Sunday, October 31, 2010

Parents at ATS Oro Settlement realize we are not kidding

A Friend of Tembari Children

PARENTS at ATS Oro Settlement have finally realized we are not kidding with our daily feeding program for the 97 children under our care.

Funny, they have realized too that it is the Salvation Army unit based at the settlement that is kidding itself.

While the local Salvation Army unit could only manage to feed its beneficiary children three times a week with so-so meals despite the enormous resources it has, courtesy of its rich donors here and overseas, the Tembari Children’s Care (TCC), or simply The Center, gets on with its own feeding session twice everyday – Monday to Friday and once on Saturday.

As to why the Army could only feed is kids three times a week with so-so meals despite its wealth is something for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.

At noon, we serve our 45 preschoolers with our very own bread baked by our volunteer mothers, which comes with cordial drink.

At 4-5pm, we serve our entire family of 97 kids with dinner rice, tinned fish and veggies, cordial drink and fresh milk.

We do this because we know that when they go home to their foster parents for the night, the kids could not always expect to have food.

On Saturday, the kids eat decent lunch which is sponsored by two individuals.

Here, each one chips in K200, for a total of K400, which I use to buy ingredients that would go to children’s lunch on Saturday. I do the cooking of the food myself with help from 10 volunteer mothers who collect water, gather firewood, clean kitchen tools and more.

That’s why these parents who have children being looked after by the Salvation Army would want to join The Center because with us, the daily food for their children is assured.

These parents are the same group of settlement residents who have been spreading lies about the Tembari Children Care (TCC), especially with regards to funding.

that the people behind The Center – Hayward and Penny Sagembo – are using the Tembari children to receive funding support.

Which is quite obvious, don’t you think so? Without the kids, who will give us food, money, materials and other things?

Worse, they have been spreading lies that Hayward and Penny are pocketing the money.

This is one absurd allegation that I vehemently deny.

Being the one signing the cheques that funded all of our daily spending at The Center for a total cost of K3,000 a month or so, I knew where every toea went

For all you know, I would scrutinize all proposed spending before I would sign a cheque.

For the month of November, I have just signed a cheque for a little over K3,000. This money would go to our tinned fish buying, allowances of our three volunteer preschool teachers, ingredients for the daily meals, miscellaneous and administrative expenses, fresh milk purchases, water bills and a lot more.

Don’t be surprised: Except for the WeCaRe! grant of K300 a month that goes into the daily feeding program, which I consider a measly amount but still convenient, all the money that went into to the bank account of The Center occurred bbecause of our efforts to market the future of the Tembari Children to potential donors and supporters.
We continue to market their future because it has value that value that could attract “investors”. They are investing in the future of these children who are the future leaders of Papua New Guinea.
This we did it through my blogsite where I would tell the stories about our beautiful children. And readers would respond positively with a pledge of assistance to the kids.

It goes without saying that I look after our money – that it is well-spent – for the benefits of our donors who would like to be assured that their funding grants are effectively benefiting the children.

When the Salvation Army man who runs the settlement unit failed to deliver his promise that the kids would be looked after properly, especially with regards to the daily feeding program, the parents started shifting sides and towards The Center.

And when The Center recently launched its modest livelihood assistance program for the 10 mothers who are doing volunteer work for the Tembari children, more parents from the other side started to gravitate towards us in the hope that they would also benefit from our services.

In fact, they wanted to register their kids with TCC so they could also benefit from our feeding and education program.

But the said children do not qualify under our criteria as they are not abandoned, they are not neglected, they are not unfortunate and most of all, they are not orphans. They all have a set of two living parents, but as to whether they are financially able, is another question.

So, I told Penny and Hayward to ignore them because they are just plain opportunists.

Right now, there is a small group within the community bent on stopping the Tembari Children Care center on its track by spreading black propaganda against it.

They are also trying to harm Penny and Hayward through “puri-puri” or black magic, believing that once they are harmed, The Center would collapse.

In one of their desperate schemes, they tried to hijack our kids by including them in their rosters so that they would have a long list of children to show to potential donors and institutions giving funding grants.

And they have tried to discourage our children from coming to The Center to enjoy food that we serve everyday – especially the Saturday lunch.

That’s why the number of kids who show up every Saturday would fluctuate from a low of 65 to a high of more 100 (these would include some gatecrashers which we opted not to drive away from the dining table.)

But those children who have enjoyed food with us knew better. When they met with their village friends, the only thing they talk about was food at The Center, which they said was good and for everyday at that.

So the kids have decided which place would give them better services. They chose The Center despite their guardians’ threat to punish them. But the kids are hungry and their tummies right now are the ones to be followed.

In short, their hungry stomachs rule them over.

Well, of the 17 feeding programs going on around the National Capital district (NCD) with most of them based in the settlements, only the Tembari Children Care has managed to free itself from the common predicament of being a hand-to-mouth affair.

Right now, The Center is miles away ahead of them, with more prospects of support from individuals and corporate entities who find merits in what we do for these unfortunate kids.

Even Marina Vander Vlies, CEO of Digicel Foundation, noted that The Center has progressed by leaps and bounds since early this year, while the other soup kitchens have remained lethargic for lack of support.

This is one reason why a lot of feeding programs are green with envy because of the generous support The Center is getting from individual and corporate entities as well as foundations – a wealth that they have failed to tap for one reason or the other.

They have yet to discover our secret why we continue to draw new supporters every month.

But this secret is an open story: Our benefactors, supporters and donors have found the Tembari Children Care a credible community -based organization (CBO) that is fulfilling an important role in the community, something others have yet to duplicate.

And now, our critics and detractors are finally realizing this and would want to join the party.

But I am not one to let them in.

Secondly, our resources – food, money, materials and facilities – could only support a family of at least 100 children (by the way, we have just welcomed a pretty young orphan girl – about 15 -- whose relatives have tried to sell her to some moneyed landowner – a form of child abuse which we are fighting against, thus increasing our wards to 98).

The Center’s positive effects on the lives of its children have become possible because our benefactors have decided to buy a stake in their future.

With this alone, our kids can look forward to a better life many years from now.

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RD Tuna Canners forms RD Foundation

This is the tinned fish product that RD Foundation would be supplying to the Tembari children on a regular basis. The can contains 1.8kg of unflavored tuna chunk usually used in hospitals, restaurants, fast-foods and many more.

A Friend of Tembari Children

RD TUNA Canners, the pioneering tinned fish company in Papua New Guinea, has formed its own foundation, the RD Foundation, to formalize its entry into the world of charity.

And the Tembari Children Care (TCC) Inc, which I usually refer to as The Center, is one of its first beneficiaries.

But even before the creation of RD Foundation, RDTC has, for years, been actively engaged in community projects in its host province Madang.

This included giving scholarship to deserving children in the area, providing school materials to various schools, helping villages around its fish processing plant obtain potable water by supplying them with bore water pumps and supplying a local hospital with fresh tuna on a regular basis.

