- Posted February 8, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Girls + Education: Your message
With A Gas Lamp Lit
Drive from an airport into many of the world’s cities and you pass squatter areas that look all too similar. So many people, so many problems spill on top of each other. The heart can’t take it in. You look away.
But given the opportunity, you would love to meet Joan. Joan lives with her mother and two younger sisters in one of the largest squatter areas of Metro Manila. Joan’s mother, who works as an agent in a collection company, tries to make ends meet with her monthly income of Php 3,000 (USD $ 75). A cobbled-together structure between a coconut tree and tamarind tree is home. There is no electricity. Water comes from a community pipe.
Joan began her education in the local government school with around 55 children in a classroom. One day, her mother heard about an NGO (non-profit) that invited any student in the community who had finished 3rd grade to take a test and apply for a scholarship program. Food for Hungry Minds offered a high-quality, bi-lingual elementary education. Hungry Minds graduates from the community were being admitted as scholars into competitive high schools – and even universities!
Joan was admitted. The school day was long. Mastering English was challenging. But there were uniforms and two meals a day and beautiful books that you could even bring home and read to your sisters. Joan was inspired.
One night, while her mother was away, Joan was reviewing her lessons as usual. Her sisters were asleep beside her. A social studies quiz was scheduled for the next day, so Joan tried to stay awake, diligently working through all the material. But she fell asleep - with the gas lamp still lit. She woke up feeling something hot. Her home was on fire. Her mother was out. What could she do? Suddenly, she remembered her teachers saying that in an emergency presence of mind is critical. Immediately, she got a bucket of water and poured it onto the burning things. She shook her sisters awake, saying, “Help me get more water.” They called the closest neighbor.
The next morning, Joan was still so relieved that her sisters had escaped the burning house. The fire had not spread. Before dawn the next morning, she went to school as usual. That afternoon, Joan’s teacher noticed her crying. Her head was warm. When her teacher went to talk with her, Joan took off her sock and showed her left foot. She had stepped on a burning notebook. Yet even with this burn, here she was at school. The Hungry Minds parent volunteers and staff got her to the hospital where the burn was treated.
The smarts, commitment, and determination Joan showed in this crisis were apparent all through her years in the Hungry Minds program. And what happened next? Joan was admitted into the very competitive Manila Science High School. There she is excelling. There is every reason to expect that Joan will join the children from this squatter area now succeeding in Philippine universities.
Next time you drive by a squatter area, know that you really are seeing a place that holds enormous grit and talent. Given a small opportunity, here is a community full of bright children ready to seize a future for themselves and their families.