Sunday, December 12, 2010

Yearend report: Tembari 2010 -- A modest success dotted with setbacks

Tembari’s preschool children proudly displaying their picture books donated by SF Yong, director of Pacific Star Ltd, publisher of The National, the leading daily in Papua New Guinea. (More pictures after story).

A Friend of Tembari Children

AS the Tembari Children Center (TCC) steered across the gulf of 2010, it picked up some success and hit a glacier of setbacks.

We succeeded in the following areas:
1) Feeding program
2) Education program (preschool, elementary and primary levels)
3) Food assistance from donors, supporters and benefactors
4) Funding support from donors, supporters and benefactors
5) Improving operational capabilities as day care facility
6) Small seed money/livelihood assistance to our volunteer mothers; and
7) Elimination of food line during daily feeding program; food is served on the dining tables

We suffered setbacks:
1) We just lost the K400 monthly food assistance from WeCare! Foundation. Starting 2011, The Center will no longer get the money needed in its daily feeding activities.

2) Worse, we also lost the school fee assistance from WeCaRe! for our 63 schoolchildren in the elementary and primary levels for the school year 2011. Total cost: K9,450. (I will discuss the K400 feeding assistance and school fee issues in a separate blog.)

This is a big blow to our 63 children in the elementary and primary levels as they will have to drop out during school year 2011, and hit the streets again unless I am able to find a new sponsor to cover their school fees to keep them in the classrooms.

Twenty of these kids finished preschool this year at The Center and are supposed to be in Grade I next school year.

3) We are unable to get power connection to The Center although PNG Power has continuously promised to link us to its grid at ATS Oro Settlement. It looks like it will not happen year.

4) We are still trying to build our water supply facility comprising a 1,000-gallon synthetic plastic tank and the connection to the main water mainline of Eda Ranu at the settlement.

The materials for this important facility – cement blocks, cement, sand and gravel, water tank and piping -- were provided by RH Foundation, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Ltd and Eng Joselito Buenaventura of New Zealand.

Right now, work is in progress and we expect to install the water tank and the needed piping connection before the year is over.

But since the Eda Ranu’s water pressure at ATS Oro Settlement has continuously remained low, keeping the whole village dry for most of the day, we doubted that water could reach our water tank facility at all.

5) We are unable to build the third classroom for our 50-60 preschoolers as the promised donation of building materials like timber and roofing sheets has not materialized as of now. The cost of this project: K7,000 plus.

So far, two sets of our preschoolers with combined members of 40 kids hold classes in the classrooms and the third class are being taught their numbers and ABC lessons under the mango tree.

6) We are unable to pursue our poultry project aimed at generating income to boost our feeding program. Reason: We did not have sufficient supply of water required to raise 45-day chicken. So the half-completed poultry house was then dismantled.

7) We are unable to start our small livelihood program producing “meri” dresses because the needed electricity to run our sewing machines has yet come to The Center. This project aims to help some village mothers earn some money for their family needs.

9) We are unable to conduct a medical mission for our beneficiary children, although we targeted the month of November for this event. The doctors and nurses that should have been able to help us realize this could not jibe their time.

WHEN I FIRST met the Tembari kids last December (2009), there were only 78 of them benefiting from the Tembari feeding and educational program.

As of today, there are 114 children under our care, an increase of 36 over the last five months.

Over this period, in short, we succeeded in saving from the clutches of the village streets 36 abandoned, orphaned and neglected children and enlisted them into our programs.

So these days, we are feeding at the most 114 mouths 24 days a month – from Monday to Saturday. Considering the number, the amount of food required was quite substantial.

Every day, our volunteer mothers would cook 12kgs of rice and would prepare at least 20 to 27 tinned fish (425gms) to feed the children.

The food assistance that we have been getting is quite substantial and this enabled us to improve the children’s diets.

This was bolstered by a flour donation from Lae Biscuits of two tonnes of whole meal flour and another batch of biscuit flour of 10 50kg bags. This enabled our volunteer mothers to bake bread for the children everyday for their noon snacks after their morning preschool classes were done.

In the afternoon, all of the 114 kids share an early dinner or rice and tinned fish cooked with veggies, cordial drink and fresh milk.

Our feeding program, shall we say, is the most successful among the 16 soup kitchens operating in and out of Port Moresby. Of this number 11, including The Center, received each a K400 monthly assistance to their respective feeding program during 2010.

With the measly monthly K400 grant WeCare! had provided, the 10 other feeding programs could only feed their respected beneficiary children two or three days every week.

Others could only serve food five days in a month. The K400 monthly grant could barely pay for the food needs of the children, but the village mothers operating the soup kitchens could not do anything but grumbled.

Fr John Glynn, the operator of WeCaRe!, is determined to keep the amount that way – whether or not the soup kitchen has five kids to feed or 100.