It also has initiated livelihood projects as part of its corporate responsibility to the community hosting its business – the processing of tuna into exportable products.

However, the company is doing this without a charitable arm such as a foundation until the recent creation of RD Foundation.

I believe that RDTC’s entry into institutionalized charity activities was prompted by my constant nagging of its managing director, Pete C Celso, Jr, for a regular tinned fish donation on behalf of the Tembari children.

To be specific, I requested the company for a monthly supply of several cartons to meet the daily protein needs of the 98 kids being looked after by The Center.

Along with rice, our kids are consuming at least 27 cans (425gms) of this product daily, or 162 cans a week, equivalent to 6.75 cartons, or at least 24 cartons a month.

I did request this volume despite my previous knowledge of RDTC’s policy of accommodating donations on a “one-off” basis only and on a very limited quantity.

In other words, the company would normally accommodate requests from certain groups especially those that are holding conferences, or during especial occasions, for a supply of their products.

Then they are forgotten, which is not surprising.

A month or so ago, I had a chance meeting with Pete C Celso in Port Moresby and immediately he told me that if ever RDTC would support the Tembari children, he would like to do it on a “regular and sustainable basis”.

This way, we no longer have to look for the next donor once the supply of tinned fish has been consumed.

But since we are feeding the Tembari children everyday, from Monday to Saturday, we have to continue buying tinned fish while waiting for the prospect that one day the company would really help us solve our problem.

Meanwhile, our children’s daily consumption of tinned fish has been weighing down on our very limited funds.

So, I continued chasing RDTC for its support to the chagrin of the people who were in charge to deal with this kind or request.

And I had chased them for almost every week, telling them about our problem of being unable to really afford the cost of the item.

I had even reminded Pete that RDTC won’t be losing anything by giving to Tembari children because whatever quantity it is to give could be deducted from the company’s yearly taxable income.

This is because TCC is registered with Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) as a community-based organization (CBO), which is allowed to seek and received donations that are tax deductible.

While RDTC could deduct the value of its donation to The Center from the yearly taxable income, it would be helping our needy children and at the same time look good in the media. Therefore, it would lose nothing but instead, gain the goodwill of humanity.

Early last week, the good news finally came: That RDTC could now supply us with a modest quantity of its product on a monthly basis through its foundation – the RD Foundation which has just been launched.

I thank the company abundantly for its gesture, and crossed my fingers that it comes very soon.

So, while the supply would last only for at least 10 days, to us at The Center, this is just great because it would spare us from buying tinned fish for at least 10 days out of the 24 feeding days that we do every month.

To fill the gap, which is 14 days, I would have to continue talking to potential donors of this item.

Thank you RDTC and RD Foundation for this big relief!

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Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) Ltd is Tembari’s latest corporate supporter; three ladies to help the Tembari kids

Filipino expats Rose Cordero (red blouse), Zeny Ala (blue blouse) and and Jovy Baltazar (yellow blouse) pose with Penny Sagembo (right) and the Tembari kids during the trio’s visit of The Center.

From left: Rose Cordero, Hayward Sagembo, Zeny Ala, Jovy Baltazar and Penny Sagembo. (More pictures below story).


A Friend of Tembari Children

ON SATURDAY, three ladies drove up to The Center to find out what help they could offer to the Tembari Children.

Our Filipino expat visitors were Zeny R Ala, owner of Associated Builders & Contractors Ltd (ABC), who is also the administrative and finance manager, Jovy G Baltazar, GM of Paradise Business Consultants and Rose Cordero of Avenell Engineering Systems Ltd.

The three visited The Center during my special Saturday feeding gig in which the Tembari Children were served special lunch usually paid for by two sponsors.

However, last Saturday’s lunch was shouldered solely by Zeny.

Immediately after meeting the Tembari Children, the threeladies had promised Hayward and Penny Sagembo, the Co-Founders of the Tembari Children Care (TCC) center, that they would do networking to market the future of its young wards.

Networking means they would tap their respective clients and contacts for possible assistance to The Center, especially with one that concerns the children’s education.

And they would even use Facebook to spread the news about the good things that are happening with the 98 children at The Center, and possibly reach out to many new potential donors and supporters.

The Tembari children are composed of orphans, abandoned, neglected and unfortunate children being cared for by grandparents and close relatives who are themselves economically deprived. That’s why they are all relying on The Center for the children’s food and education needs.

At present, we have 45 preschoolers who are holding classes from Monday to Friday at The Center and another 42 children at 11 elementary and primary schools around Port Moresby. The rest are toddlers plus a young girl who just came in this week.

The fees of the schoolchildren are paid for by The Center, using school fee grants from WeCaRe! foundation. On the other hand, the foundation received educational funding from Digicel Foundation.

At this time, the ladies were already looking at the next school year wherein they could tap their contacts for possible assistance concerning the school fees of our 40 plus elementary and primary schoolchildren should WeCaRe! become unable to continue supporting the Tembari Children’s schooling for one reason or the other.

About an hour ago, while Zeny, Jovy and Rose were on their way to The Center at ATS Oro Settlement, at Seven-Mile, a delivery truck from ABC brought in 10 bags of cement which will be needed to build the platform of our water tank system.

The material’s delivery was arranged by Zeny a day before. She promised that more building materials such as timber needed for this project would follow next.

Hayward had brief them on our desire to install a water system due to our difficulties with water. We would tap water from the mainline operated by Eda Ranu, which is several meters away from The Center’s premises.

Hayward also told them of The Center’s plan to build another classroom for our 45 preschoolers. We have expected that by next year, their number would increase to at least 55, one reason we needed additional space to accommodate them.

Zeny has instructed me to coordinate with one of ABC’s building engineers, Cocoy Erbina, whom she will assign to this particular undertaking.

With the coming of Zeny, Jovy and Rose, the base of The Center’s prospective individual and corporate supporters would somehow expand.

Zeny’s company had its own network of contacts whom she promised to tap for support; Jovy’s company has its own network of corporate executives that she could approach, and so with Rose, whose company has a rich rooster of potential supporters.

Through their Facebook accounts, they would link up with my own blog site to further give Tembari Children cyber exposure, which could generate possible support from Facebook visitors.

Indeed, the possibilities are quite endless.

By the way, the ladies brought with them four bundles of old clothing which were distributed to our volunteer mothers and to kids who were lucky enough to fit in one or two of the kiddy clothes.

And while waiting for my special lunch to be served, Zeny, Jovy and Rose had noticed that almost all the kids walked barefooted.

This was one of those things they would look into, they said.

Zeny, Rose and Jovy with the children during lunch on Saturday.

Tembari kids crowding at the back of the car for the goodies like purified drinking water, cordial drinks and cooking ingredients.

Hayward, Rose and Zeny collecting the bundles of used clothing from the car.

Children wash their hands just before they are to be served special hot corn soup.

Penny holds a dialogue (with laptop) with volunteer mothers regarding The Center’s livelihood assistance program.

