Sunday, July 25, 2010

Our kids have grown in number

A Friend of Tembari Children

OVER the past few weeks, the number of children under the care of Tembari Children Care (TCC), a day care and orphanage center, has grown to 97 from the 83 children on record.

This is an increase of 14 children whom we refer to as “unfortunate” ones.

Unfortunate in the sense that while they still have parents who should look after them, they could be found roaming around the settlement day in day out.

In other words, they are the street children at ATS Oro Settlement at 7-Mile, just outside of Port Moresby.

Many families in the settlement have more than five children – up to seven, to say the least.

Sad to say all of the school-age children in the family are not in school. They are out in the street, who in their young age, are already learning to become future raskol or scum of the society.

The Center’s president, Hayward Sagembo, has decided to “save” at least one of these children in the family by taking it to The Center to become a beneficiary of the facility’s modest services under its education and nutrition program.

“At least one out of the seven out-of-school children in a family could join our daily pre-school classes and the Monday-to-Saturday feeding program,” Hayward said.

He explained that The Center is a community-based organization and one of its goals is to help children in the community like the 14 who have recently joined us get education and have food everyday from our soup kitchen.

In fact, The center has 40 plus kids attending pre-school classes at the learning centers provided by Digicel Foundation, and another 40 plus who attending elementary schools around Port Moresby. Their school fees had been paid for by The Center from grants provided by WeCare PNG.

“In doing so, The Center could help them develop into a better citizen in the future,” Hayward said.

We know there are still a lot of such children in the settlement who should be in the classrooms but are not due to the poverty of their family, that even feeding each one of them has been a day to day struggle for the parents.

But we could only take those whom we think are truly deserving and Hayward has set the criteria for that.

Said guideline is now the basis on which The Center decides who should be accepted and become a beneficiary.

But are we able enough to take more children as beneficiaries of The Center’s programs? Could we take more than we could feed?

It is one question that has begun bugging me as I look at the perspective of providing food for the Tembari children.

While Hayward’s job is to look for children around the settlement who could join The Center, my job as a Friend of Tembari Children is to look for people, groups or institutions, or in short, sponsors, who could provide us food, grants, funding, materials, services and others on a sustainable and on-going affair.

I explained to our potential benefactors that supporting us on a “sustainable and on-going basis” is the only way to help change the lives of our wards for the better.

When I first discovered The Center and its children last December, there were only 78 under the care of the facility. A few weeks after I decided to help The Center find supporters and donors, the number jumped to 83.

It has been this number – 83 – through which I marketed the future of the children to potential benefactors, who later provided food and funding.

What I meant to say is that, whenever a potential donor of our monthly food supply – whether its rice, milk, cordial drink, tinned fish or biscuits -- asked me how much food we need every month, I would provide him a computation of the daily food consumption based on 83 mouths.

And deciding to help, they sent the food. And the feeding program has been good, so far. Our children eat rice and tinned fish and veggies, drink milk and cordial and have biscuit snacks everyday – from Monday to Saturday.

This was a far cry from those days when The Center could only feed them (78 kids during those days) four times a week with only kaukau, sliced bread and cordial. I decided to change this for the better by talking to potential donors.

Now, the coming of 14 new beneficiaries means 14 new mouths to feed.

Today, Saturday, July 24, I asked our administrator-caretaker for the headcount of the children just before we began serving lunch, and he later told me: “We have 97 today …”

I was startled. I immediately thought of the food that I had just cooked, worried that the food budget for my special Saturday feeding was for only 83 kids.

For the Monday-to Friday feeding, we cook 10kgs of rice and 27 pieces of tinned fish (425gms) and mix four liters of cordial drink to 40 liters of water. They also consume 21liters of fresh milk which is served just after lunch.

The daily feeding affair amounts to six bags of 10kg rice every week, or 24 bags every month.

For my special Saturday lunch, I normally cook 10kgs of beef, chicken or fish, along side 10kgs or vegetable dish and 25 liters of soup, and this would be enough for the 83 kids. The dish goes down with 10kgs of boiled rice.

The money to buy the materials for the Saturday lunch recipe is sponsored by two individuals who would chip in K150 each. They wanted to give the children something different, something more delicious and nutritious.

With our wards now numbering 97, it could put a strain on our food budget. It could also upset my budget for the special Saturday lunch.

As the one dealing with our food donors, I could no longer ask them to increase their monthly donations. Giving them additional burden would be unfair.

One benefactor, an executive at RH Group, is already spending at least K10,000 a year on his food supply – monthly rice and fresh milk – to our children. He averages a little over K800 for this alone each month.

Another rice donor is spending at least K700 for the rice he sends every month.