During Tembari’s more than seven years of existence, starting from 2003 when it was founded by Penny Sagembo as a hand-to-mouth soup kitchen, it did not enjoy funds that would allow it to feed its wards properly.

From 2003 to February 2009, Penny used her own funds to feed more than 50 children at least twice a week.

However, from March 2009, Tembari began receiving a K400 monthly feeding grant from WeCaRe! upon the recommendation of Digicel Foundation, which saw the merit of Penny’s effort to improve the nutrition of her children-beneficiaries – the abandoned and orphaned children from the settlement.

However, this assistance, which went on until the end of this year, has been discontinued starting 2011 over reasons that I would discuss in a separate blog next week. I feel that it deserves a separate discussion.

When I decided to join Tembari Center last January, I promised the officers – TCC president Hayward Sagembo and his wife Penny, the founder -- that I would help them find food, money and materials for the children.

Thanks to my Lord, I have managed to do this, with modest success.

So, from a hand-to-mouth existence of a feeding program in which it could only afford to serve the children four times a week – that is Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, where the children were served only kaukau (sweet potatoes), sliced bread, local greens and cordial drink, The Center’s soup kitchen has become a five-day affair (Monday to Friday), feeding the children twice a day – noon snacks of freshly baked bread and early dinner of rice, tinned fish, fresh milk and cordial drinks.

And on Saturdays, a special lunch is prepared for them that usually consisted beef, chicken or fish fillet, veggies, rice, special soup, fresh milk and cordial drink.

I myself did the cooking right at The Center, using ingredients paid for by two sponsors, with each one chipping in, at first, K150 for a total of K300.

However, since three months ago, I requested my Saturday sponsors to raise their sponsorships to K200 each to cover the cost of inflation. Foodstuff has become costly in Port Moresby that the usual K300 that I would budget for every Saturday feeding could no longer meet the cost of the Saturday lunch.

The Saturday feeding has become my personal project for the Tembari Children and does not use funds from the coffers of Tembari.

I decided to do this to give my children something different to eat every Saturday and as a special treat, I also prepared special soup, something they have looked forward to every Saturday.

Our daily feeding program was made possible by continuous inflow of rice every month from regular donors, along with tinned fish donation that mostly came on one-off basis. That’s why I kept on looking for donors to provide this foodstuff.

The regular tinned fish donation from RD Tuna of 10 cartons a month, which only begins this month (December), would only cover 10 days of feeding, making it an urgent necessity for us to buy tinned fish using our funds to cover the remaining 10 days in our Monday-to-Friday feeding program.

We also received a generous supply of fresh milk from the British High Commission. Lasting for about six months, the BHC milk assistance enabled us to provide the kids fresh milk from Monday to Friday.

Another fresh milk donation from an executive at RH Group enabled us to serve the children milk during the four Saturdays of every month.

Along with this, Supermarket SVS, since last September, has been providing the Tembari children 10 cartons of flavored milk (40 packs of 200ML per carton for a total of 400), enough to cover the children’s milk needs for four days, at the rate of 100 packs a day.

We have a regular monthly allocation of four cartons of cordial drinks from Pacific Industry, enough to cover 12 days (Monday to Saturday).

And for three months from last August, we received a donation of eight cartons a month of cordial drink products from Coca-Cola Amatil. I intend to solicit from CCA again the same quantity of supply for next year.

Once in a while, we also received a donation of fresh marine products – frozen fish and frozen prawn – from High Energy Co, a fishing company based in Port Moresby.

Since we don’t have readily available drinking water at The Center, I requested two water bottling company – The Water Company and Parklane Trading International, the bottler of Aqua Five – to provide us drinking water every Saturday. Their purified water donations have been going on since middle of this year.

To help with our daily operational cash flow, Pacific Towing Co based in Port Moresby has been providing Tembari with a monthly grant of K400 since January this year.

The PNG Children’s Foundation has been paying for the K300 monthly allowances of our three volunteer teachers at our preschool. Each getting K100 each, they needed some assistance for their daily bus fare in coming to The Center.

Of late however, they requested to increase their monthly stipend by K70 each, an amount we have to get from our monthly petty cash funds.

Early this year, our volunteer teachers walked out for several weeks as we were unable to pay for their K50 fortnightly stipend.

PNG Children’s Foundation came to our rescue by extending us the K300 monthly grant to cover their allowances.

Funding assistance

DURING the year 2010, The Center effectively received a total funding assistance of K49,500 from various donors that included the Malaysian Association of PNG (K15,000), the Indian Association of PNG (K2,000), WeCaRe! (K4,800 as feeding assistance), Pacific Towing Ltd (K4,800), PNG Children’s Foundation (K2,700 for teachers’ allowances), British High Commission (K7,200 for milk assistance) and from an executive of RH Group (a personal donation of K3,000) and lately, from Maxine Angiga, one of this year’s Women in Business (WIB) awardees sponsored by Westpac bank, (K10,000).