A volunteer mother pose with a cooking “puto” (Filipino steamed cake) for snacks after the volunteer mothers meeting with Penny.

The newly-cooked “puto” prepared by blogger APH for the volunteer mothers.

Penny surrounded by children while explaining something to them just before lunch is served.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

AutoZeal of Port Moresby comes to our rescue

Tembari children line up for the goodies.

Tembari children eagerly help out to remove from the car 10 cartons of flavored milk donated by SVS Supermart. This car had been idled for almost two weeks due to a dead distributor system which proved so difficult to replace.

Kids removing from the car containers of purified water donated by The Water Company.

nthusiastic kids carry foodstuff taken from the car which will go to their lunch on Saturday.

A Friend of Tembari Children

HERE’S A LITTLE story for those who believe in prayers and those who don’t.

For the believers, this tale would serve as an affirmation of their fate to every prayer they make; for the doubters, it could be another file to sit deeply in their consciousness, much less another of those experiences heard from friends, which they could later call for review and analysis out of curiosity.

For almost two weeks until last Thursday, my 20-year-old car, a white Mazda 323 Station Wagon, had been disabled due to a dead distributor system.

It’s this part of a vehicle engine which receives electricity from the battery and distributes it to the engine through the spark plugs.

This process is the one that fires up the petrol and circulate the heat produced within the engine system – the heat becoming a compressed power that moves the pistons, and thus turns the engine’s rotating parts to roll and makes the car run.

Well, being a layman car-user, this was how I had understood it.

My car’s distributor system could no longer perform this function owing to its age -- it had never been replaced since the car went on the road more than 20 years ago.

A second buyer, I have been using this car for the last 14 years, to the chagrin of my friends who are familiar with its frequent breakdowns, something that had put my life in danger.

(One Friday just before Holy Week this year, I was driving around Gerehu Stage 4 on my way home, with some donated stuff which I picked up at Papua Niugini Freezers (PNF), when its clutch gave way, causing the car to stall along the road. While waiting for my friend to come so he could tow it, armed raskols came and hit me.)

When the car conked out due to expired distributor system, my Filipino mechanic and car-repair shop owner Lito, scrambled to find a replacement.

Knowing my activities at the Tembari Children Care center, he was concerned; without my car, he knew I would be grounded, which means a number of people – the Tembari children, in particular -- would be affected.

Like me, his wife Susan is also involved in a feeding program for kids at Tokarara and has sympathized with me with regards to my own Saturday feeding activities.

Lito had gone to all used-car parts dealers in Port Moresby but to no avail; he even checked with his contacts at car-wreckers shops in the city for this piece of junk.

Chop-chop shops are usually the last place where mechanics looked for rare parts, hoping that they could be available. But this time, they did not serve the purpose.

Although the mechanic found three sets of the same make which were hoped to match my car’s disabled distributor system, their serial numbers did not. So, none really worked.

In my desperation, I prayed a lot over this, asking my Lord to please help us find it.

At the same time, I posted an item about this problem on my blogsite to inform supporters and benefactors of the Tembari Children and those who would care.

For us at The Center, my car going “bagarap” was a big thing.

During those days that it was sitting at the car shop and gathering dust without the prospect of being resurrected, I was not able to collect donations for the Tembari children.

One regular donor, the High Energy Co, a fishing group exporting frozen marine products, was quite concerned about the problem as I was unable to take in its frozen fish delivery.

Another supporter had even offered to provide me transport in going to ATS Oro Settlement at Seven-Mile where The Center is located, so I could continue with my work.

But I explained there were other involved peripheral errands for Tembari children which I could not accomplish without the car.

In short, the car doubles as my personal transport and a delivery vehicle of donated stuffs – food and materials, including drinking water for our 97 kids. Meanwhile, I had requested my company’s transport service for a daily pick up from my house to the workplace, and back.

My biggest frustration was that for two Saturdays, I was unable to cook special lunch for the children. It was only during the weekend that they are able to eat a decent meal, courtesy of friends and supporters who would sponsor the materials that go into this meal.

Meantime, I stopped calling donors because I was worried that I may not be able to collect whatever donations they had prepared, and thus, disappointing them.

With all these misfortunes, everything stopped at The Center, something which I considered a big setback in our day to day operations, although our daily feeding – from Monday to Friday – went on, using foodstuff donations that were earlier delivered to The Center.

Meanwhile, I kept praying that this particular part that my car badly needed could become available despite the prospects that there’s was no hope at all, unless it was imported from Singapore at great cost, according to my mechanic.

In fact, he already placed an order through one of the auto parts dealers in Port Moresby.

Early last week, I received an email from one of my blogsite’s readers.

He said he read my blog and wanted to know the status of the car. He said, if I would allow them to look into the disabled distributor system, they would be able to restore it and have it running again.

Indian expat Bernard George, chief executive of AutoZeal, an automotive company in Port Moresby, told me: I was concerned that you are unable to further your work with the Tembari children.

“I have been reading your blog,” he told me on the phone.

“We will restore your car … at my company’s cost because I want you to continue with your work for the children …”

Immediately on the same day, he sent his technicians to my mechanic’s car shop at Hohola to have a look at my car, particularly the distributor system.

It was really dead for good, the mechanic had found out after tinkering with it at his shop at AutoZeal.

But Bernard’s car shop has another option: they can modify a similar distributor system, something which his modification experts immediately plunged into.

He told me on the phone that before Friday (last Friday), I could have my car again.

On Thursday afternoon, Lito, the mechanic, called me to say he was about to test drive the car.

“Oh, really …? How …?” I asked stupidly in my excitement.

“AutoZeal modified another distributor system and made it work … come to the shop now and get your car …”

Bernard called me again, saying they would like to have the car checked once more to make sure everything was doing well, and suggested that I bring the car to AutoZeal service shop.

Meeting me in person, he told me: “Keep it up … a lot of kids is depending on you …”

I thanked him profusely.

But I did not tell him about my prayer.

(To know the various automotive services AutoZeal offers, please visit

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Office space for The Center

A Friend of Tembari Children

SINCE The Center does not have access to electricity, we decided to rent a small space at a place near the facility where power is available.

The place is owned by one of the residents at ATS Oro Settlement at Seven Mile which has access to power, just about 500 meters away from The Center.

The owner is willing to provide us a space of 3 meters by 3 meters for K300 a month. Power consumption would be included in the rent, depending on the arrangement.

It is one of those crucial decisions Rishabh Bhandari, Founder and Co-President of TCC, and Penny Sagembo, Co-Founder and Co-President of TCC, have to make because an expense of K300 a month would upset our monthly budget that goes mainly to the daily expenses at The Center.

Renting this office space is the only way for us to deal with the growing backlog in our records that included the profiles of the 97 children under our care, the records of our 45 preschoolers and those of the 42 children attending classes at 11 elementary schools around Port Moresby.