Faced with an “impending food shortage” at The Center, I am compelled to find this time a third rice donor to meet the increased food consumption of our children.

I am looking at an additional 15 bags of rice (10kg) every month as food security on top of what we are getting every month.

Potential donors need not deliver all this. Maybe an individual could donate one bag (10kg) once a month, which could cost less than K50.

Fifteen individual rice donations could easily cover the possible shortfall that The Center would face in the coming weeks.

This is actually an appeal, thinly veiled as a proposal, and at the same time an encouragement.

It is an opportunity being offered to one and all to help the Tembari Children move towards their future.

Somebody just told me that there are people who wanted to help but did not know where to look. So I am directing your sight towards The Tembari Children – they are the ones you’re looking for.

I believe that there are people who would find this appeal an opportunity for them to help.

A bag of rice worth less than K50 won’t rob you of life’s comfort. But instead, it will enrich your life and make you a better person.

Most important, it will give you a stake in the future of the Tembari Children and a passage into their heart, on your way to Heaven.

How about that?

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Ice cream treats for the children

A Friend of Tembari Children

THE Center had special visitors last weekend that came with special treats – vanilla ice cream and an offer to help.

The visitors were Tee Jay Khoo of The National newspaper, his wife Gina of RH Trading and two young sons, and Cindy Lim, a senior staff at the Digicel outlet store at RH Hypermart.

Cindy brought with her a box of 16-liter Gala ice cream, a surprise treat for our children who now number 97, from the last figure of 83 the previous week.

Cindy told me that she heard about the Tembari Children Care (TCC) day care and orphanage center from Tee Jay and wanted to find out how she can help us with our day to day needs.

“I can also involve my friends who are just looking for opportunities to help but did not know where to look,” she said.

Cindy look around the premises of the Center and took note of a lot of things that she thought we would need.

“Give me a list of whatever you need and I look for people who could provide them,” she said.

I told her about drinking water.

I told her that the children don’t actually drink water after meals because the only clean water available is being used to mixed cordial drink.

We have difficulty in securing clean water for drinking, so the children could just opt to have cordial drinks to wash down the food.

I’d learned from my health subjects at school ages ago that a person, much less, kids should drink at least eight glasses of water every day to improve blood circulation and digestion. And of course, drinking enough water is really good for health.

At the Center, we can’t just do that, and without drinking water, our kids would always be far from being healthy.

Cindy said she would look for a supplier of purified water who may be able to donate to the Center drinking water for the kids.

Last Saturday, I cooked a favorite Filipino dish called ‘chicken wings adobo” which our children immensely enjoyed, being their first time to taste or have this kind of chicken dish.

In the past, I cooked for them a variety of chicken dishes that involved Indian and Malaysian spices and all. Maybe, I ran out of recipe ideas that I decided to try cooking 10kg of chicken wings into “adobo”.

As usual, the main dish was accompanied by another dish – stir fried bellfruit (popularly known in the Philippines as “upo”) and an Indian soup called “turmeric” soup.

The kids just love them. It was a sharp departure from the tinned-fish-rice lunch that they eat from Monday to Friday.

So my kids just couldn’t wait for Saturday, looking forward to sipping steaming specially cooked soup, before the main course is served – ala-resto.

As usual, the ingredients for my special Saturday lunch are being paid for by two sponsors – expatriate friends and new acquaintances -- who each would chip in K150.

The feeding from Monday to Friday usually consists of steamed rice and stir fried tinned fish donated by RD Tuna and Elaine, an expat lady executive from RBP Trading.

Everyday, the kids enjoy a modest lunch which is punctuated by a serving of fresh milk, courtesy of the British High Commission and an executive at RH Group.

The cordial drink last Saturday was donated by generous individuals that included Cary Warren, general manager of Pacific Industries, and Elaine of RBP Trading.

The Saturday special dish is the only way to make their meals something very different from the daily fare.

You too can sponsor one special Saturday lunch for our children. Once in a week, you would be able to make their lives a little brighter, with a nice lunch to cap the week.

Let me know should you decide to become our special Saturday lunch sponsor. I could be reached through the email addresses listed below. Or ring me up on my office landline at The National newspaper – 3246-712; or on my cell phone 722-31984.

The last and the fifth Saturday of this month of July falls on July 31. I am still looking for two sponsors who would be generous enough to pay for the ingredients for this day’s special lunch.


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Tee Jay and company arrive at The Center. Cindy Lim (right) carrying a box of 16 liters of vanilla ice cream, with Tee Jay (white shirt) and Gina coming out of the car.

A close up of the Gala vanilla ice cream with the cups ready to be filled with the frozen delight.

