Waiting on a dream

February 5, 2011

I spoke with Leah last night. It was early evening in Fairbanks, noon in Sinacaban.

At first, we had a hard time talking over the noise of barking dogs in her neighborhood. We shared news. Her mother remains paralyzed on her left side. She can longer eat solid food. Leah said she has to blend everything, even rice, to feed her mother.

She’s happy because she got another temporary teaching job at a private school, Medina College, in Ozamis City. She teaches K-1 and K-2 in the morning and K 3-5 in the afternoon. The salary is much lower than a public school job. She makes 5,550 pesos (about $110/month) compared to the 17,000 pesos with benefits she would make at a public school.

Leah has taught as five schools in the past three years since her college graduation. Twice she was in line for a public school position. Twice  local politics and nepotism blocked the path to her dream.

On Feb. 18, the administration will meet again. There are two open positions in her local school. It’s Leah’s turn. She’s daring to dream once more.

When she had a temporary public school job, Leah was able to pay for her mother’s medicine and medical bills. She paid for her brother Benjy’s college tuition. He was studying criminal justice and planned to have a career as a police officer. She made improvements to their small cinder block home, including indoor plumbing and a C.R. (comfort room, i.e. toilet). I joked and told her that I didn’t have a C.R.; I explained the outhouse behind my cabin.

“You don’t have to go very far in the cold, do you?” she asked.

She’s grateful for her job at the private school, but Benjy had to quit his studies. He just started a new job as a janitor. Working six days a week, he’ll earn about the same salary as Leah, 5,500 pesos/month.

“Pray for me please, Cheryl.”

Leah asked me to pray that her dream will come true, that she can get a teaching job in a public school. She’ll have a salary that will support her family. Her brother will be able to resume his studies. She’ll have benefits and a classroom of her own.

That’s always been Leah’s dream.

“I don’t want to be a principal or an administrator. I want to be a teacher in my own classroom,” she said.

Please join me in praying for Leah, praying that the dream she’s worked so hard for, the dream she’es held on to for years, will come true.

 

 

 

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Hi Cheryl,

How are you? I think you called up this afternoon but I wasn’t able to answer it because I have classes and I left my mobile phone in my bag.

My mother is OK but her BP is unstable. There are times that her blood pressure is high and there are times that her BP is normal so her Doctor won’t allow her to go home so that her BP would be monitored every now and then. She wanted to go home and rest there because she doesn’t like to stay in the hospital.   The doctor required her to have brain scan to know if her brain has blood clot.

We went to MU Hospital ( a private hospital ) this morning during my vacant time I don’t know yet the result because her Doctor in the hospital where she is confine wasn’t there yet. My mother is confine in a government hospital because it’s cheaper compared to a private hospital. But brain scan is expensive I paid almost Php. 5,000.00. Her medicines are expensive too for she has mild stroke. Her left body is paralyzed but we’re very optimistic that she will go back to normal.

I used my savings from my salary here in La Salle. But it’s OK I could still find a job and save money. The most important thing is the life of my mother. Benjie and Josephine are staying in the hospital. Last night I slept there and went home at 4:00 A.M. to get the food for Benjie and Josephine to lessen the expenses because it’s too expensive to buy food in the restaurant. Joven and her mother cook the food if I sleep in the hospital. But if I sleep in our house I cook the food and bring them to the hospital and goes to school.   Take care Cheryl because you just had your eye surgery..I love you and I miss you.. God Bless..   Love, Leah

Still Waiting

September 14, 2010

Leah still has not received payment for the two months she covered for a teacher on maternity leave. Here’s what she wrote me in an e-mail I received today:

“I went to the Division office in Oroquieta City because my assets and liabilities has no sworn statement from the lawyer. They can’t process my salary so I went to the Public Attorney’s Office because it’s free unlike in a private lawyer. The Division office told me to leave my cellphone number so that they could inform me if there are some discripancy of my papers but they didn’t, when I texted them asking if I could get my salary that was the time they told me Oh, should come here because there’s no sworn statement in your assets and liabilities. They promise they will just text me when to get my salary.”

To make ends meet, Leah sold her pig for income. Now she’s got another job substitute teaching at a private school. She still wants to get a job in a public school.

“There’s no news yet about the job in a public school. I hope soon..

I love you and I miss you…Take care and God Bless….Love, Leah”

Unintended Consequences

November 8, 2009

Leah arrived in Dumingag about noon on Friday. She met Marethel, our scholarship recipient, and her sister, Rosel, who’s a third year education student at Josefina Cerilles State College. Leah paid her tuition fees and Marethel is enrolled for 15 units her first semester.

Marethel will share a small room in a boarding house with her sister and another student. Since they live in a mountainous region far from the college, the sisters must live near the college in order to attend classes.

“It’s a very small room, Cheryl,” Leah said. And if Leah says it’s small…

There’s a bed and a set of bunk beds and not much else.