Since The Center is not connected to the settlement’s power grid as the last power post stopped some 400 meters away from where we are located, Penny and/or teachers could not work on the children’s records despite having a notebook (laptop), a facility that was donated to The Center last March.

With no power at home, she could only work an hour at night on her notebook, with illumination coming from kerosene lamp.

The children’s personal records are needed for next year’s enrolment, especially with regards to school fees that WeCaRe!, a foundation, would require to determine whether a particular child in our roster deserves to get its support in terms of school fees.

This school year, WeCaRe! which is operated by retired priest, Fr John Glynn, has paid for the school fees of our 42 children at 11 elementary schools in Port Moresby. Aside from that, 45 of the 97 kids under our care are attending daily preschool classes at The Center under the supervision of three volunteer teachers.

In short, we need to organize the records of these children which we, until now, have been unable to do due to lack of electricity at The Center.

With prospective office space which is wired to the PNG Power grid, we may be able to do a lot in preparing the children’s school records.

Penny could work to update our records by working the night after she knocks off from her Monday-to-Friday day job at an NGO based in Port Moresby and on weekends.

At present, for our makeshift office where we also keep Tembari records and classroom materials, we use one of the classrooms which have been provided by Digicel Foundation.

Fashioned from junk container vans, it also serves as storage for foodstuff donations, tools and cooking utensils.

But again, we have to contend with a lot of expenses which could create a big hole in our modest funds which we were able to raise from small grants and donations.

For instance, that 3x3 meter-office space would require a working desk, a filing cabinet and a computer set along with a printer. This would cost big money and The Center would really struggle to be able to afford all this.

IT IS FOR this reason that we are again appealing for support t from readers out there.

If you think you have a workstation desk that you no longer need and a chair to go with it, please don’t hesitate to donate it to The Center.

If you have an old steel filing cabinet that you have to dispose of for lack of space in your office or at home, please donate it to The Center.

If you have a retired computer set – PC and monitor – that is just lying in the corner because you have already upgraded, please donate it to The Center.

If you think you able enough to sponsor a new set of computer facility which would help us do our job more efficiently, please let us know.

If you feel like helping us with the monthly office space rent of K300, please let us know.

All this will do a lot towards improving the services we provide to the 97 children under are care.

Aged from 1 to 15, they are orphans, abandoned, neglected and unfortunate. We succeeded in plucking them out from the village streets through your continued support.

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Tembari Center’s livelihood scheme winning fans

These three volunteer mothers are among the ten beneficiaries of The Center’s livelihood assistance project.

A Friend of Tembari Children

THE MODEST livelihood assistance program initiated by Tembari Children Care (TCC) for its 10 volunteer mothers is drawing many fans.

They are the enthusiastic mothers from ATS Oro Settlement at Seven-Mile and other settlements around the National Capital District.

They are the so-called underprivileged mothers and housewives.

Penny Sagembo, the project initiator, told me on Saturday during my cooking gig at The Center that she got calls from such mothers expressing interest to join the livelihood assistance program.

By the way, Penny Sagembo founded The Center in 2003, alongwith Rishabh Bhandari and Hayward Sagembo. They painstakingly steered through difficulties – financially and logistically -- until it began winning generous support this year from donors and benefactors, thanks to the trio’s consistent efforts.

But my good friend Penny stressed that the buy-and-sell assistance with initial seed capital of K50 for each of the participants is designed only for parent-guardians with kids beinglooked after at The Center.

This is one way of enabling them to earn some kina which they could use to pay for their foster-children’s daily bus fares in going to school in Port Moresby and coming back to the settlement and for their daily school snacks.

At the same time, it could also help them earn money to buy food for the family.

At present, The Center has 42 schoolchildren attending classes in 11elementary schools around Port Moresby and once in a while, a number of foster parents of these pupils would ask for bus fare assistance or biscuit money from The Center.

TCC paid for their school fees this year through funding from WeCaRe!, a foundation operated by retired priest, Fr John Glynn.

But Penny said The Center has no money for such an expense because what it got right now is solely allotted to the daily feeding of the 97 children under its care.

The Center does not only feed them once a day, but twice – once at noon time as snacks for the 45 preschoolers in the form of bread baked by our volunteer mothers and early dinner at 4-5pm, of rice and tinned fish and veggies, served to both its preschoolers and schoolchildren who returned from the city schools.

Aside from the K50 seed capital, Penny also opened a bank account with the PNG Micro-Finance for each of the 10 mother-participants with an initial deposit of K50.

It’s one thing commercial banks in Port Moresby would not let them do.

In all, The Center has lent each mother K100 for a total of K1,000, an amount that she drew against some funds from donors.

Livelihood assistance to its beneficiaries is among the goals for which TCC has been formed and registered with the Investment Promotion Authority (IPA).

Under the scheme, each of the volunteer mothers would pay back K20 every fortnight and at the same time depositing an amount to their bank accounts from income made through selling betel nuts, smoke, lollies, candies and many others.

One beneficiary-mother proudly told me that everyday, she would make K80 from her sale. Of this, she would keep K30 and roll back the rest for the next day’s business. In effect, she’s making K30 a day or K210 during the seven-day buying-and-selling.

Penny said: They are going great … they already settled their first fortnight repayment and has some money waiting to be deposited to their accounts.

Once The Center has recouped the seed capital of K1,000, a new batch of 10 mothers from the settlement with foster-children at The Center will follow suit.

According to PNG Micro-Finance, once the mothers have saved at least K300, they become eligible to borrow a seed capital of the same amount, under certain lending terms. But the interest would be very minimal.

Right now, the next batch of would-be-borrowers from Oro settlement has already been screened and will be the next to get on board.
With the bright prospect of this livelihood program, we are inclined to look for donors who would be able to help us expand this project.

This way, we would be able to help more foster parents earn daily income, and thus deal with their everyday money woes gradually.

Based on the performance of the first batch of 10 mother-volunteers, the scheme is working.

And because of this, it looks like their daily income, however small it would seem, is helping a lot with their everyday household expenses.

They no longer have to ask for bus fares and snack money from The Center for their schoolchildren.

And the good thing is that the livelihood assistance is propping them up to become self-sufficient little by little.

Effectively, the culture of frugality by being able to save an amount however small it is, is being instilled among them.

In simple words, such modest livelihood assistance is giving meaning to the much-abused and often empty word “women empowerment”.

We have just empowered these 10 mothers to launch themselves towards the bumpy road to self-sufficiency, an opportunity seldom available to many deprived individuals, especially settlement mothers.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saddest Saturday for Tembari children

A usual scene at The Center every Saturday when the kids are seated on the dining tables while waiting for a special lunch to be served. On Saturday, this did not happen after the Saturday cook, APH, failed to come as he did not have a vehicle to use in coming to the settlement.


A Friend of Tembari Children

I FELT BAD, and I am still right now, for being unable to cook lunch for the kids on Saturday.

I knew they had looked forward to this day because it was only this time when they could have a decent meal. And as always, they had anticipated sipping a nice hot soup before special lunch is served.