Kids enjoy their serving of ice cream, a special treat last Saturday from the visitors.

Melanie savoring the sweet goodness of her ice cream.

The pots after cooking is done.

Kids having a serving of turmeric soup before the main dish is serve.

This group of kids at the dining table while having soup.

A volunteer mother helping a toddler wash his hands before having meal.

The steaming turmeric soup waiting to be scooped and served to the kids.

Volunteer assistant cooks tending to the stir-fried bellfruit dish.

Children just finished lunch and are having a desert of ice cream.

A volunteer mother serving the chicken wing “adobo” lunch dish to the kids. – All pictures by the APH

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Tembari Children Care Center earns high mark

A Friend of Tembari Children

Dear Benefactors:

I AM very proud to report to you that The Center – the Tembari Children Care (TCC) which you have been supporting since January -- has just earned high marks from no less than the CEO of Digicel Foundation, Marina van der Vlies.

For all you know, Digicel Foundation, the generous arm of PNG’s biggest telco Digicel, owns a big stake in the future of our 83 children.

Sometime last year the foundation donated to The Center two community learning centers (CLCs), which simply refer to classrooms -- for the 45 or so pre-schoolchildren under our care.

With the two units of CLCs costing K15,000 each, Digicel Foundation wanted to help us teach our young wards the numbers and the alphabet.

Educating the less-privileged children of PNG through CLCs is one of Digicel Foundation’s focus.

And it just wanted to see our pre-schoolers get a good start in education through the CLCs.

So far, The Center is succeeding in this area.

Digicel Foundation has begun visiting the 38 CLCs in Port Moresby and in provinces to assess how they have been doing since those containerized classrooms were installed.

And sadly though, many of them have not progressed much, so to speak, for one reason or the other, including lack of support from the general public.

That’s why when Marina and her entourage of 30 volunteer teachers and operators of CLCs around Port Moresby visited The Center last Thursday, they were awed to see the significant transformation it has undergone since six months ago.

The volunteer-teachers and CLC operators came to see for themselves how The Center has performed in a span of six months.

In a remark to the TCC volunteers, visitors and of course, the beneficiary children, Marina had just one word to sum it up as a reaction: AMAZING.

“The Tembari Children Care has moved forward by leaps and bounds … it is way ahead of other CLCs in terms of positive changes initiated to improve the lot of the children.

She noted a number of changes carried out at The Center and new projects that are in the pipeline, including the forthcoming installation of a water system facility – indeed a costly project.

This facility would insure continuously flowing clean water for The Center, courtesy of RH Foundation, along with basic facilities such as classroom and office fixtures.

RH Foundation is also looking at providing power, either through a genset, or solar power and a lot more.

To cater for the learning needs of our 45 or so pre-school kids, we built a modest classroom out of the left wing area of the container-classroom.

This makeshift extension caught Marina’s attention and praised The Center for its initiative.

Instead of seeking assistance from Digicel Foundation to solve its classroom shortage, it did something that is quite praiseworthy, she said.

Marina has also noted that we were able to get the support of the Children’s Foundation through a monthly grant of K300 that pays for the allowances of our volunteer teachers.

Each of our three teachers who handle 15 to 20 kids in a class is paid a monthly allowance of K100, for a total of K300.

But we decided to increase the monthly allowance to K140 a month for each teacher, with the K20 top-up for each coming from other cash grants, like that one from Pacific Towing Ltd of Port Moresby that we started getting since last January.

The teachers requested a top-up to cover their daily bus fare from the city to The Center which is located at ATS Oro Settlement, 7-Mile, outside of Port Moresby.

But of course, Marina was also aware that The Center paid for the school fees of about 42 schoolchildren who are attending various levels in elementary schools in Port Moresby. The grant came from We Care PNG, which in turn gets substantial funding from Digicel Foundation.

“The secret is marketing … and effective networking,” Marina said of The Center’s modest success.

She said The Center has gone beyond mere seeking assistance from potential donors and sponsors.

“It has been actively marketing its children’s development program to both business and corporate community and individuals,” she said.

She stressed that marketing is something never done before by a facility providing services to less-privileged children.

Marina noted that The Center has achieved a good networking scheme that helped in marketing a good product – the Tembari Children’s future -- which in turn delivered, and continuously delivering, the goods to the children.

“Through effective networking, The Center has now the support of several corporate entities and groups and individuals who have pledged to support a good cause such as the ones being pursued by TCC,” Marina said.

Through networking, the Malaysian expatriate community in PNG through the Malaysian Association of PNG has been inspired to invest in the future of the Tembari Children. It provided The Center with a K15,000 grant just recently.

Marina intimated to the visitors in her group that The Center is marketing a good product, and being a good product, it has been easy for it to find buyers – the donors and supporters.

