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Friday, July 04, 2008

Change a Child. Change a Nation.

Cristyl Mae B. Senajon*

We all dream of a Philippines without corruption, where people pay taxes without being goaded to do it, where officials use public funds for public good, where deeply ingrained respect for others make most traffic rules unnecessary, and where each child can get quality education that will give her plenty of job options and good pay.

Mary Ann Alampay, a 20-year old BS Management student from the Ateneo de Manila University, believes in this dream. How to reach it, however, was the big puzzle.

Perhaps it was her love for teaching or her hope for the Filipino child that pointed her to a direction that might change a nation. Mian to her family and friends sat herself one Saturday afternoon and poured her heart out on pen and paper. The result was Bright Kids Learning Center, a social entrepreneurship project that would teach underprivileged children for free that art, colors, counting, and reading are as much fun as showing empathy and respect for others.

Bright Kids won a P20,000 grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation during the First Leaders of Asia Forum’s Make It Happen! Business Plan Writing Competition last January 17-19, 2008 along with five other business plans. College friends Kookie Magno (AB-Psychology) and Mark Carillo (BS-Management) who are also now in their senior year are helping her turn her dreams into reality. Last summer, they taught five and six-year-olds at the Batasan Hills Elementary School for one hour and a half each day.

Sometimes it takes just one simple step for something great to happen. I think that sometimes you have to take risks. You can’t just live your life in your own comfort zone. Nothing will ever happen if you live that way. If you want to do something for the country then find a way to do it. It’s that simple,” Mian says.

Mian recalls spending long hours with a young girl who told her classmates their work was ugly and they were stupid because of the way they colored their artwork. “Values should be taught to a kid at a very young age or else they will bring those bad habits with them when they grow up. It was fortunate that we were able to address this issue as early as that time. But how about other kids who grow up in the same kind of environment? It is really important to be involved in the formation of these children so that they would not grow up with a wrong set of values,” Mian says.

The lack of early education is the kind of social problem that Bright Kids is trying to address. “I saw that the family has a big influence on the learning and value formation of the children” says Mian. While doing craft work to create nimble fingers and nimble minds, Mian teaches basic Filipino values such as “po” and “opo”.

The idea is that the path to attaining national growth is for each Filipino to learn to show empathy towards “kapwa Pilipino” and that simple acts of humanity can cure a flawed nation so mired in poverty. Working with children that only have rice and ketchup for breakfast has opened Mian’s eyes to reality and closed her heart to apathy. Her first summer art workshop this year was where her dream ended and the glorious part of action began.

*Cristyl is program assistant of the Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Program at the Ateneo School of Government. For those who wish to learn more about social entrepreneurship and how to become an effective social entrepreneur, the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government together with Ashoka-Philippines will be running Beyond Bottomlines: An Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship this coming July 12,2008 (Saturday), 8 am to 5 pm at the Ateneo de Manila-Professional Schools campus in Rockwell, Makati City. If you are interested to attend this seminar, you can send an email to youthventureph (at) gmail (dot) com or contact Katrina Wy at (02) 683-0262 local 141.