And for my part, I have pledged to myself I would do this without fail, save for the time when I would be going home to Manila for my four-week annual leave, which comes in April.

And this was made possible by individuals who “sponsored” the food I cooked every Saturday.

Those who know of my Saturday gig at The Center with the Children could only comment: “Freddie, that’s a tough job you’re doing for the children …”

This had been the first day ever that I missed cooking for them. I began this Saturday special lunch cooking 10 months ago when I realized that the Tembari Children during those days were not eating proper meal.

The reason was that The Center did not get assistance it is getting now, especially foodstuff and materials.

But I blame nothing for what has happened and continuously happening.

My 20-year-old car – a station wagon Mazda 323 -- that had allowed me to move around and collect donations every Friday, buy foodstuff that would go into the lunch of the Tembari children and brought me every Saturday morning to The Center at the heart of ATS Oro Settlement, at 7-Mile outside of Port Moresby, has finally given up.

When it stopped dead after its distributor system conked out due to old age, and no junkshops and surplus car parts stores in Port Moresby could provide a replacement part, a lot of things at the Tembari Center seemed to have stopped.

There were donations to be collected last Friday but I was unable to do so, including that purified drinking water that I usually brought to The Center on Saturday.

I was afraid the children did not have water to drink after their lunch of rice and tinned fish on Saturday.

There’s a water crisis at the settlement and obtaining drinking water has been the most difficult for our volunteer mothers.

For Saturday’s lunch, I called Penny Sagembo, the Co-Founder and Co-President of Tembari Children Care (TCC) center – and requested her to have something for lunch.

The kids had expected to have a nice lunch, as always, thinking that I would be coming over, like what I had done every Saturday over the last nine and half months.

But I did not.

So our volunteer mothers just prepared a meal of tinned fish and rice, something that they usually have from Monday to Friday.

Now car-less, and the prospect of being one really persisted, I can’t call potential donors to follow up on a number of stuff that I have solicited on behalf of the Tembari children.

One reason is that, should they make available the requested items, I may not be able to pick them up, which I felt could disappoint them.

For instance, there’s a donation of eight cartons of cordial drink from Coca-Cola Amatil that is due for this month. However, I can’t arrange to have it released since I have no means to haul them off from its depot at Gordon, and bring them to The Center at the settlement.

Ten cartons of flavored milk at SVS supermarket, a cheque from the Children’s Foundation covering a monthly grant, five containers of purified water from The Water Company and another four cartons of cordial drink from Pacific Industries are waiting to be picked up.

I don’t want to ask friends to help out, knowing it would be a lot of hassle.

Truly, it has been a big setback for us – especially for the Tembari Children.

I did not expect something like this could happen, including a car that could go dead for good.

There are people ready to give, and continue to give for the sake of the Tembari Children; it is an assurance that service towards their well-being would be sustained.

But there are also gremlins that could pop their heads even in broad-day light and spoil everything.

Early last week, they just did it.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

My car conks out and it affects a lot of people; Hideaway Hotel makes our day

The special dish catered by Hideaway Hotel for the Tembari children. More pictures below story.

A Friend of Tembari Children

EARLY last week, my car broke down and this misfortune in my life has also affected a lot of people.

A 20-year-old car, its distributor system conked out for good and my mechanic has failed to find a replacement, with the car parts stores all over Port Moresby saying: It’s a very old car… parts won’t come by easily … time to retire it …”

With no vehicle to enable me to do many errands for the Tembari children, I am practically crippled.

The usual Friday afternoon super-marketing I do for foodstuff and ingredients that would go into the children’s special lunch the next day – a Saturday – has become impossible. This means that I would not be able to go to The Center to cook for the kids.

It is only on a Saturday that the Tembari children are able to have a decent lunch which is sponsored by two individuals chipping in K150 each.

Not only that. It’s on a Friday that I would collect all sorts of donations that I would bring to The Center the next day. And that car has doubled as The Center’s delivery truck – on occasions carrying several bags of rice, cartons of cordial drinks or tinned fish, etc etc.

One important routine that I normally do on a Friday is to pick up five containers of purified water – a donation from The Water Company. Last Friday I was not able to do that.

The result? The kids had their lunch without tasting a single drop of water.

The settlement’s water service operated by the village association, as usual, remains hopeless – water did not come at the time agreed upon, to the chagrin of many people whose buckets and plastic containers made a long line in front of the dry tap.

Our volunteer mothers came back to The Center with empty buckets.

Feeling bad that I would not be able to bring food to The Center for the next day’s feeding – a Saturday choir that I have been doing since last January – I was forced on Friday night to call a Filipino expatriate who manages the Hideaway Hotel at 6-Mile.

It was my last resort – the only option to save the children’s day. The kids have been used to having a nice lunch every Saturday – something very much different from what they usually have for a meal from Monday to Friday.

I told him my problem – beginning from the car breakdown, to the foodstuff and ingredients for the next day’s feeding program that I was unable to buy.

“Can you ask your chef to prepare something for the kids’ lunch tomorrow?” I asked him shamelessly, without preamble.

“How many kids are we talking about …?” Don Manaloto, the general manager of Hideaway hotel, asked back without making further questions.

“At least 97, plus seven volunteer mothers … do you think this is workable …?” I asked back.

“Okay … not a problem …” Don replied, adding: “I will tell the kitchen to do some nice dish and have it delivered before lunch time … you said 11am, right?”

But then, I wanted to come to The Center to do other things. Earlier, I had planned to teach the volunteer mother assigned to cook the children’s daily meals how to make bread, using yeast.

We have a huge flour stock, a donation from Lae Biscuits that we have to consume immediately before bugs and weevils beat us on it.

But this one may not push through that day as I won’t be able to go to The Center.

But luckily, a friend wanted to meet the Tembari children on Saturday and to bring them a carton of ice cream, so I asked him to pick me up at home, explaining that I was, and still, car-less.
On our way to The Center, I got a call from Hayward Sagembo, Co-Founder and Director of Tembari Children Care (TCC), to say that food from Hideaway Hotel just arrived. He asked if I f I was coming. I said I was on the way now.

The catered lunch was great – chicken stew with lots of meat and potatoes and gravy. The diners– numbering 90 kids – enjoyed the food enormously.

Since there was no water to drink (we even skipped the kids’ hands washing as there was no water to spare), I told the volunteer mothers to give them milk instead, just to have something to wash the food down their throats.

I don’t know how long it would take the mechanic to find the parts that would resurrect my car. I have been using this junk for the last 14 years that it should really be retired now – for good.

But that is out of the question.

Penny Sagembo, TCC Co-Founder and Co-President, apportioning to the 90 kids who came for lunch on Saturday.

A volunteer mother serving lunch to the kids.

Children enjoying their lunch despite having no water to drink.

These two water coolers are empty due to water crisis at the village.

Empty milk packs strewn under the table while mothers prepare to serve milk to the children to take the place of drinking water.

A volunteer mother scoops chocolate ice cream for the children.

