Voluntourism Philippines.

Spreading Hope, One Community at a Time

Classroom shortage and low-quality school facilities continue to plague the Philippine educaton. This is most apparent in the remote areas where budget constraints and othr factors hamper the implementation of new school building programs.

Perhaps what these indigenous areas need, aside from money, are people who are willing to address the problem. Rising up to take the challenge is Klasrums ng Pag-Asa, an organization founded by Attorney Angelo Valencia in 2011.


Attorney Angelo Valencia or "Kuya Paltak" (fifth from left), founder of the Klasrums ng Pag-Asa, poses with the  volunteers and beneficiaries.
The group, composed of various teams and institutions with different specializations, rallied to build classrooms in isolated communities across the country.

Valencia, a true blue volunteer who has worked alongside 2009 CNN Hero of the Year Efren PeƱaflorida, shares that the Klasrums ng Pag-Asa dares to bring education to the fringes of society.

“We would like to help the government to fill the gap with respect to classroom shortage, teacher empowerment, and construction of school facilities where the road ends and where the streets have no names. In local parlance, we go to the places that people don’t try to go,” he shares.

Making good on their promise, the Klasrums ng Pag-Asa has reached out to the  “uplands of the north, the hinterlands of Sulu, the islands of Palawan, Negros Occidental, and the center of the jungle in Maguindanao.”

A beam of sunlight brightens the classrooms of Abucot Elementary School in Kabayan, Benguet, one of the partner schools of Klasrums ng Pag-Asa.
And their projects continue to expand. Plans to build a computer library center in one of the schools in  Balbalasang, Kalinga are underway, Valencia shares.

Bayanihan

Valencia, also known as "Kuya Paltak", shares that their group coordinates with various institutions like National Bookstore, Black Pencil, local governments, and even military groups. Painters, divers, and storytellers also contribute to the projects of Klasrums ng Pag-Asa.
A female soldier hands over a storybook to a student during one of the outreach programs of Klasrums ng Pag-Asa.
“Klasrums ng Pag-Asa is also a way of bringing people together. We love nature and being with our fellow citizens, especially the marginalized. This is where you will find us-- in the isolated communities,” he shares.

Valencia says that teamwork and humility are essential to the success of Klarums ng Pag-Asa.

“Klasrums ng Pag-Asa is composed of different groups. Some take photos, supply books. We have military groups, divers, painters, and storytellers. It is what you call ‘side-by-side organization’. No one is a leader, everyone is a follower,” Valencia says.

He adds, “There is no ego or sense of entitlement, which often causes problems. We practice the concept of ‘bayanihan’”.

Bayanihan is a Filipino trait that promotes cooperation within a community to help others reach a specific goal.

Working With the Indigenous Groups

Valencia shares that Klasrums ng Pag-Asa has fostered a symbiotic relationship with their communities, especially the indigenous groups.

“It is not just about us folks going to the communities and helping others. It is a synergy of what the community can provide and what the volunteers can share with. It’s like an exchange,” he says.

He also shares that in helping with the program, the volunteers get an in-depth look at their ancestry.

“We give them (communities) wings, and they give us roots. By doing the volunteer actions, we get in touch with their roots. It is a good feeling because we are learning as we go along,” Valencia says. “So, then, it is not fair to say that we are the only ones helping; in fact, they are helping us more.”

Community Reception

Klasrums ng Pag-Asa is committed to taking care of their partner communities. Valencia shares that their local alliances since 2011 still stand today.

“The communities from 2011 are still with us. What we do is not a one-time shot in the dark. We nurture them,” Valencia says. “We always come back.”

Valencia shares that they help communities to generate income. He cites an example where locals were prompted to create a homestay program for the volunteers to make up for the lack of hotels and restaurants.

Homestay is a form of hospitality where the local communities offer accommodation to volunteers and guests.

On Volunteers

Valencia shares that local and foreign volunteers help in their operation. These workers get in touch with the group through Facebook or by calling the organization. Joining the program is free and open for everyone.

As for trainings, Valencia shares that almost all their volunteers are already full-fledged social workers. But when needed, the entrants can be trained during their community programs.

Tropang Bridaga Eskwela, one of the partner groups Klasrums ng Pag-Asa.
The Klasrum ng Pag-Asa activities vary, giving volunteers the opportunity to experience different programs such as classroom building, storytelling, photography, and painting. Financial donations are also welcomed by the organization.

“It is about co-ownership. We build the structures and people pitch with respect to implementing (the program),” Valencia says.

Valencia shares that they also have the option about the duration of their volunteer work.

When asked about the requirements for volunteers, Valencia says, “They only need three things: an open mind, kind heart, and willingness to serve. This is service. There is no five star treatment here. But when seeing the smiles of the kids, that will be enough,” Valencia enthuses.

The Spirit of Helping

When asked where he gets his enthusiasm, Valencia shares that the spirit of helping is innate in Filipinos. He also emphasized the importance of banding together with people who have the same vision of reaching out.
Volunteers work together to renovate and repaint classrooms in one of the partner schools of Klasrums ng Pag-Asa.
“It’s natural for Filipinos. We just have to trigger it. And once it’s triggered, you will get to see more people like you. Then that’s your tribe,” he shares.

To add, he says that volunteerism should not be self-serving but must look out for those who are in need.

“Volunteerism should never be about fame, fortune, prize, or affirmation. It should ask the question how the private sector can help those who are in the fringes of society reach greater heights. Whatever progress we have here in the city should be shared with those in the marginalized areas,” he says.

To learn more about their advocacy, visit their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Klasrums-ng-Pag-Asa).
Anna Pangalangan Anna Pangalangan Author

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