Sunday, December 19, 2010

One Christmas day at Tembari Center, with Santa Fredo

Santa Fredo … Blogger Alfredo P Hernandez plays Santa to the 114 Tembari children during a Christmas hamper party on Saturday at the Tembari Children Care (TCC) center.

Piles of hampers beneath the Christmas Tree – all ready for distribution. (More pictures after story).

A Friend of Tembari Children

ON SATURDAY, I played Santa to more than 100 children -- my first ever in the 62 years of my life.

And rating it as a personal project which I carried out all by myself over a month-long period till the Big Day on Saturday, December 18, I wouldn’t be ashamed to declare it a cool success!

Well, it is a self-serving claim, you may say, but what the heck!

Well, the Tembari kids told me: “Great! ‘Fredo …! And I believed them.

And the volunteer mothers? They were just equally ecstatic: We’ve never seen anything like this before …”

Each of the 114 Tembari children received two sets of hampers of goodies plus a toy or clothing, something that I had never seen done by charity groups here in Port Moresby.

Each of the 10 volunteer mothers got their hampers, too, featuring a nice meri blouse, of which they said: “At last, I can now own a beautiful meri blouse.”

Of course, there were also a number of items that went with their hampers, including Ox&Palm, a corned beef product from Hugo Canning. But the meri bouse was the “big thing”.

For all the things that transpired on that day, it was the sponsors, with help from the Good Lord, who made all them possible -- a Christmas reality for all my children.

And the 15 sponsors of my Christmas hamper party were just as generous, led by Lamana Hotel, SVS mart, AutoZeal, and a household unit of the Couples for Christ (CFC) in Port Moresby led by Filipino expats Cesar Nunez and wife Celia.

When I told Lamana Hotel’s Big Boss Yiannis Nicolaou about this project, he immediately committed K1,000 (US$375), saying: I am also doing the same thing to our beneficiary children. (Yiannis is president of PNG Children’s Foundation which is supporting hundreds of unfortunate children in Port Moresby.)

The other sponsors are Hugo Canning Ltd, Pacific Industries, Paradise Business Consultants, Parklane International Trading, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), the British High Commission, the troika at HiTron -- Lourdes, Jocelyn and Tony; Indian expat Sajani Kattapuram, Yes Ltd, Nationwide Constructions PNG and Rosa Yip.

The truth is, I approached (through email) more than 50 individuals and business houses for assistance in organizing this project.

But only 15 of them said “yes”.

And their generous sponsorships yielded three sets of hampers: CFC household composed of Cesar and Celia Nunez, Albert and Carren Barlift, Claire Tungol and Mary Laimo, delivered 120 sets containing mostly Philippine-made goodies while SVS produced 114 sets of toys and clothing based on the ages of the 114 Tembari kids that ranged from two years old to 18.

From the K2,300 (US$820) plus cash sent in by sponsors, I produced the third set of 114 hampers of assorted goodies (including chocolate bar, fresh apple and fresh orange) and other items incidental to the holding of our little party.

You won’t believe this: It needed 10 boxes of 20” x 20” boxes to contain all the hampers.

And I have to enlist AutoZeal, an automotive company in Port Moresby, to assist me in hauling off the goodies from my apartment at 3 Mile in Port Moresby to Tembari Center at ATS Oro Settlement, 7 Mile outside of Port Moresby.

I decided to treat my kids on this day to cheer them up this Christmas season before they go for a three-week break from school.

More importantly, the Christmas hamper party was also aimed at marking the first anniversary of my personal project – the Special Saturday Feeding Program – which I unwittingly launched on Boxing Day (Saturday, December 26) 2009.

Unwittingly, because I never thought that a one-day lunch cooking session with volunteer mothers on that day where I showed them how to cook a favorite Filipino dish called “arroz caldo” (rice porridge) would become a Saturday cooking event after that where I cooked mostly Filipino dishes.

And it culminated on Saturday with a nice lunch, capped by the serving of ice cream for everybody, courtesy of my good friend and workmate, Malaysian expat Nara Muniandy, who is, by the way, the production manager at The National newspaper, PNG’s No. 1 daily.

But this time, I did not cook the main dish of chicken stew as I had been very busy preparing the hampers; our lunch was catered by Hideway Hotel, courtesy of my good friend Don Manaloto, who learned of my plan for this little party. The nice chicken stew was a creation by Hideaway Hotel’s chef Gerry.

I only cooked a special soup which I called “ham/misua masala soup”, something that the Tembari kids had every Saturday.

The children could not just contain their excitement as we laid out the Christmas presents at the foot of our Christmas Tree, which was earlier donated by the family of Andre Potgieter and his friends.

A little kid, one of our preschoolers, came up to me as I was opening the first box of goodies: “Fredo … presents…?”

And I said: Yes.

Immediately, his two big eyes glowed, a very natural reaction from children who have come to know about Christmas and the gifts that come along with it.

Penny Sagembo, the founder of Tembari, and her husband Hayward, the president of the day care and orphanage facility, could not believe in what they were seeing as volunteer mothers put out the goodies and laid them at the base of the Christmas Tree.

“This is great … Fredo …” said Penny, who only expected a hamper each for the children.