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Livelihood program for Tembari volunteer mothers

The 10 volunteer mothers of The Center display their Micro-Finance bank savings passbooks while Penny Sagembo (back) founder of the Tembari Children Care (TCC) center looks.

A Friend of Tembari Children

THE Center made another small leap forward last week by helping its 10 volunteer mothers help themselves.

Using some money from donated funds, the Tembari Children Care (TCC) has rolled out its own version of a livelihood assistance project for the volunteer mothers who are now engaged in small buying-and-selling business at the settlement.

TCC founder Penny Sagembo has set aside K1,000 to hit two targets.

With the first K500, she helped the 10 mothers opened a savings bank account with PNG Micro-Finance, each receiving a savings passbook with a starting savings balance of K50.

Then, the other K500 was equally divided to the volunteer mothers – or K50 each – as The Center’s livelihood assistance so they could start with some small business activities in the settlement that would enable them to generate daily income.

In short, each mother has secured a K100 livelihood assistance, for a total of K1,000 which they will to repay from their profits at the rate of K20 a fortnight.

According to Micro-Finance, the Tembari volunteer mothers belong to a group which usually does not receive services from commercial banks like opening a savings bank accounts.

The main reason is that they are simply financially handicapped.

Every fortnight, the mothers will have to repay the seed capital and the initial saving account balance at the rate of K20 from their daily profits. Then, they would also set aside an amount that would go into their savings accounts.

Once a mother participant has an accumulated savings of K300, she becomes eligible to apply for a K300 seed capital at low interest to expand her buy-and-sell activities.

“Some of the mothers started selling their wares early last week and are doing good … they have already set aside the first K20 from their profit to repay the seed capital and another amount which they would deposit in their individual bank accounts,” Penny said.

The mothers are engaged in buying and selling betelnuts, smokes, lollies and vegetables among others and they sell them at the flea market at the settlement.

“Once a participant mother has saved a total of K300 in her bank account, Micro-Finance would now make available to her a soft loan of K300, or an amount it would determine so she could use it to expand her buy-and-sell business,” Penny said.

The mother participants, who are single mothers and considered by TCC as financially-handicapped, have children among the 97 beneficiaries of The Center’s day care services.

Penny said the mothers could use part of their profits for the immediate needs of their schoolchildren like bus fares and school snacks.

These schoolchildren numbering 42 are among those being looked after by TCC by feeding them everyday and paying for their school fees with help from WeCaRe!, a funding institution operated by retired priest Fr John Glynn.

After attending the day’s classes in 11 elementary and primary schools around Port Moresby, they come home to The Center in the afternoon to have early dinner, before going home to their guardian parents for the night.

Penny said TCC could not afford to pay for the schoolchildren’s daily bus fares and snacks, but by providing the guardian parents a means to earn, they (parents) would be able to meet their foster-children’s daily needs.

The K1,000 seed money came from funds donated by charity groups and funding institutions.

Once the 10 mothers had repaid TCC, another batch of 10 underprivileged settlement mothers would follow suit under the same scheme.

I say kudos to Penny for continuously thinking of ways and means to help the Tembari children and their guardians. It’s something that she has been doing for them since 2003, when she founded TCC and operated it at great personal sacrifice.

Now, this livelihood scheme is one feather added to her cap, which has been gathering feathers since 10 months ago.

Indeed, it’s a small step that The Center has just taken.

And just to think that 10 mothers are now on their way to being able to become self-sufficient through this humble means … it’s quite amazing!

In short, 10 mothers are gradually being plucked from their sheer helplessness, and maybe out of their poverty.

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Young Raphael needs your help

One-year-old Raphael Gunisa with his foster-mother Cella Gunisa at The Center on Saturday. The young boy needs milk and vitamins.


A Friend of Tembari Children

ONE-YEAR-OLD Raphael Gunisa was brought to The Center on Saturday for help.

Raphael’s two legs and feet are in cast, done by the physiotherapist at the POM General Hospital about a week ago.

He was born with deformities in both of his feet: they are pointing inwards and he could stand with only the outer sides of his two feet – and not the soles -- touching the ground.

So his balance is off and his body sways left and right while standing.

And when he walks, he does it awkwardly, with his knees almost touching each other.

However, Raphael doesn’t feel any pain, thinking his way of walking is just natural. It’s only that he finds it hard to move around – meaning to walk around awkwardly.

Raphael is the fourth child of a couple who has no means to support themselves.

So on December 29, 2009, when he was just three months old, Raphael was given away by her parents to Cella Gunisa, 40, who lives at ATS Oro Settlement, at 7-Mile outside of Port Moresby.

The reason was that his parents have already three kids – all of them boys – and that they really wanted to have a girl.

So, they gave away poor Raph for adoption.

But foster parent Cella knew better.

Immediately, she already knew that her parents were aware Raph has deformities and that they did not want to have anything to do with him.

Last week, on advice from a doctor, Cella brought Raphael to a physiotherapist at the hospital who put the child’s legs and feet on cast. It is in the hope that the cast would do the trick – to make the feet normal.

It would be removed after six weeks, after which the attending doctor would determine if Raphael needed a surgery to fix the problem.

This exercise could be costly and Cella would like to appeal for help to get it done so her child would walk like a normal child.

With the cast in his legs and feet, Raphael moves around in the house crawling.

Raphael is now among the children that The Center is looking after. But the facility has no means to deal with his problem, so we are appealing for help on his behalf.

The boy is only a year old and his bones are still soft, so to speak. A surgery done as soon as possible has all the chance to solve his problem.

And he needs some feeding help – he needs toddler’s milk because the milk The Center has – the ones in one-litter packs – would not be suited for him.

Anyone who is able to help Raphael could contact me through my email addresses below. Or call me at my numbers – 324-6712 or 722-31984.

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Bread-making at The Center begins

APH in action while volunteer mothers watch to see the techniques in kneading bread dough. More pictures below story.


A Friend of Tembari Children

FINALLY, the crude oven fashioned from roofing sheet material was delivered to The Center last week.

Costing K300, it was fabricated in a workshop operated by a vocational school at Gerehu, a suburb in Port Moresby.

The oven is one of our means to deal with the huge stock of whole meal flour donated by Lae Biscuits. It could take us months to consume the two tons of flour we received. And bugs and weevils would be at it very soon.

One of these means is to bake bread for the daily snack needs of our children. Making bread would also do away with buying the expensive biscuits which we used to serve them for snacks.

And to start the ball rolling, I held a bread-making demo last Saturday for the benefit of volunteer mothers assigned to cook the Tembari children’s meals.

I find it quite inspiring because making bread is one of my favorite hubbies, which I had actually neglected for many, many years – 13 years.

When I first came to Port Moresby 17 years ago, I had a very boring existence. You can imagine Port Moresby during those days as a dead place – and deader on weekends -- for a new comer who was used to living in a noisy, lively city like Metro Manila.