Leah and Marethel went looking for the landlord to pay Marethel’s rent for six months. Rosebel tried to ask Leah about an allowance for Marethel, so Leah showed them the contract. Leah said she told Marethel be thankful enough for the opportunity she’s received to go to college.

She gave Marethel our agreement, which says she accepts the Leah B. Mamhot Scholarship from Isis Initiative, Inc. We will cover her tuition, boarding room and two school uniforms. She will cover her other expenses and maintain a “B” average in school. If she doesn’t have a “B” average one semester, she will get one chance, i.e. the next semester, to raise her grades. We will fund her entire education if she continues to do well in her studies.

Leah said Marethel is very happy and she signed the contract.

Then Leah told me that Marethel’s younger sister, who was a working scholar at La Salle University, which Leah attended, had to abandon her studies. Since she’s the youngest, her family requires her to work to help support Marethel and Rosel in their studies.

We offered one young woman a college education and it cost another young woman–only temporarily, I hope–her education. This is a standard practice in Filipino culture. The younger sister and her brother will work to pay for the expenses of the two sisters now in college.

When they graduate and begin working, they will help pay for the education of their siblings.

Leah is doing the same for her family. Her brother, Benjy, 17, won a scholarship to study criminology in Tangub, where he’ll stay in a boarding house. Leah will use a portion of her teaching wages to help Benjy pay for his expenses. Benjy likes LeBron James and wants to become a police officer.

Going the Distance

October 22, 2009

How far is it to Domingag, Leah?

600 pesos, she answers.

I meant distance. On the bus.

I thought I’d get a distance in hours or days. I got an answer in local currency.

Leah can tell me the value of anything, in pesos. And she understands and appreciates the value of the her education, beyond the count in pesos. She understands and supports the value of the opportunity Isis Initiative, Inc. seeks to offer other young women.

After a few more questions, I learn it’s more than a bus ride. Marethel Guinsayao, our scholarship recipient, lives with her family in the mountains in Zamboango del Sur on the Zamboanga Peninsula.

To reach Marethel, Leah takes a jeepnee to Ozamiz City. A bus to Molave. Eventually a motorcycle to Marethel’s village. I think I’ve got that right. It will take Leah most of a day to reach Marethel’s home. And 600 pesos roundtrip.

Leah gets a week’s paid vacation from the Montessori school where she teaches, starting Oct. 31. She will use a couple of her vacation days to travel to meet Marethel and ensure she gets settled into her program at Western Mindanao State University. Leah wants to personally monitor the use of our funds. She’ll pay for the tuition, the boarding costs and the two school uniforms.

Leah will gather receipts and send them to us in the United States. She’ll keep her own records of our payments and use of funds.

Leah makes our work possible. Leah exemplifies the best of what we hope to achieve with Isis Initiative, Inc. She graduated from La Salle University, Ozamiz City. She started teaching third grade in a school near her village. And she has continued to support our work with her time, her honesty, her enthusiasm and her common sense.

And those long bus rides to make sure our money is well spent.

Thank you, Leah.

Belated Birthday

September 7, 2009

I haven’t been able to reach Leah yet. I’m sure she’s OK. She’d have no reason to be on a ferry these days, although she has traveled by ferry in the past. School’s in session and with the +15 hour time change, it’s tricky to catch her outside the classroom.

I remembered her birthday is in August. When I spoke with her recently I asked for her birthdate. She said August 15.

I called her on August 15–the day after our last board meeting–to tell her we’d chosen Marethel Guinsayao as our scholarship recipient. I asked Leah to extend our congratulations to Marethel….and did not wish her a happy birthday.

Last year I sent her a card and a small gift plenty early enough to reach her before her birthday. I enjoy sending cards and good wishes and I’ve always been good at remembering and delivering them. This year, for whatever reason, my calendar has been unreliable.

Talking to Leah on her birthday and not wishing her a happy birthday sent a message loud and clear. Get organized, Cheryl. Get back on track.

I went to my local independent bookstore, Grass Roots Books and Music, and ordered a date book to keep a record of the birthdays and anniversaries of my friends.

I’ll have it this week.

I’m sending Leah a card, a gift and my belated birthday wishes.

Please join me in wishing Leah a happy birthday.

Tally ho

September 1, 2009

I spent my week combing through files and tallying numbers. I read bank account summaries and checked and double checked receipts.

Our first fiscal year ended on June 30, 2009 and we need to file our first tax return for Isis Initiative, Inc. Sam, our treasurer, lost the records and data she’d organized for us when her computer crashed earlier this year. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’m a big fan of paper and ink, so I have copies of everything on hand that Sam had stored in zeroes and ones on her now-dead hard drive.

I’m not a fan of numbers, though, so the process has been time-consuming. Today I sent our board members a breakdown of our donations/income and our expenditures. It was a modest first year if we focus only on the numbers in the columns.

Beyond the spreadsheets and the IRS forms, there’s a value and return on investment that defies quantifying: one young lady, Marethel Guinsayo, will leave her job as a maid and realize her dream of attending college, starting a five-year teacher education program next month on Mindanao in the Philippines.