By Kristin Leslie D. Chan
It started as our group service learning project in Porac, Pampanga. It ended with our loving our partner community and our MBA subject on Lasallian Business Leadership, Corporate Social Responsibility and Ethics even more.
We were looking for a community based in Metro Manila because of my and my groupmates’ challenging work schedules. However, my curiosity was piqued when I came across the website of Kara David in Pampanga. So I called the person in charge, who forwarded me the number of the local teacher assigned to the area.
I discovered that the government has a program called Alternative Learning System, under which teachers go to their assigned communities. This is because the children sometimes fail to attend their classes to help their parents in farming or taking care of their siblings. Thus, the ALS aims to provide mobile learning to communities. Sir Dave, the mobile teacher from the Department of Education assigned to the Porac community, and I talked about possible programs for them. I was so happy that my groupmates did not object to the location and the program. Normally, other groups do their service learning activities in one or two meetings, but our group interacted with the community in four meetings so that we could carry out our programs.
During our first meeting, we were welcomed by the community and were fed camote (sweet potatoes). The Aetas’ houses were very simple – typical cemented ‘bahay kubo’ combination and they had no televisions. The residents told us that previous visitors had only given them relief goods. While they were grateful for the help, relief goods were not what they needed most. Listening to them, I was amazed because they were very different from the beggars in Manila. They knew that they have to work for a living and should not depend on others.
We were brought to the area where they take a bath and get their drinking water. We had to walk far along a narrow walkway in a forest. For us city dwellers, the hike was like a near-death experience; one wrong step and we would have fallen somewhere deep.
Despite their current set-up, they remain positive and driven. They were very excited about our proposed programs. After our first meeting, we waved goodbye and promised to see them again on the next three Sundays.
I couldn’t help but appreciate my life. Here I am, sometimes complaining about my food while they uncomplainingly eat camote day in, day out! This experience really changed my perspective in life. We tend to complain about not having the things that we want; we need to consider that other people have less than what we have, yet they are contented and grateful.
Sadly, this service learning adventure also exposed me to the reality of heartless people. Because our Aeta friends have limited literacy skills, middlemen take advantage of them and buy their produce at dirt-cheap prices.
On our second meeting, my groupmates and I taught the community basic reading, writing, addition and subtraction. On our third meeting, we taught them how to estimate their costs, check their competitors’ prices and minimize their transactions with middlemen so that they could earn more from their produce. And during our fourth and last Sunday with them, they trekked down the mountain to the nearest market and actually sold their produce at much higher prices than what they would have received from intermediaries.
An old Chinese proverb states, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Someone else has added, “Teach a man to sell fish, and he can eat whatever he wants forever.” By having interacted with our Aeta friends, we hope that we have helped them to maybe not eat whatever they want, but to get more of what is due to them.
Kristin Leslie D. Chan is an MBA student of De La Salle University. She wrote this essay for her class on Lasallian Business Leadership, Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility during her second term in the program. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed above are the author’s and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the De La Salle University, its administration and faculty.