So on Fridays and Saturdays, which happened to be my days off, I looked for things to do to spice up my life at home. I found bread-making to be one of them.

After cooling those freshly baked bread, I would distribute the buns to my apartment-neighbors who actually were my colleagues at The National newspaper.

They served as my guinea pigs, because the bread that I baked was a hit-and-miss affair. But later, I perfected the recipe which I continuously used for the next three years. Then I stopped it for one reason of the other.

Some 13 years ago on Saturday, I got back to it. I showed the 10 volunteer mothers how basic bread-making is usually done.

I knew they also baked bread but they would use baking powder and would produce what is known here in PNG as scones – a stone-hard stuff that you need a cordial to push it down your throat.

For my demo bread, I had an old recipe that used yeast.

The mothers said it was their first time to see yeast being used in bread. They were used to baking power, they said.

The recipe was quite complicated for first-timers like our volunteer mothers, so I explained it carefully and slowly.

While the oven was being fired for the first time to achieve the required baking temperature, I busied myself wrestling with the dough from whole meal flour. Kneading it was quite a tough job as it involved at least six cups of flour for demo purposes.

But it could be tougher, especially for the mothers, once they doubled the volume of flour to process to cover 97 children.

Actually, the demo bread was intended for the volunteer mothers so they would know exactly how freshly baked bread would taste.

But while I was working it, 12 children arrived at The Center one at a time, all expecting that there would still be food left for lunch. But lunch had been over two hours ago and all the children-diners had gone home.

Lucky these 12 children were. They were the ones who enjoyed the buns that I baked from the newly-arrived crude oven!

APH in the process of initially kneading the dough to make bread for the Tembari children. He was showing the mothers how to make bread using yeast.

APH rolling the dough.

APH has just made a long dough sausage, which would be cut into small pieces soon.

APH cutting the dough sausage into pieces after which it would be shaped into buns.

Shaping the cut dough into buns.

The makeshift oven being fired so it would achieve the required baking temperature.

APH preparing to shove the prepared dough into the oven.

The dough in trays as it sits inside the oven chamber, ready for baking.

APH with the freshly-baked buns – ready to serve.

Penny distributing the freshly baked buns to the 12 children who missed last Saturday’s special lunch.

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A chat with the deputy US Ambassador to PNG

A Friend of Tembari Children

ON FRIDAY morning, I had a chance to meet Paul Berg, the deputy US ambassador to Papua New Guinea, at his office at the US Embassy in downtown Port Moresby.

It was an appointment his staff Stacey arranged a few days earlier. She told me Mr Berg wanted to see me in person and talk to me about something that interested him most. I did not want to miss this meeting

You see, Paul is a good friend of the wife of Parker Borg, a very good friend of mine.

Parker was my teacher in English and Literature in high school in 1960-62. He was then a young American Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) sent by the Kennedy administration to the Philippines. I

In fact, he was among the very first PCVs the US government deployed all over the world as part of the government’s outreach program to under-developed countries – and that included the Philippines.

Parker descended on our small fishing-and-mining community called Jose Panganiban, in Camarines Norte in the Bicol region, Philippines, and settled there for two years.

I was one of his favorites. He edited-mangled the very first poem I had ever written for the school newspaper. Because of that, I decided to become a journalist although I earned my degree in accountancy.

Anyway, Parker went on to become a diplomat and later became the US Ambassador to Mali, then to Iceland. He was supposed to be assigned next to Myanmar (then Burma) but the US Congress blocked his ambassadorial posting because of the country’s human rights sins.

Himself an educator, Parker was appointed Diplomat in Residence for the American University in Rome (AUR) from 2005 to 2008, and then to Paris, at the American University in Paris (AUP) until now. During the 60s, he was on a diplomatic mission to Malaysia and Vietnam where he learned the language of both countries.

After we communicated briefly in the middle 80s, I lost him, but got connected with him again about two years ago. Then we drifted apart again but resumed exchanging email again just a few months ago.

Learning of my involvement with the Tembari Children, Parker immediately called Paul Berg from Paris and told him about my connection to him (Parker).

Parker also told Paul about my activities with the Tembari children, aside from being a journalist based in Port Moresby.

Meeting me on Friday morning, Paul told me that he has read all my blog postings at and was amazed by the passion that I have for the children’s welfare.

Now, he wanted to hear first hand my Tembari story.

I told him.

Soft-spoken as he is, Paul told me frankly that the US government resources for such programs like the ones the Tembari Children Care center is involved with are “disappointingly small”.

But anyway, he would enjoy talking with me about my Tembari project.

Paul said there might not be much the US Embassy could do, but he may be able to offer some ideas about local groups or NGOs operating in PNG.

In his recent email to me, Parker said: “I will continue to reflect on other possible sources of assistance, but Paul will probably have more interesting ideas than I might.”

For me, Paul’s having interest in what I do for the Tembari children is more than enough.

Here’s a guy who would be in the country for a limited time only and would move on according to the wishes of his government but found the Tembari children his new personal focus which could last even after his time in the country is up.

I have always marveled why it has to be a non-Papua New Guinean that should feel the concern for the unfortunate children like the Tembari kids and not the ones from their own people, race and blood.

Reflecting on it more deeply, I realized the reasons are varied, and most of them tainted with aversion to share and to be of help to the needy.

This is one of my disappointments with Papua New Guineans.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

PNG Concrete Aggregates, Hideaway Hotel are new Timbari Children’s supporters

Totoy, Hayward Sagembo, TCC president, and Engr Joe Buenaventura discussing how to install the water tank facility.

A Friend of Tembari Children

YESTERDAY, a mini-truck loaded with 100 pieces of hollow (cement) blocks came to The Center. Then another one arrived, this time carrying two cubic meters of fine sand.

I asked the first driver as to who sent for the materials and he told me: “Don Manaloto of Hideaway Hotel …”

Yes! I remember Don, the Filipino-expat general manager of Hideaway ... I talked to him a year ago at Hideway during the Hatid-Saya 2009 fundraising dinner-concert sponsored by the Filipino Association of PNG (FAPNG) which was held at the hotel.

Then, I realized that Don is also the general manager of the PNG Concrete Aggregates, a company which operates a people-and-environmentally-friendly sand-and-gravel quarry at 12 Mile outside of Port Moresby.

He sent the materials in partnership with two other Filipino-expatriates who are also helping the Tembari Children – Johnny Ala, owner of the ABC Builders and New Zealand-based construction engineer Joe Buenaventura. Joe is overseeing the two building projects at the Holiday Inn compound for the New Zealand-based construction company Canam Construction.

Joe bought the materials from PNG Concrete Aggregates and Don gave them at a giveaway price as the company’s assistance to The Center.

The cement bricks and sand and those cement bags and timber that Joe also bought will all go to the water facility project at The Center. They will be delivered this week.

I felt great. This project that I have been working on for The Center is gradually moving on.

This facility consists of a 1,000-gallon water tank, a connection of the access pipe to the water mainline at the settlement and a toilet-and-bath for the children.