“I couldn’t thank you enough for the great things to happen today to our kids …this is their first real Christmas …”

With everybody listening, she declared that with them alone, such an event will never take place.

As I have mentioned earlier, the Saturday special lunch cooking project is my personal activity for which I got the support of two sponsors every Saturday who paid for the cost of lunch.

I have always thanked my Lord because I did not run out of people who enthusiastically chipped in K200 each to help me provide a special meal to the kids every Saturday.

Those who have followed the progress of Tembari’s feeding program for its growing family, the children only ate four times a week (when I met the Tembari kids last December, there were only 78 kids; now it has grown to 114).

And that was Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and the food Penny and her volunteer mothers served the children were just kaukau (sweet potato), slice bread, veggies and cordial drink heavily diluted in ice water.

Now, our beneficiary children are having two meals a day Monday to Friday– at noon in the form of bread snacks for the preschoolers and in the afternoon as early dinner of rice, tinned fish and veggies for all the kids.

Thanks to our generous benefactors, supporters and donors.

Knowing how it is to have the same meal day in day out, I decided to pursue my Saturday lunch cooking to give the children something different and special for their lunch.

And I cooked this special dish myself at The Center, assisted by volunteer mothers who collected water from the village tap, which is anyway, dry most of the time, and those who collected firewood and prepared the cooking utensils I would need.

The volunteer mothers held their own party after most of the kids had returned home across the village.

They sang and danced and had a good serving of cake which I provided them as my way of thanking them for the help they provided during my Saturday cooking session which I religiously carried out without fail except when I had my yearly month-long work leave and had to go home to Manila; when I was held up at Gerehu Stage 4 one Friday afternoon last March when my car broke down shortly after picking up a donation of frozen chicken wings and beef brisket from PNF Freezers (in which I lost all the feeding money I collected that day), and when the same car conked out again recently just as when I was preparing for my Saturday cooking session and could not come to the settlement.

Don’t be surprised: My car is a 20-year-old junk Mazda 323 station wagon which I used to collect and deliver all donated goodies to Tembari Center.

Last Saturday was the culmination of this year’s activities at Tembari, marking the last feeding day for this year.

Penny and Hayward and their family will fly home to Popondetta for the holidays while the Tembari children will also be away from ATS Oro settlement to join their respective foster parents’ families somewhere in the country.

All activities at The Center, specially the preschool, will resume on Monday, January 19, 2011.

In closing, I would like to thank all individuals, business entities, groups and foundations that helped the Tembari Children found a new meaning in their lives.

They are still in poverty, but the experiences they had at The Center during the year 2010 made a big difference in their lives.

And The Center will work a little harder in the coming year, now that we have found our bearing with our benefactors, supporters and donors.

As for me, I would have to double my efforts to find new sources of food, money and materials to meet the growing needs of our children.

And will always pray for Divine guidance on behalf of the Tembari Children.

My prayers delivered all the things that transpired at The Center.

For instance on Saturday during the party, I received two pieces of great news from our supporters who would like to help our 114 beneficiary children further improve their lives.

I will write about them in my next blog.


Email the writer:
On Facebook, please search for Alfredo Hernandez for the pictures of Tembari Children

Santa Fredo enjoys giving away Christmas presents to his kids …

Blogger APH with his favorite Tembari girl, 10-year-old Melanie.

Penny Sagembo, Tembari founder, announcing to the children their Christmas break as volunteer mothers will take a three week holiday while children will be away from the village during the period. All feeding activities ended on Saturday and to resume on January 19, 2010.

Volunteer mothers hold their own party after gift-distribution.

Volunteer moms celebrating the Christmas season and rejoicing friendships they developed while serving the Tembari Children.

Volunteer moms sorting out the hampers while Hayward Sagembo, Tembari president, calling out the next beneficiary child to receive the Christmas present.

Wagi, the Ice Cream Man, dishing out cones of vanilla ice cream with choco bits. The frozen delight was donated by Malaysian expatriate Nara Muniandy, production manager of The National newspaper, PNG’s No. daily.

Tembari kids browsing the Christmas presents they received.

Tembari kids showing off their Christmas presents.

The trio of Melanie and her two friends with stuff toys and building blocks donated by the staff association at the British High Commission in Port Moresby.

Boys sipping ham/misua masala soup.

This young, mixed race Tembari girl has been abandoned by her Indonesian father.

Girl smiling for the camera.

Girl with piles of hampers on the table.

Moms cooking additional local dish for lunch.

Volunteer mom tending to special soup for the Tembari children especially prepared by blogger APH.

Tembari kids on their way home at the village after the Christmas hamper party.

Hamper of goodies

Camera catches girl by surprise.

Girls enjoying lollipops and cadies from the hamper.

Girls enjoy their ice cream in cones

Enjoying their ice cream in cone.

Ice cream queue.

The last of the ice cream scoops.

Boys proudly displaying their Christmas presents.

Penny and the volunteer moms singing a Christmas carol.

APH, a Friend of Tembari Children (center), is flanked by Hayward Sagembo, Tembari president (right) and Penny Sagembo, Tembari founder.-- Pictures by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ and NARA MUNIANDY.


  1. Sir congrats to your very successful Christmas party with the Tembari children

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