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

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