Sunday, June 6, 2010

Track-record less Tembari Children Center wins big

Ivan takes time for a picture with Penny Sagembo, the Center's Co-Founder and Co-President, and the kids.

Ivan gestures as he inspected the premises of The Center to find out what assistance RH Foundation could give. In the background is a classroom (community learning center) where the Center's pre-school children learn their ABC and numbers.

Volunteer mothers combine their "air forces" to build fire for a pot of chicken stew during last Saturday's special cooking session, in which the lunch meal was sponsored by generous donors.

A Friend of Tembari Children

THE so-called charitable community in PNG has been abuzz with speculations, and obviously, is also green with envy when the Center was named among the 15 especially-chosen beneficiaries of funding assistance from the Malaysian community.

Just consider these names: POM General Hospital (K195,464); Open Heart (K30,000); Sir Buri Kidu Foundation (K30,000); City Mission (K30,000); Missionaries of Charity (30,000); Children Foundation (K25,000); Hope PNG (K25,000); Cannosa Sisters For Village Health Programme (K20,000); Cheshire Home (K20,000); Caritas Technical Secondary School (K20,000); Eda Mauri (K20,000); The Nine Mile Clinic (K20,000); Salvation Army (K20,000); and PNG Kidney Foundation (K20,000).

All are big-league institutions in their own right and charity is the name of their game.

The Tembari Children Care (TCC) Inc is an unknown, struggling daycare/orphanage facility at the ATS Oro Settlement at 7-Mile outside of Port Moresby. It does not own the so-called track record to impress funders.

When I discovered TCC last December, it was a children facility which was then struggling twice over, with almost no food to feed its (erstwhile) 78 children beneficiaries.

I promised myself I will find food for these kids. Thank God, my efforts, alongwith those of the TCC founders paid off and donors are generously helping us out now on a regular basis, and the kids merrily having lunch of rice and side dish every day, with a glass of milk to wash it down.

Now, even if the Center did not have track record to show, it has been granted a generous sum of K15,000, an amount it is going to see for the first time in its bank account at BSP.

Many charity groups, or those aspiring to be one, are seeing red.

“How could a track record-less group like Tembari could get such a funding from the country’s biggest fundraiser?” was a chorus from detractors that reverberated across the country.

As a friend of Tembari children, whose self-imposed task for the Center is to look for people or entity who would give it funds, food and much-needed basic facilities such as water and power supply, healthcare assistance, I really don’t bother about my Center having no track record.

Anyway, track record could also mean -- and mind you this is true -- the funding beneficiary has history of misusing the grant; or its officers are skimming the funds.

It could also mean salting the fund instead of using it as intended by the funding institution.

Or the fund has been exhausted without benefiting the intended recipients. Or it has track record to show that it’s a well-funded, badly performing charitable institution. And so on.

As the story goes, the Children’s Foundation (CF) had discovered to its dismay that one of its funding beneficiaries used its money to hold a party at Lamana Hotel, a social function that had nothing to do with charity.

How did CF find this out?

Simple. When that charity group paid its bills to the hotel, it used a cheque bearing its name and whose bank account obviously had grants from the Children’s Foundation whose president is Yannis. I think, Yannis has blacklisted the culprit.

It’s this kind of track record that TCC can do without.

However, Tembari’s track record or the lack of it was immediately resolved by the fundraising committee of the MBC Charity Golf/Malaysian Association of PNG.

Ivan Lu, chairman of the organizing committee, simply explained to his colleagues during beneficiary screening process that “Tembari needs all the support it could get because it is doing a great job of promoting the welfare of its wards”.

Ivan is also the senior executive director of RH Group.

“We are going straight to the kids with our funding assistance,” he pointed out.

And that they would be building a relationship with them as they would be dealing with them face-to-face one of these days, and thus, establish a firm bonding between benefactor and beneficiaries.

And besides, he told his colleagues, RH Foundation is right now actively helping the Center put up water system facilities and a lot more to make its job of serving the kids efficient and effective. The foundation is also looking at providing the Center with electricity.

The Tembari kids are composed of abandoned, orphan, vulnerable and neglected children, to which the Oro province word “tembari” loosely referred.

Ivan had advised the committee that he visited the Center at ATS Oro Settlement, talked to the kids, exchanged notes with Hayward Sagembo (Co-Founder and Director of TCC) and Penny Sagembo (Co-Founder and Co-President of TCC), saw what the kids were doing in their classrooms and saw the food they ate.

And most importantly, he discovered for himself the kind of help the kids would need from organizations like RH Group that he represents.

It has no track record but Tembari is doing what an effective community-based organization (CBO) must do to help alleviate the lives of its present 83 children-beneficiaries. And that is important.

Ivan also assured that the money the Malaysian community would be giving to the Center will be used as intended.

When Ivan proposed a K15,000-grant for Tembari, the committee immediately approved it.

The truth is that, a day after he heard of Tembari Children Center for the first time last March, he asked me to guide him towards the site at 7-Mile on the other side of the Jackson airport and had a look.

Then, while we were at the site, he told me after he inspected the Center’s premises: “RH Foundation has to come in … it can help the kids a lot.”

“But I also want to help them on my own,” he told me.

Weeks after that, I informed Ivan that the Center badly needed a third classroom, or the so-called Community Learning Center (CLC) which Digicel Foundation provided last year to TCC.

Digicel Foundation put up two CLCs – classrooms fashioned from junked container vans.

I explained that the Center right now has 45 pre-school children and only 30 could hold classes in the two Digicel-sponsored CLCs. The other 15 were holding classes under the mango tree next to the two CLCs.

I said that a unit costs K15,000 to build – with an old container van costing K5,000 and the interior fittings of at least K10,000.

After a flurry of emails exchanged between us that day, Ivan had advised me that he just approved an RH Foundation funding assistance of K10,000 for a new CLC, but we have to look for the source of the balance of K5,000.

We are still looking for a donor-sponsor who could shell out K5,000 to complete the funding for a third CLC classroom. Anybody interested?

When MBC Charity Golf was in the process of raising funds from various business groups and entities, Ivan had Tembari in the back of his mind, wishing they could raise a lot.

Ivan was considering that with more than enough funds, he could push for a generous sum of grant to the Tembari children.

Finally, MBC-Malaysian community raised a record K520,464 and Ivan, as a true Tembari Children fan, did what he had to do to help the kids.

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