My visit to the Philippine Christian Foundation (PCF)

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As everyone knows, I love the Philippines and Filipino people, I first started visiting the country when I was 18. I have been to the Philippines over 30 times and every time I still visit, its like going home to me.

I have always had an interest in education, for over 5 years, I was one of the non-executive directors of the Habadashers Askes Federation, responsible for 6 schools across South East London. This has helped me to understand the importance of a good education, combined with traditional values and history.

Over a number of years now, I have also helped collect school supplies and send them to schools in the Philippines for another charity, Philippine Educational Charities based in the USA.

With all of this in mind, I had always wanted to be able to help a charity engaged in education of Filipino children. I had been aware of the work of PCF now for some years now, having received various emails, newsletters etc about their work. Just recently, I had met up with the founder and CEO of PCF, Jane Walker. A truly remarkable lady with such drive, passion as well as determination.

When I met with Jane, I told her about my desire to visit the PCF school in Tondo myself, so I could understand the work that had been done and what was needed. I had seen some photos of the school, but had not really understood the enormity of the work needed and indeed the progress of the students.

I wasn't really sure when I would actually be able to visit however. I believe God works in mysterious ways, less than a week later, I was at the World Travel Market in London, visiting the Philippine stand. I had wanted to be able to visit the Philippines shortly after the WTM, to write some blogs and visit various projects in the country. I had some plans, however it all seemed to be too short notice and didn't really work out.

On the final day of the WTM at the Philippine stand, I met one of the directors of Byahe Pinoy, they had always been aware of my website, Fil-Event.com, in fact they had always used it to find events to attend. At the time of the event, I was also looking for new opportunities in life really and also a new career. Had a long conversation with Byahe Pinoy and to cut a short long story short, they actually sponsored my flight back to the Philippines and a couple of days later, I landed in the Philippines and managed to actually visit the PCF school in Tondo.

For those of you who are unaware of PCF, to give a bit of history, In 2003 PCFs largest school was run from a dilapidated warehouse. Educating children in that environment was extremely difficult until the Philippine Government gave PCF some disused land on the old Smokey Mountain dump site in 2007 to build a new multi purpose school.

There wasnt sufficient money in the charity to build a new school, but APL Shipping in Manila had offered to donate some shipping container vans so PCF asked a local firm of architects if they could design a school made from recycled shipping container vans. Three years later PCF had built a ground breaking 4 storey school using over 78 x 40ft shipping containers.

PCF is educating just under 900 children a year from the Smokey Mountain dump site area in Tondo, Baguio dump site and from a squatter area in Navotas cemetery.

Children are selected from the poorest families and enrolled in to school and taught by teachers who are sensitive to all their needs, educational, emotional, physical, social and spiritual.

Lessons are carefully planned to build self esteem and self worth, and the God centred curriculum enables children to understand that they are loved and valued.

There is a food for school programme, out of school activities and a creative arts program that are used as incentives to encourage children to regularly attend school and maintain high grades and good behaviour.

Some of the activities include soccer training and teams, ballet scholarships, bookclubs, choir, modern dance, and camera clubs.

I had arranged to meet up with General Manager of the school, Philip Levine. I arrived on a very wet day and had a short tour of the school. Having previously visited some public schools in the country and had been struck by the class sizes, although every time I had visited schools, the students had all been very well behaved with an attitude and willingness to learn, class sizes had been well over 40 students and had often seem quite crowded.

I believe the Philippines has an excellent education system in place, however, I also understand why class sizes are often large in some public schools, I guess this is related to increases in the population and like with every country in the world, including the UK, lack of new school places and indeed schools.

I was very excited to hear that the maximum class size in the PCF school was 30 students per class, this has led to students obtaining high grades and a valuable educational opportunity. One of the issues however at PCF had been drop out rate of students and attendance at school, as the PCF school was situated next to the dump sites, students often had to work in order to survive, working on the dumpsite instead of being educated. Sometimes, they were the sole provider of the families income and as such were not able to benefit from the educational opportunity provided to them.

When Jane understood the reason behind the low attendance, she wanted to come up with a solution, so she arranged for the students to receive credits in the form of food for attendance and achievement at school, following the introduction of this scheme, the attendance rate improved to well over 90% and the students grades also improved. However this is a very costly scheme to maintain and the school and indeed PCF relies on donations to maintain this and indeed the future of the school.

To find out more about the work of PCF and donate to their very important work, please visit their website:

http://www.p-c-f.org


Thanks ever so much to the team at Byahe Pinoy for arranging my flights and visit at such short notice, please visit their website:

http://www.byahepinoy.co.uk


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