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  • Start the Year Right: Advocacies You Can Support as a Family

    Pay it forward with these projects while teaching your kids about empathy.
    by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua .
  • There’s an old saying: it’s always better to give than to receive. But giving back does not always involve grand gestures. As these women below show, little efforts can also make big differences in others’ lives.

    The Christmas Miracle Project by Kriska Assenmacher
    P1,500 can buy you a new pair of shoes. It can also shoulder the tuition of a child in a Yolanda-affected area for a whole school year.

    When Typhoon Yolanda devastated Leyte last 2013, Kriska Assenmacher's first thoughts went to the students who could no longer go to school. A preschool teacher based in Germany, she believed that children should be in schools, “not outside begging for food or lining up for relief goods,” she explains. She asked family and friends for donations, and through the help of another friend, Anna Veloso Tuazon (who manages the family’s foundation, the Vicente M. Veloso Memorial Foundation), was able to raise enough money to supply 700 children with school kits (a plastic envelope containing notebooks, writing pads, and writing implements). 


    The following year, Kriska went beyond supplying school materials -- she was able to raise money to shoulder the tuition and school fees of 31 children in Calubian, Leyte (the poorest and one of the most remote towns in the province). “It only costs P1,500 to send a child here to school for a year!” she points out. In 2015, nine more children were added to this group, bringing the total number of Christmas Miracle Project scholars to 41.

    “When I started this project in 2013, I meant for it to be my personal birthday outreach,” Kriska relates. “But my husband pointed out that since my birthday is just five days before Christmas, I should just rename it to the ‘Christmas Miracle Project’ for more impact.” She credits her success to supportive family and friends who never fail to donate when the time comes, and to the Vicente M. Veloso Memorial Foundation who help her with the task of making sure the materials reach the intended children. 

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    Kriska Assenmacher

    “My goal is to see these 41 kids through until they finish high school; if I can get more scholars, that’s even better,” Kriska says. “These kids are the sons and daughters of farmer and fishermen, and have four to five siblings each. If they can be educated, they may be the keys to lifting their families from poverty.”

    Want to help? You can email Kriska at kcassenmacher@gmail.com, or contact her friend Anna at annaveloso@gmail.com. Just indicate “Christmas Miracle Project” in the subject line. 

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    Silid Booklatan by Rheea Hermoso-Prudente
    Do you have books that you no longer want to read or that your kids have outgrown? Consider donating these to Silid Booklatan, and let your “trash” be someone else’s “treasure.”

    Writer, editor and full-time homeschooling mom Rheea Hermoso-Prudente has always been an advocate of reading and literacy. “There have been countless studies correlating success with literacy. People who have better reading and comprehension skills have greater chances of success,” she shares. “I believe that increasing the literacy of our countrymen can only help elevate our country.”


    In 2012, she and five other friends started ‘Silid Booklatan’ -- a play on the words ‘silid-aklatan’ (library) and ‘buklat’ (to open, usually referring to books) -- with the goal of gathering donated books and setting up community reading rooms in every barangay, particularly in underprivileged areas. Rheea and her friends have shipped books to other areas that needed them, like to Dipoog, Tacloban, an orphanage in Batangas, and local orphanages in Metro Manila.

    “We want to give people easy access to good reading materials,” she explains. “We want to associate reading with pleasure, learning, and achievement.”

    Aside from books, Silid Booklatan offers workshops and seminars, like talks on resume-writing and work ethics for college graduates storytelling and crafts for kids, among others. To date, there are two Silid Booklatan branches: one in Barangay Fort Bonifacio in Taguig, and another in Barangay San Gabriel, San Pablo, Laguna. 

    Lack of manpower is preventing Silid Booklatan from reaching its fruition. “We have a lot of online volunteers and likers and people who are with us in spirit, but very few who physically volunteer. We need people to sort books, to man and watch over the reading rooms, and to conduct workshops and seminars,” Rheea says. Funding is also a problem. “Shipping books cost money, most of the funds come out of pocket, so unless someone sponsors [shipping costs], I rarely can send books on my own.” 


    Rheea Hermoso-Prudente

    Rheea also hopes to be able to set up “Munting Booklatan” centers around the country. “This is based on the ‘Little Free Library’ in the USA. I want to put up bookshelves in high traffic areas like jeepney stops or tricycle stations, where people can just borrow books as they pass by,” she relates. “I have enough books for one Munting Booklatan, I just need a bookshelf for this pilot run. I would also need a sound strategy to get the people in the area to ‘adopt’ the Munting Booklatan as their own so the pilferage or vandalism won’t be so bad.”

    Want to help? You can email Rheea at rheea@reewrites.biz.ph or leave a message on the Silid Booklatan Facebook page

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    U! Happy Events
    by Alexandra Reyes
    Weekends are a time for resting and relaxing -- or for spending time with the less fortunate.


    Every Monday to Friday, Alex is at the office, fulfilling her duties and responsibilities as the marketing officer of a retail company. On Saturdays, however, she takes on another role: that of ‘Ate Alex’ as she laughs, plays with, entertains, and uplifts the spirits of less fortunate children in different communities around the country.

    Alex is a core member of U! Happy Events -- think of them as “event organizers” for those who want to do volunteer work. If you would like to sponsor or volunteer at a beneficiary, U! Happy Events can connect you with them and help you with the logistics. Alex joined the team in 2015, primarily because she wanted to add meaning to her life. “I felt that God has blessed me with so much, so I wanted to give back,” she shares. So almost every Saturday, she can be found either at amusement centers accompanying orphans in their rides, at hospitals playing games with cancer-stricken children, or facilitating workshops to students at public schools. 


    Alexandra Reyes 

    “Volunteering is really a lifestyle,” Alex shares. “It never ends. When you see how happy you’ve made people, you want to just keep doing it. Of course it can be hard, because I’m also a single mom, and initially my kids didn’t understand why I couldn’t spend my entire weekend with them. But now they’re older, they understand the value of volunteering. And I’ve also struck a balance. While Saturdays are reserved for other kids, I devote Sundays to mine.”

    Want to help? Start by volunteering with U! Happy Events. Visit their website or Facebook page.

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