The water tank and its attachments were donated by RH Foundation, the charity arm of RH (PNG) Group, while the expertise to install this –plumbing, carpentry and all will be provided by Joe and Johnny.

During the recent Hatid-Saya 2010 fundraising dinner-concert at Hideaway, Joe told Don about the Tembari Children who happened to be one of the two beneficiaries of the fundraiser. The other one is the Pediatrics Wards of the POM General Hospital.

“Did you know that the Tembari Children is Freddie’s project?” Joe said, referring to me.

And Don remembered, having talked to me last year about a possible news item that I intended to write for the business section of The National where I work.

Don, who is one of the advisers to the present leadership of FAPNG headed by businessman Joey Sena, immediately took interest in helping The Center.

Talking to me on the phone tonight, Don had asked a lot more questions, trying to find out how his two organizatons – the PNG Concrete Aggregates and Hideaway Hotel -- could fit in.

In fact, knowing that The Center is a day care and orphanage facility which now looks after 97 orphaned, unfortunate, abandoned and neglected children, Joe said he could send several mattress beds for the children.

He said that he is now in the process of renovating their bedroom facilities at Hideaway and he did not want to waste a lot of items, including beds.

But then I explained that our children go home to their foster-parents/guardians for the night and come back the next day for their preschool activities, and more importantly, for the day’s feeding.

Learning about the special Saturday lunch that I cook for the children, Don has offered to cater at least once a month for the children’s lunch -- to save me the trouble of cooking one weekend.

Which is really great!

Don also wanted to treat the Tembari Children to a weekend outing to his company’s quarry at 12-Mile, which has become a picnic ground for some friends in the city.

He developed the area into such a facility as his commitment to protect the ecology around the quarry grounds.

But the biggest news for the Tembari Children is that Don has committed his two companies’ support towards their upbringing into good members of the community, and to help them become good citizens of Papua New Guinea.

Don told me: “If there’s something the Tembari Children need, please go straight to me …”

My children – 97 of them – need a lot of things that would help them live a normal life. I have already assigned several of them to potential donors.

Now, should any one of them decide not to give, or is unable to provide the requested item, Don could expect a call from me.

To sum it all, the continuing inflow of help the Tembari Children are receiving from generous individuals and entities is awesome.

And quoting retired priest Fr John Glynn, operator of WeCaRe!, a funding NGO in Port Moresby, he told me in a recent email: “Comparing the assistance that the other feeding programs (13 in all) in Port Moresby are getting with what the Tembari Children get, I am just speechless …”

Besieged for more funding assistance by mothers who are operating feeding programs in and outside of Port Moresby, Fr John knows what he is talking about.

Delivery truck helpers unloading concrete bricks sent by PNG Concrete Aggregates.

A delivery truck from PNG Concrete Aggregates tipping over sand material to be used in installing the water tank facility at The Center.

The water tank is shown next to the concrete bricks and empty oil drums.

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God always provides: A surprise donor for Saturday feeding program

A Friend of Tembari Children

IT was Thursday night and I was a bit uneasy.

I only had a cash of K150 (US$52) in my wallet and 15kg of banana prawn sitting in a freezer at Our Yes Grocery at Gordons.

The cash and prawn were supposed to go into the ingredients that I would be cooking on Saturday for the Tembari Children’s special lunch. The banana prawn, by the way, was a donation from High Energy Co Ltd, a fishing company based in Port Moresby.

Having cooked for them special Saturday lunch since last January without fail, I knew that the available cash won’t be enough to cover all what I would cook on that day.

The four Saturdays of the month – first, second, third and fourth – are already covered by permanent feeding sponsors who chip in K150 each for the materials.

For this Saturday feeding - the first Saturday of October – the fund came from permanent sponsor Nanga Medical Center owned by Rey and Lulu Lambo.

However, this amount won’t be enough to feed 97 children at Tembari Center. The soaring cost of food items in Port Moresby is truly heartbreaking

So, I would look for a counterpart sponsor – in short, a co-sponsor – who would chip in another K150 to beef up the feeding fund.

But as of Friday morning, I haven’t found the missing co-sponsor. Or maybe, I did not try harder looking for one.

I took it in stride, anyway, deciding to revise the menu I had prepared for Saturday into something less costly to cook.

In short, I have to cut corners to make both ends meet, so to speak.

On Friday after lunch while at work, I had a visitor – Mae Odocayen, the sister of the late Dr Lu Lagayan, who recently passed away in the Philippines after being in coma for more than a month despite being looked after by two medical facilities in Port Moresby.

Finally, after a long delay, Dr Lu was brought home to Manila for the much-needed medical attention. But all was late and that her doctors finally gave her up. She died peacefully at home.

Mae came to see me regarding an ad booking with The National that she wanted to come out on Tuesday, December 5.

The ad placement will announce the names of all the people who helped the Lagayan-Romulo family paid for cost of Dr Lu’s medical expenses while in Port Moresby and also to announce the 40th day of mass offering for her at St Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Port Moresby.

Having arranged for the payment with our advertising cashier, I came back to Mae who was at the reception lobby and gave her the payment invoice.

Then, just before she took off to go back to CE Hardware at Grodons where she works, she handed me an envelope.

“Kuya Freddie, that’s for your feeding program this Saturday …” she said. “Kuya” is Filipino for “big brother”, the Filipino’s reference to a person his/her senior. The female counterpart is “ate, pronounced as ‘ah-teh’”, or “big sister”.

It was a big surprise. I had already given up hope in finding the counterpart money.

I was unable to ask Mae how she learned of my feeding program. But I had assumed that she heard of it from Dr Adel Lagayan, Dr Lu’s husband, who had also helped my Saturday feeding program in the past.

I thanked my Lord for the surprise money and thank Him again because my networking with people I know and don’t know continuously makes wonder for the Tembari Children.

Back in my work station upstairs, I opened the envelope. It yielded two K100 notes!

No kidding!

Since I have already decided on what to cook the next day, which cost about more than K250 (US$87), I used the extra money to buy other small items of bits and pieces that are needed for the day-to-day cooking at The Center.

Every time donations would come from people whom I did not expect to give because I never asked them for it, I felt goose-bumps crawling all over me.

So to all individuals and entities who had help and those who continuously help the Tembari Children, may the God Lord bless you everyday for your good hearts.

As Filipinos fervently believe, what you had given to the needy despite your bleeding over it would come back to you ten-fold.

A volunteer mother tending to a pot of soup.

A pot of rice is boiling over firewood-fed drum stove.

A volunteer mother stirring a pot of boiling soup.

Kids sipping their steaming hot soup.

Kids eating their lunch of stir fried prawn and mungo beans.

Engr Joe Buenaventura and Totoy enjoying lunch with the Tembari children.

Kids have loved the soup so much that they go for a second helping. Picture shows them as they crowded a pot of soup.

Totoy (left) and Joe pose for a picture with the preschoolers inside their classroom.

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