisters at the school are just in the process of welcoming the new boys who will join the school this month. The Sisters met these boys during their community visits in the first half of the year. 2170 boys from the most deprived regions of the country were interviewed by the Sisters and so many were in desperate need.

Hungry, malnourished and at risk from involvement with gangs or the New People’s Army, a rebel group which recruits children. The families of these boys were desperate for a chance at school for their youngsters. The Sisters were anxious to welcome as many as possible and 450 will join the school in Cebu this month.

The new boys travel a long distance to reach the school. The majority of them are accompanied by the alumni of the school (ex-students who volunteer to help these youngsters and often pay for their travel to the school). The parents cannot travel because it is too far and too expensive for most.

Three boys look through their backpacks
New boys arriving at school in Minglanilla

New beginnings.

When the boys arrive at school for the first time they have health checks and haircuts – (many of the boys arrive with head lice and this needs to be addressed before the boys enter the school) and they are assigned their batch family. They will stay in this family group for the duration of their time at the school.

It’s a very exciting time for the boys and they are so happy to meet new people, make new friends and to receive all their new items like clothes and shoes, school supplies and sports kits.

Of course they particularly love all the food! It is a priority for the Sisters to provide the boys with good, balanced food and vitamin supplements to build them up. In the first afternoon of the first day they have classes and this is the chance for the teachers to get to know them, assess their abilities and see what support they will need for their learning.

Recovering from a difficult start in life

For the boys who arrived at school last year and who now enter grade 8 it has been a year of great progress.

Sr Eva reports that they remain small for their size, some as small as kindergarten age children – They were severely undernourished on arrival and are still recovering. They are also slightly behind in their learning. These boys were the victims of the pandemic effect and had missed nearly 2 years of schooling.

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters however, these youngsters will catch up. They have received a full year of nutritious, balanced meals, full time care and the additional learning support that will transform their lives. The boys and the Sisters owe their thanks to you, our committed friends who care enough to make a difference in these young lives.