The Gabay Mag-aaral Project: Guiding School Children Early in Career Planning
By Editha Bajenting
New York – How can children be the future leaders of our motherland and be a good and strong foundation to be upright leaders and citizens someday? I am worried as to what the future holds for Filipino children at this moment in time.
Nowadays, the youth in the Philippines are in unhealthy environments. Crime is high and violence is increasing. Fake news, drugs, alcohol, and addiction proliferate.
Political parties run by adults even use the youth to achieve the politician’s self-serving ends. This social environment can lead children and the youth to lose touch with their sense of what is right and what is wrong, or what is good and what is bad, or what is true and untrue.
Furthermore, many Filipino children of today live in abject poverty, hindering their emotional, social, behavioral, and educational development and creating situations of vulnerability especially in the midst of crime, violence, delinquency, and materialism. These make children easy prey to unscrupulous people who take advantage of their young minds and bodies. Children comprise 31% of the Philippine population. In this same year, a quarter of the 105 million Filipinos live in poverty, i.e., over 26 million are living below the poverty threshold.
The Gabay Mag-aaral Project of the Homecoming sa Konsulado
Anchored on the Philippine’s Department of Education’s (DEPED) vision: “We dream of Filipinos…whose competencies and values enable them to realize their full potential and contribute meaningfully to building the nation,” the Homecoming sa Konsulado (HSK), a gathering of alumni from Philippine colleges and universities, embarked on a noble project dubbed as the Gabay Mag-aaral Project (GMP) as a gesture of paying tribute to their respective alma maters and of giving back to their home country the blessings they have experienced while residing and working in the United States.
Evolving from a mere gathering of alumni into one with a civic purpose, the GMP was conceptualized with the hope that the HSK will evolve into or at least be involved in mentoring future generations. The GMP is designed to mobilize US-based mentors and volunteers to reach out to public elementary schools in the Philippines and conduct an assembly of Grade 5 (originally, Grade 6) students, and to inspire and motivate them and to share on how to achieve their dreams based on time-honored values of honesty, integrity, and discipline.
The project aims to make student-beneficiaries reflect on their personal, college, and career plans; formulate a plan of action on how to be successful based on their potentials; and commit to make a difference for themselves, their families, and in their communities.
In their personal sharing/talk to the student body, the volunteer-mentors are to animate, inspire, and motivate the students to plan and act on what they dream their future careers will be.
The Gabay Mag-aaral Second Project Workshop
Aside from reporting on what transpired during the project launches, the HSK workshop held at the Philippine Center in NYC focused on improving the processes already adopted in the area launches in Eastern Samar and in Tacloban, Leyte in 2018.
In order to make the schoolchildren more engaged in the activity, Ms. Chiara Abaquin, a graduating Masteral student at Harvard University and the guest reactor suggested that the session must start with ice breakers and followed by the students sharing their own ideas on the topic to be discussed.
The mentor volunteers also needed to ask the respective principals what the children are most interested in, so that the topic would be relevant and appropriate for them.
At the end of the activity, Abaquin suggested that the students must be asked for their feedback on what they think and feel about the sessions, so that the subsequent sessions will be improved.
Reports on Area Project Launches in 2018
Mentor volunteer Dr. Joie Calub, who is the Education Administrator IV of New York City’s education department and CEO of Pathways Education Consultancy, shared her experience of the national launch of the GMP in San Jose, Tacloban City in July 2018.
About 200 students were in attendance during the event, with Calub as inspirational speaker.
After the two-hour session, Calub was touched by most students who were served food. Many did not eat the food, she said, as they opted to bring these to their homes and share it with their siblings.
Tacloban City, and Barangay San Jose specifically, had been devastated by Typhoon Yolanda (Typhoon Haiyan) in November 2013 and have not yet totally recovered from the devastation.
Dr. Roxanne Cajigas, another mentor-volunteer, headed the launch in Maybocog Elementary School in Eastern Samar, with the kind doctor delivering the Inspirational Message. Fifty-seven (57) school children were in attendance where they shared their dreams when they grow up. Many wanted to be policemen, while others wanted to be nurses, stewardesses, and teachers. This local school launch was held on July 25, 2018.
The first GMP Worskhop for mentor volunteers was held in March 24, 2018, at the Philippine Center in New York with with full support of the Philippine Consulate in New York.
A Very Noble Undertaking
During the recent meeting with HSK, my husband Bobby suggested if the Philippine Consulate could help harmonize various projects from the US that fully and holistically respond to children’s needs – particularly poverty and child-focused community activities in order to create greater impact. The GMP, he said, is a noble initiative of teachers here.