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Making kids smarter in Payatas

The Mealenium Project is an initiative by Philip Sebastian “Basti” Belmonte and Joshua Emmanuel Tan who have since partnered with schools and stakeholders in making sure that every school child in Payatas is well-fed so that he or she can attend school without worrying about having no “baon.” Photo by Philip Sebastian Belmonte 

MANILA, Philippines (Updated with photo essay) — Apart from starvation and malnutrition, many public school children in Payatas also find it difficult to find a quiet and well-lit space conducive for learning when they return to their homes.  

A typical home of an informal settler in Payatas is usually a 10-square meter bedroom shared among at least five people. Seeing this need and knowing the desire of the children to learn in an area that is ideal for studying, The MEALenium Project decided to extend its feeding center to other children in the community so it can be used as a study hall every Saturday.

The new study hall in St. Benedict, Payatas can sit up to 30 children comfortably. Donated books range from Math, Science, Reading to English, the same subjects that these children need to improve on, according to their teachers. A computer with internet access is also made available for research questions that these children may have. 

One of the volunteers teaches a Grade 3 feeding beneficiary basic Math to help her with homework.

Besides books and sturdy tables and chairs, volunteer tutors from the community and from different private schools also visit the center every weekend so that the students will be guided in doing their schoolwork. The study hall is open every Saturday, from 9 a.m. up to 11 a.m. 

Grade 3 students  eager to learn Math from Basti Belmonte.

The study hall was opened on August 5 as part of the second year anniversary celebration of The Mealenium Project, a sustainable feeding program for the children in Payatas.

Fr. Seo Bernardo and Philip Sebastian "Basti" Belmonte led the ribbon cutting of the study hall in St. Benedict, Payatas.

Fr. Bernardo of Payatas Orione Foundation officiated a mass before the ribbon cutting ceremony. Gifts also awaited the children in the feeding area. He hopes that this new study hall will motivate children to study more and excel in school.

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“For these children, education is their way out of poverty. Our goal is to give these kids a better chance in life by providing them nutritious food and a place to encourage them to study,” he said.

Addressing poverty

The Mealenium Project is an initiative by Philip Sebastian “Basti” Belmonte and Joshua Emmanuel Tan who have since partnered with schools and stakeholders in making sure that every school child in Payatas is well-fed so that he or she can attend school without worrying about having no “baon.” Nutritious meals are prepared by the mothers of these students, who also learn about budgeting and the importance of feeding their children the right kinds of food.

Basti said that he was inspired to establish the study hall after his experience of going to the homes of their beneficiaries and realizing that they do not have a space to read or do their homework.

“We aspire to attend to the needs of the students in different aspects of their lives. When we visited their homes, the common complaint of the kids is that they don’t have electricity or the resources that allow them to do their homework,” Basti said.

The feeding and study center is the holistic approach taken by The Mealenium Project to make sure that not only the students’ bellies are being filled, but also their minds, he added.

“We hope that this study center is another step that can help them be better in school to reach their dreams.”

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