We also received a school fee grant of K5,000 plus from WeCaRe! for school year 2010, which went straight to the 11 elementary and primary schools where our 42 children were enrolled. So, it did not go to our bank account.

Of the K49,500, The Center spent about K29,500 during the 12-month period this year at an average of K2,450 to K3,000 a month.

Last week, the Tembari’s bank account with Bank South Pacific showed a balance of K20,000 after withdrawing the last K3,000 which has been budgeted on operating expenses for the month of December.

Being one of the three signatories to the Timbari cheques, I made it sure that the items covered by the spending were proper and necessary.

Of the K20,000-bank balance, K10,000 represents what has been left of the Malaysian Association grant received early this year, while the other K10,000 comes from Maxine’s funding donation -- the funding grant she received from Trukai Ltd owing to her winning the WIB award.

Trukai awarded Maxine K10,000 on the condition that she donates the amount to a charity of her choice. She chose Tembari Children Center to receive the grant to help it support its programs for the year 2011.

We are reserving the remaining bank balance of K20,000 to fund the improvement of our facilities and acquisition of new ones.

It we used half of this to fund our children’s school fees for 2011 amounting to K9,450, we would be left with nothing but K10,000, which could be used up in just three months under or monthly spending exercise.

Having used it up, the immediate result would be drastic slow down in activities at The Center, especially those involving our paid volunteer mothers.

We would have to drop them, leaving our preschoolers high and dry and the entire feeding program in disarray as, like we have found out, there would be no mothers these days willing to do volunteer jobs in our soup kitchen knowing that we are getting funding from somewhere.

This we can’t afford to happen as it directly affects our services to the children who, during the past 12 months, have experienced tremendous changes in their lives in terms of care and attention they had received from us. And most of all, a change for the better in their daily nutrition.

Truly, The Center has become their second home where they have been treated like family.

The K2,450 to K3,000 monthly cash flow went to tinned fish, cooking ingredients that included food seasoning, veggies; teachers’ allowances, volunteers allowances (for three volunteer mothers who prepare the daily meals), The Center administrator and caretaker’s allowance. A few hundred kina went to administrative expenses.

The presence of an administrator has been crucial to our operations. Wagi, the administrator, has seen to it that our food supplies and other materials and The Center’s facilities are well looked after.

And to ward-off any unwelcome individuals to The Center’s premises such as village trouble makers and unscrupulous individuals who could be eyeing our food stocks.

Our biggest monthly expense went to the purchase of fresh milk at the rate of K300 a week to cover the milk needs of our 100 to 114 beneficiary children from Monday to Friday. The British High Commission’s funding for the milk program totaling K1,200 was transferred to Tembari’s bank account every month.

The six-month milk assistance, however, ended last October. Because of this, I am now looking for new donors.

Otherwise, we would be forced to tap from our funding balance the amount of K1,200 a month so that our milk program would not be interrupted, an affair that would greatly deplete our funds.

(Another regular milk donation from an executive at RH Group covered the milk needs of the children for the four Saturdays of the month.)

Fr John Glynn, patron and founder of WeCaRe! Foundation, in his December 2010 newsletter, has credited Tembari Children’s Care (TCC) for its being a “well organized” care group.

And Marina van der Vlies, chief executive of Digicel Foundation, one of our benefactors, said that Tembari has progressed over the last 12 months by leaps and bounds, and is miles ahead of its counterparts in Port Moresby – all these reflected better services to our beneficiary children.

We reached this level in our operations during the year because of the generous assistance from our benefactors, donors and supporters in terms of funding, food assistance and materials.

An organization of this size like the Tembari needs a management that would ensure that our resources – food, funds, materials and facilities – are better looked after and sustained.

It also requires adequate funding to carry out its programs that cater for the present and new needs of our beneficiary children.

So far, we have both of this in modest extent because our benefactors, supporters and donors have made it possible during 2010.

I hope and pray that we could do much better next year – all for the sake of our children.

And all would depend on how willing our benefactors, supporters and donors would be to continue helping the Tembari children during 2011.

And lastly, I firmly believe that transparency in our operations would draw sustained patronage of individuals, business houses and institutions.

During the year 2010, transparency in dealings with our benefactors and supporters has become our assets – the source of our strength.

And with utmost transparency, we will pursue our goal of improving the lives of the Tembari Children by serving them with tender, loving care that only a home like the Tembari Children’s Care center could give.

Thank you and Merry Christmas to All!

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Children reading books while waiting for lunch to be served on Saturday.

Tembari boys carrying firewood.

Tembari kids doing a clean up at the Tembari premises.

Kids having lunch of minced beef and soup on Saturday, during a special feeding session.

Young girls enjoying their lunch last Saturday.

Children reading books while waiting for lunch to be served on Saturday.

The water tank that is waiting to be installed.

Penny Sagembo, founder of Tembari Children Center (TCC) Inc busy cleaning up The Center's premises on Saturday.

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