Damayan starts to build schools in Samar, Leyte
(The Philippine Star) - March 16, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Determined to restore hope where there once was utter devastation, The Philippine STAR’s humanitarian arm, Operation Damayan, has headed back to areas struck by Super Typhoon Yolanda in Central Visayas to provide further assistance to communities that have been badly affected by the disaster.

This fulfills Damayan’s commitment to assist in rehabilitation efforts in these areas.

When the team of Operation Damayan visited Samar and Leyte days after Yolanda struck last year, residents were understandably on the verge of despair, their patience wearing thin as their homes and schools were reduced to rubble. They were thankful for help coming their way in the form of relief goods to help tide them over the difficult times.

Soon after, Operation Damayan returned to Tacloban, Samar and Leyte to distribute toys and school supplies to students in various schools in time for the New Year.

The gift-giving was symbolic of a new beginning for residents of disaster-stricken areas where Operation Damayan had committed to undertake school projects in time for the coming school year.

Today, with the help of generous donations from readers of The Philippine STAR, Operation Damayan has commenced the construction of three school buildings in Ormoc and Palo, Leyte; and Marabut, Samar under the aegis of its adopt-a-school program. The project is the biggest to be undertaken by Operation Damayan thus far.

Construction of the school buildings started early this month with a symbolic bayanihan ceremony.

At the Valencia Central Elementary School in Ormoc City, more than 100 parents helped clean the area in preparation for the construction.

Marlina Cabahug, mother of Grade 6 student Camilla Jane, enthusiastically participated in the activity, saying, “Para ito sa mga anak ko at bilang magulang natutuwa kami at magkaroon ng bagong (This is for my children and as a parent I’m happy we will have a new) school building.”

She added, “Mainit ang (It’s very hot in the) temporary classrooms nila, nahihirapan ang mga bata pati na ang mga teachers (the children and teachers are having a hard time).”

The current Grade 6 students may not get to use their new classroom because they are graduating this March, but they are happy because their younger siblings will be able to use the brand-new school facilities.

Young siblings Noe and Ladylyn Nemeno, both Grade 4 students, said, “Masaya po kami sa ipapatayo niyong (We are very happy about our) school building.” Their house was totally damaged by the typhoon.

The school has been in existence for 70 years and had 32 classrooms before being leveled by the typhoon. After the typhoon, only the walls of 11 classrooms were left standing.

“As a central school, we are really in need of a school building so that classes here could normalize,” said school principal Melvyn Baldomar.

In Palo, Leyte District II, one will notice a makeshift graveyard in front of San Joaquin Church where almost 370 people were buried. Beside the church, Operation Damayan found the San Joaquin Central Elementary School, also called a mother school, with students coming from 19 barangays in the area. The school had 429 enrollees but 67 of these students lost their lives in the typhoon and they now hold classes in makeshift classrooms donated by a foreign organization.

School principal Liberato Cobacha said, “We have enough relief goods and school materials. What we need is a school building… Kawawa ang mga estudyante, sobrang init sa (The poor students, it’s so hot in their) temporary classroom nila. Ang mga teachers nga nahi-high blood na.”

Joy overflowed among the teachers, parents and students when planning for the school building began, and workers and materials soon followed. As one of the teachers happily quipped, “Noong isang araw nag survey-survey lang, pero ngayon eto na. Nagpapatayo na kayo ng (The other day you were just surveying, now you are constructing our) school building.”

Construction is now ongoing as well at the Legazpi Elementary School in Barangay Veloso, Marabut, Samar.

School principal Salvacion Amadore, though off duty at the time, hurried back to school when she learned that Operation Damayan would build them a school with five classrooms and a toilet each plus a library. “Salamat, salamat, maraming salamat po (Thank you, thank you, thank you very much),” voices in the room echoed.

Operation Damayan hopes to finish the three school buildings in time for the opening of school in June this year. The Philippine STAR’s Operation Damayan continues to help communities rebuild their lives through reconstructing the heart and future of each community – the schools.

For 13 years, Operation Damayan has been rehabilitating and building schools in places as far as Barangay Banga-an, Banaue, Ifugao and Compostela Valley.

Operation Damayan was started by STAR founding chairman Betty Go-Belmonte in 1986 to help sick and needy children. But over the years, its year-round missions have expanded to cover disaster relief, bridge education, scholarships, environmental efforts and adopt-a-school initiatives.

It is now being continued by STAR president and CEO Miguel Belmonte, who believes greatly in the impact of The STAR’s adopt-a-school project on the country’s future.

For those who would like to continue sending their donations, deposits may be made to The Philippine STAR Operation Damayan c/o MBTC Aduana Branch Savings Account No. 151-7-15152422-9 (kindly confirm your deposit by sending a copy of the deposit slip with donor’s name to contactus@philstar.com.ph).

For inquiries, call 336-9598, e-mail at contactus@philstar.com.ph, follow @philippinestar on Twitter or visit www.facebook.com/ThePhilippineSTAR for updates.


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