Sunday, March 27, 2011

Modest success in Tembari preschool program

After a year of education at Tembari preschool, five children were promoted to the primary grades – in Grade 4 and 5 at Wardstrip Primary, in Gordon, Port Moresby. They are (from left) Nicholas Hivi, 15 year old, Rua Raymond, 14; and Joyce Nancy, 13, who are now in Grade 5. Audrey Steven, 12, and Emily Pange, 13, are in Grade 4. All living with single mothers, they are among the 175 beneficiary children of Tembari Children Care (TCC).

Janet Tema, Tembari’s administrator and herself a preschool teacher, with her young son. She supervised the education of the four Tembari children who have been promoted to primary level after finishing a year of preschool education. (Pictures by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ).

A Friend of Tembari Children

WHEN they joined Tembari’s preschool program for the first time last year, these five children neither had the chance to hold a book before nor read a single written word.

In short, they never had the chance to be in a classroom during their lifetime, getting some education.

The great story is that graduating from preschool last year and moving up to the next level this school year, these Tembari kids leaped straight to primary – in Grade 4 and Grade 5 – instead of slotting themselves in Grade 1, which is the normal process.

Their situation was quite unique: they were already aged from 12 to 15 when they first had their early education at Tembari preschool.

Nicholas Hivi, 15; Rua Raymono, 14; Joyce Nancy, 13; Audrey Steven, 12; and Emily Pange, 13, have generic heartrending stories – they are all living with single mothers who have no means to put them up to school, even in preschool at that.

That’s why they have grown old without seeing a classroom.

They first learned of Tembari’s preschool classes when they began coming to The Center to join its feeding program.

Food was always lacking at home and Tembari, as a day care center, was the only place at ATS Oro Settlement at 7 Mile, outside of Port Moresby where they could have food at least once a day.

Learning that they were never in school despite their ages, Tembari founder and program manager Penny Sage-embo offered to take them in for The Center’s preschool education.

And knowing their predicament as first-time learners, the preschool teacher who handled them last year – Joe Oyu – worked hard by giving them school works that catered to the mental capabilities of children their age.

Their special lessons were geared towards perking up their reading and writing potential and their ability to handle simple operations of arithmetic.

When Tembari enrolled them early this year at Wardstrip Elementary School at Gordon in Port Moresby, to join Grade 1, school administrator immediately suggested they should join the primary school – in Grade 4 and 5.

But first the head teacher wanted to find out if they can handle works on that level.

Impressed with their performance, he supported a formal recommendation from Tembari administrator Janet Tema that they should be promoted to Grade 4 and 5.

Learning of the odd news, the children’s single mothers were shocked.

On the other hand, Rua, Nicholas, Joyce, Audrey and Emily were so excited to move to the “big school”, but quite nervous as they were going straight to Grade 4 and 5 and did not have any idea how things would be like up there.

To them, their three-grade jump, in which they avoided doing Grade 1, 2 and 3, was unbelievable.

Nicholas and Rua are both in Grade 5, section A, while Joyce is in Grade 5, section F. Audrey is in Grade 4, section B and Emily, also Grade 4, in Section C.

Janet, herself a preschool teacher, told me on Saturday that the five actually received their elementary education – Grades 1, 2 and 3 – while sitting in classes at Tembari’s preschool.

“We were able to design a special program to prepare them for school works at higher grade level,” she said.

Now, to sustain their good breaks, Janet has volunteered to give them special tutoring every Saturday.

“This would help them catch up with school loads that are the staple in Grades 4 and 5,” she said.

No longer children but teenagers, they quite enjoy life where they are now at school.

The only hassle is that they have to work hard to really deserve their blessings.

I just hope they can take the pressure.

Indeed, their feat is a modest success in our preschool program.

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New supporter visits Tembari children

Elaine Blagnaut (center) and Louise Piek with Hayward Sagembo, Tembari president, during their visit to The Center on Saturday.

Elaine hands over to Hayward a plastic bag with foodstuff upon their arrival at The Center on Saturday, while Louise looks on. A regular donor, Elaine dropped off 20 bags of rice and tinned fish to assist The Center in its daily feeding program for the 175 beneficiary children. (More pictures after story.)

A Friend of Tembari Children

REGULAR donor Elaine Blagnaut, an expatriate executive with Port Moresby-based RBP Trading, came to The Center on Saturday with a colleague in tow.

Our new friend and also new supporter is Louise Piek, a medical nurse with RBP Trading branch in Rabaul, East New Britain.

Louise happened to be in Port Moresby on a company errand and took the opportunity to meet the Tembari children after Elaine told her about them.

Our visitors, who came at a time when we were just starting to cook the children’s especial lunch, were quite impressed with our modest facilities that included a newly-set up office.

Thanks to a recent donation of book and magazine shelves, office desk and a computer set, our office now looks decent. It is something that we are proud to show off to people visiting The Center.

