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MovEd: Creating Safe Places for Today's Filipino Children

Inside the day care, the surroundings are decorated with colors and simple wonders: color-blocked tables, colorful foam puzzle floor tiles, walls lined with alphabets, numbers, flashcards of fruits and vegetables, shapes, and other essential things. The white board, that’s glued with neon orange construction paper along the frames, says that the lesson for that day is addition: the process of putting two things together. The classroom was equipped with all that children need for fundamental learning, and then there are those other things that help them explore their imagination—such as toys and the sandpile at the edge of the room. At the left side of the white board is a small art corner showcasing the children’s drawings, artworks made out of popsicles, paper plates, cotton balls, and multicolored stuff, teaching kids to create and make the most of what they have.

Safe place

It was three o’clock in the afternoon and we were inside the Pasig Learning Lab, a day-care center built by MovEd, a non-stock, non-profit organization founded in 2012 that provides early childhood care and development programs to children and their families in disadvantaged communities around the Philippines. There were 25 children in the class that day, ages three to six years old. After teaching math for an hour, the teacher called for recess time and the kids took out their junk food and juice tetrapacks from their cute little backpacks and ate their snacks together. They were really noisy and carefree. Being in there was educational even for an adult like me, watching the kids praying before eating, some sharing their food, cleaning up their own mess, learning to count and write together, and playing and doing things together, not judging each other but just loving each other’s company. Gee, think what a better world it would be if all adults still do these things outside the classroom. 

Yet, that’s exactly the social problem that proves to be the biggest challenge for these young children today. Outside the confines of the classroom, everything is thrown out of perspective because children are living in a vastly different reality composed of the slums, crime, and the mentality that the children need to work and scavenge for food and easy money every day, instead of acquiring education. “That’s the age of children when parents teach them to steal or engage in crime, and they can’t go to jail,” says MovEd founder Alexandra Madrigal Eduque, “but on the other side, if we teach them at that age, that’s what we hope they’ll carry for the rest of their lives. Because the children’s cognition is most rapid at this age and they absorb everything like sponges and values can be formed. What they basically learn from that age, we hope they’ll carry for the rest of their lives.”

Hence, they created a formal classroom setting that will instill discipline to wake up every morning and go to school instead of going out and helping their parents with livelihood at such an early age. But more importantly, they create what Eduque calls, “a safe place away from their staunch environment,” a comforting and nurturing environment for optimal growth. It is also a place that the kids can always go back to when they grow up, where they can ask for help from the teachers if they need guidance with their schoolwork. 

Integrating is key 

Born in a family where giving back to the community is the norm, Eduque passionately pursued the charity life at a tender age of 15, when she was an active member of the housing organization, Habitat for Humanity. She took up political science and urban studies at Columbia University to broaden her knowledge in philanthropy. “I realized that housing is just a foundation. In order to make a community lucrative and progressive, there needs to be a cover of a multitude of facets. One is early childhood education,” she says, “and there was a gap in early childhood education. Children from ages three to five were not yet covered in the public school system.” After doing her study of working relationships between NGOs and government organizations, she established the MovEd Foundation. They screened and hired teachers who retired from public schools and want to continue their mission of teaching, and teachers who are shortlisted by their local government partners. “The government provides the structure, and we provide the education,” she says. As of shool year 2015 to 2016, MovEd has schools in the following areas NCR (Navotas, Pasig, and Parañaque), and the third district of Camarines Sur (Cagmanaba, Monserrat, Old San Roque, Carangcang, San Antonio, and Talidtid).

Eduque admits it was challenging at first to enable the children to go to school. “In the beginning, we faced the issue of kids leaving despite us already giving them education for free. Parents would reason out that they are not sending the kids to school because they’re out fishing for food for lunch,” she says, “so we made a food incentive that if they had a perfect attendance they would get a kilo of rice to bring home to the house, because we want to teach them the concrete way that education brings food to the table.”

Hence, MoveEd is further augmented into a three-prong program: MovEducation, MovHealth, and MovFamily. The learning labs fall under MovEducation. MovHealth includes daily in-class feeding programs that selected classrooms have, supplemented by quarterly weight monitoring and physical checkups, ultimately with a goal of reaching zero malnutrition. In partnership with Century Canning Corporation, the MovHealth program operates with the belief that children cannot learn at their optimum if they are hungry or malnourished. Lastly, the MovFamily provides education programs to the parents of the students so they can teach the same values at home taught in the classroom.

A weapon for greater good

The foundation aims for children to develop their optimum potential socially, cognitively, physically, and spiritually, and to carry hope, security, and identity throughout the rest of their lives. From 30 families, the foundation is now witnessing 500 families grow from their programs.

On a broader note, MovEd envisions itself as a catalyst that brings forth the clamor for change within humanity. 

Education is the most valuable gift a parent can give to their child, or the most valuable weapon we can have as individuals. It’s something that cannot be taken away from you no matter what. Once you have it, it’s yours. “It’s really this powerful thing that paves your path,” says Eduque.

“It’s too early to project what will happen to the children in their future. But we’d like to think we’ve done our part in making an impact, to (help them) become movers and shakers of humanity when their generation is ready.”

 

Move.org Foundation, Inc. is located at Room 806 Vicente Madrigal Bldg., 6793 Ayala Avenue, Makati City. Telephone: +63 (2) 552-7006; e-mail: info@moved.org.ph. How to Donate: BPI Current Account,  Move.org Foundation, Inc., 1901-0007-82.

 

Article originally published in Metro Society's February 2016 issue / Photographs by Gary Nepomuceno / Minor edits have been made for Metro.Style