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Bayanihan Shines In A Community

Imagine having to spend every night in total darkness. This had been the plight of Ecko and his family for five years. Ecko’s family belongs to a community in Balagtas, Bulacan Philippines.

The youngest of four children, 17-year-old Ecko not only had to do his class modules in the dark. He also needed to juggle school with work to help make ends meet.

Amidst the challenges he and his family face, Ecko dreams of becoming a businessman. However, there are days when he cannot help but miss classes because he needs to earn a living.

COVID-19’s impact on learning

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, it brought about not just the threat of the COVID virus but also a rise in unemployment, loss of mobility, and the collapse of basic welfare. Some of the most affected are the students.

According to an estimate by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 1.6 billion children are affected by worldwide school closures. In the Philippines, the Department of Education (DepEd) estimates close to 4 million students who were not able to enroll for the school year that started in August 2021.

Even for those who have enrolled, access to the Internet and other relevant technology has been challenging. About 52.6% live in rural areas with unreliable connectivity. Social Weather Stations also found that just over 40% of students did not have any device to help them in distance learning. Of those who had to buy a device, families spent an average of $172 per learner, which is more than half the average monthly salary in the Philippines

Other challenges in small communities

In Ecko’s community in Balagtas, some residents have microbusinesses, like small convenience stores and junk shops. Residents will take any opportunity to earn a living.

Children have had to work at an early age and have been forced to stop schooling in order to help their families. Some do laundry for their neighbors, while others like Ecko work at junk shops. He goes around the neighborhood to scavenge for scrap metals and other junk.

On good days, he brings home around $10. He gives part of this to his parents so they can put food on the table and uses the remainder to buy phone credits so he can attend his online classes. 

Similar to Ecko’s case, ChildHope Philippines cites buying phone credits as among the top concerns of parents and guardians in light of the new learning pathways that rely on students and teachers having access to the internet. 

Another concern is the students’ struggle to focus and learn online, which Ecko experiences. “I feel like I should be out there just focusing on my studies, enjoying life,” he says. “I get so tired with work that I just cry. I go to my room, and it’s so dark.”

Pure Bayanihan brings light

Ecko’s family is just one of the 50 families whose lives have been touched by Pure Bayanihan’s Food Pack Program. The plan was to identify families from within the community who are most in need, and then put together food packs that can help them feed their families for at least two weeks.

Volunteers were assigned to different roles, and Ecko was one of the first to offer help. During the distribution, neighbors helped each other by carrying the heavy food packs and sacks of rice to each others homes. The bayanihan spirit was incredible.

Thanks to the thoughtful planning of the volunteers, Pure Bayanihan was able to feed a family for almost an entire month with just a budget of $45 per food pack. The packs consisted of 25 kilos of rice, bread, canned goods, and other food items. They also included basic toiletries and cooking staples.

One of the Pure Bayanihan volunteers was inspired by Ecko’s resilience and selflessness. They donated solar-powered lamps, electric fans, power banks and radio to Ecko and his family. Ecko also received school supplies and other materials to share with his nieces. 

For the first time, after five years of living in darkness, Ecko’s family saw light again.

Helping from the heart

All the help that Ecko and his community received was given anonymously. The residents could not believe that without any condition, they received something that was so much more than they expected.

It may just be a simple forty-five-dollar food pack, or a bunch of small solar-powered devices, or notebooks for school. But to Ecko and his community, they meant so much.

This is light that’s breaking through. This is hope. And you can be part of this, too. Learn how you can bring hope and light to more Filipinos through Pure Bayanihan.

Pure Bayanihan helps eradicate the cycle of poverty in the Philippines by partnering with local communities to craft unique solutions that work best for them while doing so in the most financially responsible way possible.

Pure Bayanihan is the flagship initiative of the Pure Incubation Foundation.

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