Of course, I took the opportunity of telling Elaine and Louise that we need a lot of things at The Center, which we feel would help enhance the day to day life of our children.

For instance, the children need new reading materials like picture books for our preschoolers and reading books for our school children.

Our preschoolers have already outgrown those that were donated last year. And they are looking for more, something new.

Now that we are about to have electricity, we are also thinking of acquiring a DVD player and a decent TV monitor so we could play kiddy educational program that would greatly help our children get exposed to new things.

DVD programming has been educating millions of children across the world -- from cities down to villages with access to electricity -- starting from learning about the alphabet and numbers, a familiar stuff on Sesame Street, to lots of nursery games played by the gang in Bananas in Pyjamas and Dora.

Kiddy programming and new books would keep the children busy while waiting for lunch to cook and after our preschoolers are done with their morning classes.

The duo agreed that such new activities for the kids would always be worthwhile. The said they would find ways to make them a reality for our children.

I know they’ll work on it.

When Elaine first came to The Center last year, we were just starting to stabilize things at The Center, including our monthly supplies of foodstuff needed to sustain our daily feeding program for our beneficiary children.

Those days, Tembari only had 78 children. Now we are looking after 175 children – 69 of them attending elementary and primary schools and about 100 preschoolers and some toddlers.

Anyway, the main reason Elaine came to The Center on Saturday was to drop off 20 bags of rice (10kg), cartons of tinned fish and sweet goodies for the children.

Elaine wanted to make sure that we have enough of this while she is away on a holiday overseas starting next month.

It is heartwarming to have somebody like Elaine being actively involved in promoting the welfare of Tembari Children.

And when people visit them with commitments to help in changing their lives for the better, I know we are on the right track.

Tembari children chat while waiting for their special lunch to cook on Saturday. They were served curry chicken wings with pumpkin cubes, onion soup, cordial drink and fresh milk.

This gives his best smile for a rare picture of his.

Tembari boy reads while waiting for lunch to be served.

A heap of off-cut timber for firewood. This was delivered by the joinery division of Hideaway Hotel.

Two Tembari girls fetching water.

Hayward distributes flavored milk to the children. The milk is a donation from SVS supermart.

Tembari kids carry cartons of tinned fish donation from RD Tuna.

Children collect foodstuff from Elaine’s car.

Preschoolers browsing picture books.

Children fall in line to wash hands before they are served onion soup.

Hands crowd a small basin of water.

Three pots – one for chicken stew and two for onion soup.

Onion soup being served.

Tembari kids receive their bowls of rice and chicken stew.

Children having lunch while seated on the blue mat.

Girl dispensing with cordial drinks.

Kids have their soup.

Toddler Raphael drinks his cordial.

Girl washes dirty cups. (All pictures by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ, Port Moresby, PNG)

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bonding with Tembari kids

CJ, aka Charlotta Rayner Johansson, an expatriate visitor, shows something on her cell phone while the kids get enthusiastic about looking at it.

CJ (from left), Hayward Sagembo, Tembari president; Thomas Kuo, fishing-export company High Energy general manager; and an employee of High Energy, at The Center on Saturday. Thomas dropped by at The Center on Saturday to deliver 20kg of frozen fish for the children. (More pictures at the end of story.)


A Friend of Tembari Children

THE ONLY word that could sum up this little tale is “bonding”.

It was one of those rare occasions at Tembari Center that a first-time visitor would opt to stay on some more beyond what a normal visit like this one would be -- just to be with the kids and bond with them.

And considering that our new friend has just been in the country for about two years to work with an international company, her instant personal attraction with the Tembari kids is even more heartwarming.

Having lived in Port Moresby for more than 17 years, I know that many, many expatriates have aversions to being with Papua New Guinean kids, much less work for them, as in serving them.

The reasons whatsoever for their being would be many but I respect such feelings, which I hope would somehow change for the better one day.

CJ, as Charlotta Johansson would like to be called, was unaware of Tembari children until last week.

She read a story in The National newspaper about them being named beneficiary of a fundraising concert sponsored by the Filipino Association of PNG (FAPNG) last Valentine’s Day.

Her company, Taubmans & International Paint, local maker and distributor of global paint brand Azko Nobel, was apparently scouting for some social outlets where it could channel its charitable juices, being part of its corporate responsibilities.

The firm has been in PNG for more than four decades.

And to CJ, Tembari’s public appeal for assistance from the general public so it could continue providing services to some 175 unfortunate children from ATS Oro Settlement outside of Port Moresby is such an opportunity for her company to look into.

She clipped the two-column item headlined “Filipinos aid Tembari” and emailed it to her bosses – for their consideration.

She has crossed her fingers, meanwhile.

But personally, it was an opportunity for her to work closely for a group of children that she would be meeting for the first time – if there was an opportunity for her to see them.

In short, she would like to have personal relationships with them.

