MARAWI CITY, July 3 — The end of Ramadan turned out to be more meaningful for 3,000 young survivors of the Marawi siege who received school kits and storybooks from kindhearted donors that included kids their age, families and companies through “Sa Pagbasa, May Pag-asa” Consortium (SPMP).
What made this gift-giving more special was that the donors had gone out of their way too to be able to give to their fellow brothers and sisters in the conflict-torn city. Students from different schools donated their baon (allowance) for a day while some families (both Muslims and non-Muslims) also fasted or skipped a meal.
The project also reached some 1,200 families who received home kits, consisting of sleeping materials as well kitchen and cooking utensils. Student kits contained bags, school supplies and coconut drinks from Vita Coco Philippines. These gifts may be small compared to their overall needs, but still aim to bring joy to the children as they rebuild their lives.
At least 50 volunteers helped distribute the items to Angoyao Central Elementary School, Lake Lanao National High School and Harat Medina Central Elementary School in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. The gift-giving was organized by SPMP Consortium and Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).
“We were never afraid to come to Marawi even before the height of the siege. I always believe that in times of disaster, when a school is back to normal, the community will also be back to normal life. Now, we brought three simple gifts such as home kits, school kits and storybooks. All these items came from big and small donors, including ordinary citizens like students who donated their allowance for a day and families who fasted or skipped one meal to share solidarity with the people of Marawi,” said Br. Armin Luistro FSC, president of both PBSP and De La Salle Philippines (DLSP).
HOPE THROUGH READING
The SPMP Consortium which PBSP is a part of, initiated the distribution of storybooks in the hope that schoolchildren will develop a love for reading and learning. The storybooks carried various titles that sought to inspire and teach life skills such as financial literacy.
“We believe that books are powerful. We want the books to help enhance the imagination of children and enable them to build their dreams and ambitions. We hope that the children of Marawi will read these books so they can widen their knowledge. This is the reason why we wanted to gather as many storybooks as we can. We also decided to distribute the first batch of storybooks in Marawi where they are most needed. As the name of the Consortium speaks for itself, there is hope through reading. We hope that the children of Marawi can maximize the storybooks,” said Mario Deriquito, president of Banco de Oro (BDO) Foundation and co-convenor of SPMP Consortium.
The Consortium aims to gather books from various organizations and individuals to share it with public schools across the country.
READING IS IMPORTANT IN ISLAM
The goal of SPMP to develop love for reading among children through the distribution of storybooks, also underscores the value of reading in Islam.
“We all believe that education is the key to success. The SPMP Consortium has a deeper meaning. Did you know that in Islam the first word revealed by Allah to Prophet Muhammad in the Holy Quran is ‘iqra’ which means ‘to read?’ Therefore, reading is important in Islam because it is the key to learning. This is the reason why we are thankful to the donors and volunteers who joined the activity. The Filipinos, whether from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, are one. We have one race, one country and one purpose. We hope that the peace we enjoy today will last long. We hope that through the blessing of our Almighty Creator, there will be no more Marawi siege or any form of conflict that will happen in any place of the country,” said Nassif Marangit, councilor of Marawi City, representing Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra.
This is not the first time that PBSP provided assistance to the people affected by the Marawi conflict. A couple of weeks after the siege began, PBSP was able to raise funds for the distribution of relief goods to home-based evacuees. The fundraising from corporate and individual donors continued until the organization was able to conduct six relief missions during and after the siege. Today, PBSP is working with the national and local governments and other members of the SPMP Consortium for the rehabilitation phase of the city.
“Many of us do not share the same tradition, language, faith and history. But we felt that it is important for us to come and visit the people of Marawi. Our differences should not stop us from feeling and relating with our Muslim brothers and sisters. Many of the communities where we come from do not really understand the bigger picture of Mindanao. Most of what we know are what we hear and see from media. Hopefully, this visit or activity would also allow us to learn and discover that there are more we share in common than the differences that divide us,” said Luistro.
According to some leaders and school principals in Marawi City, this is their first time to feel important by visitors who brought goodwill to their community.
“Our school is delighted and blessed to be a recipient of the storybooks, school kits and home kits. Many of the volunteers traveled long distances just to show their concern and remind us how important our lives are. The sacrifices and help given to us, especially to our school children are immeasurable. It encourages us all to continue our lives after the Marawi siege,” said Rasmina Maguindanao, principal of Harat Medina Central Elementary School. (PBSP)