MANILA, Philippines – What started out as a mere conversation between a dormer at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman and a member of a mass organization of Filipino youth has evolved into a donation drive that has benefitted at least 600 stranded students in Metro Manila.
Sagip Kabataan was born after a UP Diliman student, who was stranded in Metro Manila because of the months-long coronavirus lockdown, shared his story to a member of Youth for Nationalism and Democracy (YND).
According to YND, the student had been stranded in his dorm for nearly two months and had no money to buy pre-paid mobile phone load to call his family. He chose to stay in Metro Manila during the lockdown to complete his academic requirements – he knew that if he had gone home, his parents would have to spent on his internet needs.
Food supplies at UP dorms were also estimated to last only until the end of May. (READ: Para sa bayan: U.P. lends expertise, resources in fight vs coronavirus)
This spurred YND to raise funds through Sagip Kabataan to provide food packs for stranded students in UP Diliman while they wait to get home through the Hatid Probinsya programs.
“Bilang mga Iskolar ng Bayan, danas namin at kita ang hirap ng sitwasyon natin wala pa man ang pandemya ng COVID-19. Kaya ng ideklara ang lockdown ramdam namin ang paghigpit ng sinturon dala ng kawalang trabaho, tumindi ang kahirapan at laganap ang gutom sa mga tahanan,” said Sagip Kabataan volunteer Star Jhane Caparas, who is the spokesperson of Kaisa Ka Youth, a member organization of Sagip Kabataan.
(As Iskolars ng Bayan, we have experienced and witnessed such difficulties prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. So when the lockdown was declared, we felt the impact of belt-tighetning caused of loss of jobs, worsened poverty, and widespread hunger in homes.)
The group especially wanted to focus on the stranded dormers for the relief drive because they were neither listed as barangay beneficiaries for relief nor seen as heads of the family to even have a quarantine pass.
“Maraming pamilya, estudyante, at mga indibidwal hindi pa naabutan ng tulong (There are many families, students, and individuals who have not received help),” Caparas said.
Hoping to pull in more support, Sagip Kabataan volunteers reached out to Millennials PH, the youth arm of the Office of the Vice President (OVP).
Soon enough, the OVP sent in one ton of squash from Nueva Ecija to be given to 258 stranded students and 100 families residing in the UP Diliman area on May 19.
Tapped by the OVP, the I Am Hope Foundation also helped in distributing 500 packed meals personally cooked by Bea Alonzo, Vhong Navarro, and Rina Navarro to UP Diliman dormitories and stay-in staff on May 21.
While they were focused on UP Diliman, Sagip Kabataan volunteers heard about the struggles of stranded students at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Sta Mesa, Manila.
YND tapped other youth organizations so they can pitch in and bring the initiative to their own schools.
Kaisa Ka Youth, Teatrong Bayan PUP, College of Social Sciences and Development PUP Independent Student Party, Young Human Rights Defenders UP Diliman and UP Alyansa quickly joined Sagip Kabataan’s ranks to help their fellow Iskolars ng Bayan. (READ: While classes are on hold, students find ways to help affected communities)
Fundraising to help more Iskolars ng Bayan
To bring in more help for stranded students, Sagip Kabataan led the “Saan aabot ang P100 piso mo (How far will your P100 go)?” campaign to encourage even small donors to pitch in. A P100-donation was enough to feed one student for a day.
The group also led an online concert on June 2, “TugtugPatakPatak” featuring artists and bands like Village Idiots and Ja Quintana of Lapis.ph to pull in more donations. Never forgetting their advocacy, they even featured a song composed and performed by Simon Cruz, a stranded student at PUP, during the concert.
Through these efforts, Sagip Kabataan was able to raise a total of P80,500 from fellow Iskolars ng Bayan, alumni, Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino Sa Canada (UKPC), and the British Columbia Government Employees Union (BCGEU), among others.
With the gathered donations, they were able to give relief packs to PUP students and UP dormitories Kalayaan, Ipil, Centennial 1, and Centennial 2.
The OVP also donated 300 packs of pandesal to 274 stranded students in PUP.
Aside from food, Sagip Kabataan reached out to the Sewers Organization in Taguig, which committed to make 300 face masks for UP and PUP students.
The group also distributed 100 packs of sanitary napkins to stranded female students and community members of Purok Aguinaldo, UP Diliman, and Sta Mesa, Manila.
Addressing students’ needs
Sagip Kabataan volunteers know that providing meals to stranded students is not enough to help them through the pandemic. Caparas said the group is also exploring ways to improve students’ access to gadgets and free public wifi for their online classes. (READ: How to help students in need cope with distance learning)
The group is planning to work with local government units, the OVP, and the private sector to provide gadgets and address other learnin needs of students.
“Hindi man namin maalis ang patung-patong na problemang pinansyal, sikolohikal at emosyonal na dinaranas nila sa gitna ng lockdown, makagawa man lang kami ng paraan upang maibsan o mabawasan kahit papaano ang pasanin ng mga kapwa namin Iskolar ng bayan,” said Caparas.
(We may not be able to solve all their financial, psychological, and emotional problems that have piled one after another in the middle of lockdown, we would have at least found ways to ease the struggles of our fellow Iskolar ng Bayan.) – with reports from Cris Vilchez/Rappler.com