The truth is that she has wanted to have something like this for quite sometime now with Papua New Guinean children. But the problem was that she did not know where to start, or where to find them.

In an email to me last Friday, CJ offered to come to The Center to help us with our cooking activities on Saturday – at least for a start.

At the same time, she wanted to find out for herself what assistance she could provide to the children on a personal level.

Arriving at The Center at past 10am after we convoyed to the settlement from Boroko Foodworld supermarket where we met for the first time, CJ was greeted with the frenzied excitement from Tembari children.

The kids have been used to being paid visits by outsiders, most of them first-time visitors who later became ardent supporters after leaving the center – and CJ’s showing up at their doorsteps was, as usual, one of those and therefore, a cause for celebration.

“Oh, my God …! They’re so excited …” were the first words I heard from her as soon as she got out her car.

“This place is great … I would love to be here as often as I could …”

Instantly, she mingled with the kids, asking them how they were doing on such a sunny Saturday morning.

She asked me what she could do to start her day with the kids who came, as usual, for the day’s special lunch.

She talked to our volunteer mothers doing the cooking (under my supervision, of course) and tried to find out what she could do to help them with kitchen work.

As always, Hayward Sagembo, Tembari president, was on hand to brief new visitors on our services, and this morning he did it, telling CJ that we have been doing the especial Saturday feeding since last year as part of our nutrition program.

More importantly, CJ was apprised of what assistance the children would need to further enhance their lives.

From snatches of our conversations while I was trying to orchestrate last Saturday’s lunch cooking that almost went disastrous due to some oversight in cooking process -- in which I prepared minced beef and special soup -- CJ says she has now a pretty good idea of what she could do to help.

“I have a good network of friends to whom I could tell the story of these children … I know they won’t resist this opportunity to help m…”

The kids need to be busy while waiting for lunch and after – maybe some new picture books they could browse, she says.

“I would look into this … I’ve got friends back home in Australia who have children that have outgrown kiddy books.”

During her four hours with the kids, she had been assaulted by shrieks and sounds only Tembari children could draw out.

But she dismissed them all; it was part of her baptism into volunteer work like what she was having on Saturday.

But for the first time, she loved what was happening in her life that day – that of being surrounded with children (there were about 80 of them who came for lunch).

I never knew what she was telling the kids and what the kids were telling her in return but the process of building a relationship with them was pretty obvious.

There was this bunch of small kids who cornered her in a huddle, engaging her in some nursery games like “rock, paper and scissor …” – one kiddy stuff which CJ obviously knew of very well, herself being a child long, long ago.

And she merrily played along, knowing that these kinds were enjoying the whole affair immensely as she herself was enjoying it, something she did not expect until that moment when it was actually happening.

Suddenly, it was 2pm – all the young diners in this especial Saturday feeding took off to return to their respective homes in the village, except for this bunch of little kids – preschoolers at that – who continued to hostage CJ with their nursery games.

And she did not mind a bit.

Truly, the Tembari children have been blessed with so many donors – corporate and individuals -- during the last one year and three months since I decided to help by marketing their future to prospective benefactors through my blogsite

And many of them gave but disappeared for good.

Personally, I felt CJ’s Saturday encounter with the Tembari children was a cause for celebration.

I know too well that her instant bonding with the children would outlast many donations that came in the past, but whose donors have decided to forget for good.

Bonding with CJ, the Tembari children would always be big winners like they are now.

Without doubt, the bond between them is certain to hold for long.

CJ and the children who look at her cell phone.

CJ helps volunteer mothers prepare food bowls.

Preschoolers sit on the blue mat while waiting for lunch to cook on Saturday.

A young kid takes a nap in his bilum while lunch is being cooked.

Another batch of kids sit at the dining tables while waiting for lunch.

A bunch of chicken drops by to pick morsel of food around the dirty kitchen.

Volunteer mother splits firewood.

Children kill time chatting inside the classroom

Children in queue to wash hands before having lunch.

A small kid gets help in washing his hands.

CJ with Hayward inside the preschool classroom. Hayward explains to her the various things the preschoolers need.

Hayward explains to CJ how Tembari operates, with help from various supporters and donors.

CJ and Penny Sage-embo, Tembari founder and program manager.

CJ poses with kids at the dining table.

With a bunch of kids who wanted to have their picture taken with CJ.

CJ with a group of grown-up kids.

Volunteer moms cooking lunch - rice, minced beef stew and soup.

Kids inside their classroom while sipping soup.

This group of kids prefer to have their soup outside the classroom.

Another batch of kids having soup just before lunch is serve – stewed minced beef with lots of veggies.

A girl dispenses cordial drinks.

Volunteer mothers wash used dishes.

Kids collect donated goodies from the car of blogger APH.

Kids drink iced water from the dispenser.

24) CJ (right) laughs as she looks amused at children helping themselves to iced water. (All pictures by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ)

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