In our case here at The Center, the good product that we are trying sell out there is nothing but the bright future of our 83 beneficiary children who are abandoned neglected, vulnerable, under-privileged and orphans.

Bright future in which they would grow up to be good, responsible citizens, future leaders and God-fearing is a marketable product.

I immediately believed that is a good product and it will always find buyers. The only thing to do is market it, but how one does it would depend on the circumstances affecting such facility.

When Marina described our modest feat as “leaps and bounds … way ahead of the others”, she was simply referring to the big positive changes that The Center achieved since January this year.

From a hand-to-mouth daily affair, The Center is now almost self-sufficient in food, thanks to our generous benefactors who made it a point that the monthly food supplies to our 83 beneficiary children are sustainable and continuing.

Hand-to-mouth in the since that the kids were only fed four times a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday – with only kaukau, slice bread and cordial. In between these days, the kids went hungry as The Center did not have enough funds to buy them food.

We now have continuous supply of rice and fresh milk courtesy of two anonymous benefactors and the British High Commission. We are serving the kids a lunch of rice daily, alongside veggies and tinned fish, from Monday to Friday.

On Saturday, I cooked for them special lunch from Filipino recipes, whose ingredients and materials are sponsored by individuals who wanted our children to have something different for lunch.

However, we still get erratic supplies of tinned fish from individuals, so on occasions, we have to buy it using our modest funds when donations did not come.

On the other hand, we receive a donation of quality frozen fish (20kg) every fortnight from benefactor Thomas Kuo of High Energy Ltd. With this, our kids could eat real fish twice a month cooked in special Filipino recipe.

Knowing our constraints with daily protein for our kids, I marketed the Tembari Children’s future to one big corporation in the country – the RD Tuna Canners – by telling the story our little children, whose daily protein requirements have to be effectively met, to no less than its managing director, Pete C Celso.

Pete positively responded and immediately acted on it.

Finally, a few days ago, RD Tuna Canners (RDTC) came in with a pledge to provide The Center soon with a “sustainable supply of tinned fish”.

Also, two water bottling-purifying companies – Aqua 5 and The Water Company – have pledged regular supplies of purified water for the drinking needs of our beneficiary-children.

The Center has no source of ready drinkable water. The water it uses for cooking the children’s daily lunch and also for drinking is collected in a bucket from a village water tap several meters away from The Center.

The chances that such water for drinking getting contaminated while in transit – from village tap to The Center – as it is collected in ordinary containers are very high.

In most cases, the children no longer drink water after their meals. There is just no drinkable water to have.

One important change that Marina and company learned was that the Tembari children no longer fall in line just to receive their lunch meal. It was something that went on for a long time until last month.

Instead on waiting in line for their food, our children now sit at the dining tables, happily waiting to be served their meals, as in a restaurant or in a fastfood.

This has a big psychological impact on each of the kids because the sense of poverty in their psyche has been reduced.

As I have said in earlier blogs, being in a food line, hungry and all at that, is heartbreaking as it diminished the person’s dignity.

Hayward Sagembo, president of Tembari Children Center, in a remarked before Marina and company, proudly said that the children’s plight has drastically changed for the better since last January.

“Alfredo has done a lot to market The Center, which is now a big wonder for the children … his networking yielded a good number of donors, supporters in just six months … we never expected something like this before …”

And many more are coming from our benefactors, supporters and donors – things that surely would greatly enhance the lives of our beneficiary children.

“These great projects are in the pipeline,” he said, including a livelihood scheme for volunteer mothers like producing meri dresses that would later help The Center earn a sustainable income.

When I decided to help The Center to move on the way an effective day care/orphanage facility like The Center should, I promised Risabh, Hayward and wife Penny, who founded & managed TCC, that I would look for people who would bring in food, funds, materials and other forms of assistance.

These graces came in continuous flow and are now being enjoyed by our kids at The Center. Thanks a million to our benefactors.

The truth is that, I only know few people in PNG who would help me pursue this personal calling.

But these people whom I inspired into helping our children have a network of individuals, who later decided to become benefactors after realizing it would be a big opportunity for them to help the Tembari children.

And subsequently became, like many others, stakeholders in their future.

So far, The Center is going great, in full throttle, as in a F1 car.

It is confident the target projects designed to improve the lives of our beneficiary children would soon be achieved one after the other.

Again, to all our most valued Benefactors, I salute you.

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Hayward Sagembo, president of Tembari Children Care (TCC) explains to Digicel delegation their development program for The Center’s 83 children. He said there are a number of projects in the pipeline, some of which would be realized soon. – Photo credit: Digicel Foundation