Karin, Glycel, Myla, and many other deserving students will be able to continue their education amidst the pandemic, thanks to the fundraising efforts of Project Abot-Kamay.
The fundraising drive, organized by the Palaweño Savers Club (PSC), raised an estimated P1.1-million from various donors in and out of Palawan.
Project Abot-Kamay concluded its search for poor but deserving students in need of laptops for studies Thursday in a small awarding ceremony. However, its efforts to distribute other essentials such as hygiene, sanitation, and personal protective equipment (PPEs) to schools and hospitals are still ongoing.
There was hardly a dry eye in the room when the organizers of Project Abot-Kamay presented the next batch of students who qualified to be beneficiaries of the program. Students and parents who were unable to attend the program instead appeared in short video presentations, narrating the various hardships of their lives amidst the global pandemic.
There was the story of Jemaica, a Palawan Grade 7 student speaking in her native tongue, thanking the organizers for granting her a free laptop thanks to an application sent by her sister-in-law, Abegail. Jemaicas mother, Estela, narrated how she and her remaining four children struggled to feed themselves due to the lack of jobs being offered to them as farmers.
Gusto kong maging teacher pagkatapos kong mag-aral dahil marami sa amin ang hindi marunong magbasa at magsulat, kaya gusto kong tulungan sila, said Jemaica in the video.
Bright-eyed, mischievous, and surprisingly business-savvy Emman is a budding entrepreneur who would earn money by selling empty bottles and even spiders he would catch in their farm. His father, a farmer, narrated how despite earning enough to buy his own plot of land, feeding a family of four was challenging amidst the pandemic.
Minsan ay sumasama ako sa panggapos ng mga palay, mag-ani, tapos ibebenta ko iyon. Tapos yong kinita ko, hihiramin pa ni Mama kasi walang-wala na sila. Nasa P2,500 na utang niya sa akin, he said with a twinkle in his eye.
Another indigenous student, Karin, sees a bright future ahead of her where her education will protect her and her people from malicious individuals taking advantage of their illiteracy. Her mother, Rebelita, who was not able to study because she only spoke the Tagbanua language, is positive her daughter will go much farther in life than she has.
Siyempre natutuwa po ako na nakatanggap po ako nito. Sa aking edukasyon ay maiaahon ko ang pamilya ko sa kahirapan, she said. Before being granted a laptop, Karin would use her grandfathers cellphone to go online.
Myla, a Grade 12 STEM student, said that she is no longer at risk of being retained for another year because she has her own laptop to conduct research and write her projects. After struggling for many years since the death of her father, she also recently struggled with the abandonment of her mother. While her mother was absent, Myla’s older brother took charge despite being a student as well.
Noong nawala si Mama, talagang kay Kuya na kami umaasa. At noong bumalik naman si Mama, nagkaroon naman siya ng cervical cancer at sinasaktan pa siya ng bago niyang asawa. Noong 2019 naman, namatay na si Mama, she said holding back tears.
There was also Laura, an honor student who spent her days at home after school helping her mother Melanie in their carinderia with her little brother. Organizers were able to capture the exact moment Lauras face lit up when it was announced she was chosen as one of the recipients.
Marami kaming sinulatan, pero kayo lang talaga ang sumagot, said Melanie with tears of joy, her children by her side.
Grade 9 student Glycel used to go to computer shops and hand-write her projects to keep up with the demands of distance learning. Her mother sells barbecue to supplement their income while their father tills land that he does not own, and recently had a failed crop. She did not say much during the ceremony and was tearful during introductions.
Jessa and Rhea
Jessa and Rhea were abandoned by their mother and left in the care of their then-teenaged aunt Annelyn and grandparents, one of whom is already sickly. Annelyn, who sent the application for the free laptop, said even as a minor she would take odd jobs to care for her nieces and her ailing father.
Minsan ay tumatawag ang nanay nila rito para kumustahin sila, pero ang mga bata ayaw na pag-usapan ang nanay nila. Masakit kasi sa alaala nila, said Annelyn.
All students who applied went through a background check by Project Abot-Kamay organizers, who traveled north to south of Palawan to validate hundreds of application letters they received. In several cases, they found out that some narratives protrayed by applicants in their letter requests turned out to be false.
“Minsan may mga sulat na talagang nakakaiyak ang laman. Akala mo talaga totoo. Tapos noong pinuntahan naming, iba ang katotohanan. May napuntahan kami, 8A.M. pa lang lasing na ang tatay sa bahay nila, tapos kung tatanungin mo ang bata kung anong pangarap niya, sasabihin ng tatay, — ‘Walang balak magkolehiyo ang batang iyan”, recalled project organizer Jaydee Concepion.
“Minsan pagdating sa bahay, ang laki, may alaga pa silang Rottweiler. Ang iba, gusto lang ng bagong laptop para may karadagang space.”
While Project Abot-Kamay has concluded its gadget-giving drive, other humanitarian efforts are still ongoing. Organizers are still open to holding more humanitarian ventures should there be a need.