Beyond self

Young selfless individuals inspire as modern-day heroes

By Deneb R. Batucan and Patricia May P. Catan

 

ANYONE can be a hero, but the real question is: What makes a hero? We often encounter this distinct yet complex question, but we truly never had a permanent description of what it actually means. How we define a hero varies from one person to another because in this lifetime, we meet countless heroes with different personalities — each one unique in their own little ways. With the absence of supernatural powers, real-life heroes are those with a big heart and the passion to serve. Earning them the title of what best defines a hero, SunStar Weekend talked to four individuals who have helped change a life through their will and drive to make a better world. Indeed, superheroes need not have super strength, but what truly makes a hero is their heart to serve those who cannot help themselves.

She’s got game

“I feel my best when I feel like I add value to other people’s lives. That’s how I want to continue guiding my life.”

Genevieve Bisson
Country Director at PANDOO Foundation

Genevieve works in a unique non-profit organization. Pandoo Foundation is the non-profit sister company of Pandoo Nation, which is an MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) for preteens where 20 percent of all its subscription revenue goes to Pandoo Foundation to fund its developmental projects all over Southeast Asia. As kids play Pandoo Nation, they are able to unlock causes and fund development through gameplay. “It’s an amazing project driven by the passion of empowering kids to be change makers,” Genevieve said.

Genevieve arrived in Cebu from Canada four years ago to set up and develop Pandoo Foundation’s educational projects and build a team. Because of her initiatives, Genevieve has built the not-for profit organization’s first in-country office here in Cebu.

The foundation centers on empowering communities through education. Since they started in 2013, Genevieve’s team has refurbished four BIRC (Barangay Information Reading Centers), given teacher trainings, develop leadership skills through sports and offered out of school opportunities to embark on a learning journey that meets their needs. All in all, they have assisted some 25,000 local families in and around Cebu.

“We are currently working on a new mobile library that will bring books and games directly to the door of participants as well as fun workshops to gather kids and develop 21st century skills,” Genevieve said.

One of Genevieve’s favorite projects was when they did a 48-hour jungle library transformation at Barrio Luz. They had only 48 hours to transform a white rooftop into a jungle island-themed community library. They had volunteers who painted beautiful murals on the walls to create a fun environment where kids could learn by reading a book or two.

“I will never forget the feeling I got from seeing kids’ bright smiles and receiving big hugs, creating memories with them. That was the best part. They make it all worthwhile,” she said.

A plain rooftop tranformed into a jungle-island-themed library for children at Barrio Luz

Having to move to the Philippines to work with so many amazing kids has definitely altered Genevieve’s perception about the world. “When you invest your full heart in something, it’s hard not to leave transformed,” she said. “The love I feel for the Philippines, for our mission, fuels my commitment… I feel my best when I feel like I add value to other people’s lives. That’s how I want to continue guiding my life.”

Genevieve admits that when one does development work, one won’t be able to witness the full transformation. “But it’s important to believe that how you help and how you journey with people makes a difference, however small this difference is,” she said.

Know more about Pandoo Foundation at http://www.pandoofoundation.org.

Friends who pay it forward

“The reason we’re taking up our masters in education right now is to help us find better solutions…”

Regil Cadavos and Isan de Jesus
School Supply Drive!

Two lifelong friends, Isan and Regil, started their school supply drive just last May with the sole purpose of providing school supplies to graders at their partner communities. Regil and Isan have always been grateful for being privileged to have been given proper education.

With the “pay it forward” mindset, they wanted to help kids have the basic tools that could very well give them the push to aim for their goals and dreams. “We realized that we wanted to help those that weren’t given the same opportunities as us,” Isan shared.

The pair believes that this school supply drive could be a stepping stone towards eventually finding a sustainable solution for the educational problem in the Philippines.

“The reason we’re taking up our masters in education right now is to help us find better solutions, so hopefully this drive of ours progresses into something bigger and more helpful in the next two years,” Isan said.

Children from Nonok Sur Elementary School in Leyte pose with their school supplies.

Regil and Isan partnered with friends who run outreach programs in their partner communities, the most recent of which will be in Madridejos, Bantayan. “We were also able to visit Madridejos last March and we saw just how much the kids in that area need help,” Isan said. The school supplies packs for Madridejos are already ready for delivery and will be in the hands of the kids in about two weeks.

Aside from Bantayan, their past beneficiaries include children from Nonok Sur, Leyte and Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu. They have already given school supplies to hundreds of kids from these places, relying on friend volunteers and a lot of heart and motivation for helping out.

Their next drive will be for the schools at Sogod, Cebu, where they found out that kids there actually had to share pencils with one another.

Right now, Regil and Isan only accept cash donation since they have sourced the supplies from a low-cost local supplier. For uniformity, they also do packs for each grade level to get the right supplies that the kids need.

For donations, contact the pair at isandejesus@gmail.com or regilcadavos@gmail.com.

Learning with heart

Doyzkie awarding the best photo during the Paint Thy Future Project

Doyzkie Buenaviaje
iLearners Inc.

Illiteracy is a constant battle fought by children who do not have access to proper school essentials that give them the ability to learn in a healthy environment.

Often encountering this misfortune are kids living in rural areas where it’s harder for them to obtain educational security since they are frequently neglected just because of their location.

Changing the future of these kids in the rural areas of Cebu is a nonprofit organization dedicated to generate and distribute resources that will support, enrich and enhance educational opportunities for all students in rural areas and encourage teachers to implement innovative educational programs.

iLearners Inc. began in 2007 when they had their first project at a remote school in Carcar which was on the verge of getting shut down because of the lack of enrollees for the school year.

Doyzkie Buenaviaje, the man behind iLearners Inc., spearheaded the project and went to the mountain area of Calidngan where Lunas Elementary School was situated.

Together with members of the organization and volunteers, they were able to reach out to these pupils and give them their much-needed school supplies to be able to stay in school.

This drive to help underprivileged students started out right at home for Doyzkie. Doyzkie Buenaviaje is one of the four children of single parent Jose Buenaviaje.

His father strongly held to the belief that education is vital for the growth of a child and that for a child to become bright and successful one day, one should have good educational background.

Caohagan Graduating class getting a tour of Mactan Cebu International Airport

Through his single father’s efforts, Doyzkie and his brothers was blessed enough to be sent to reputable schools. Doyzkie graduated from the University of San Carlos – Technological Center, and during his time in school, he had the opportunity to be the university’s computer society president for a term. One of his community projects was helping elementary students from an orphanage in Talamban.

Bringing with him this inspiration to really give an opportunity for these kids to learn, Doyzkie continues to support these types of children through iLearners Inc.’s literacy and health projects that benefit the students and entice them to stay in school.

“We’re approaching our 10 years of service this coming December and we still continue to reach out to rural schools in Carcar, Asturias and Lapu-Lapu,” he shared.

The group also launched iLibrary this year — a multimedia library which incorporates physical books with other tools for learning that are beneficial to a pupil’s learning in the digital age.

The iLibrary consists of three book shelves of paper books — an art section, two units of computer, an audiovisual set, and a music station.

Through the years, iLearners Inc. continues to provide resources in education for the youth in rural areas where illiteracy is of great number and up to this day, the organization remains to eliminate illiteracy one step at a time.

“iLearners Inc. is dedicated to supporting, enriching and enhancing the learning experience of all students in rural areas through the combined commitment and collaboration of the rural school district and board, volunteers and other organizations in the community,” Doyzkie said.

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