MANILA, Philippines – It does not matter how old you are, anyone can make a difference. This is what many are learning from young Fil-Am sisters Malaya David, 10, and Tala David, 13.
The David sisters funded the reconstruction of a school building in Tanauan, Leyte, completely destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The new four-classroom school building will go to Maribi Elementary School (MES) in Barangay San Roque, Tanauan.
The sisters, based in Berkeley, California, generated funds by selling Haiyan bracelets for $10 (P450) each. Eventually calling their project the Malaya and Tala Fund (MTF), the two were able to raise $100,000 (PHP 4,512,025) to finance majority of the building reconstruction.
The new school building in MES was formally turned over by MTF and co-funder Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to the community of San Roque last June 2. The SEIU, a union of service workers in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, contributed $35,000 (PHP 1,579,209) for the reconstruction.
Guests of the turnover ceremony included Former Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Governor of Leyte Dominic Petilla, Mayor of Tanauan Pel Tecson and Department of Education Leyte Division Superintendent Dr Ronelo Firmo.
Malaya and Tala, unable to travel to Leyte, made a special appearance in the ceremony via video message.
Malaya and Tala Fund
The MTF’s revenue came from Haiyan bracelets sold by the sisters online, within their community and during local events. The Haiyan bracelets were manually braided by Malaya and Tala using the colors of the Philippine flag – blue, red and yellow.
According to the sisters’ mother Amihan David, the idea behind MTF came about after their family watched Youtuber Kevin Ayson’s We Are The World for Philippines (Typhoon Haiyan) video.
According to Amihan, the sisters were moved upon seeing images of young Yolanda victims left without a school to go to. Amihan said that for Malaya, “it feels unfair that she and her friends have schools to go to, therefore all kids should have a school.”
Build back better
According to MTF Philippine Representative Isabelle Borgeson, Malaya and Tala “did not want a typical school building” and pushed for a more sustainable design that would prevent future disasters.
Together with Amihan and their grandfather Amado, the David Sisters consulted with Emerging Architects Studio to come up with a structurally sound and environmental-friendly blueprint for the school building.
Borgeson details how engineering tests indicate that the new building in MES can brave “another Yolanda,” able to withstand winds up to 350 kilometers per hour.
Borgeson also mentioned that the building is environmentally sustainable, with solar panels for lighting and an ecological sanitation system that reduces accumulated waste.
Borgeson and the MTF Philippine team ensured community empowerment in line with the reconstruction, providing feedback opportunities, local employment and climate change education for the people of San Roque.
“The impact of this small school building will be felt for generations to come, because of the values change, critical awareness and commitment to action it sparked within the school community and in Tanauan at large,” Borgeson added.
Making a difference
Borgeson finds the fact that Malaya and Tala are the youngest funders in Yolanda reconstruction efforts “incredible.”
“I don’t think Malaya and Tala fully understand the extent of the impact they have made on the community,” Borgeson added.
“Malaya and Tala are combatting climate change and degradation of the environment through their efforts to build an elementary school that promotes environmental stewardship.”
Borgeson also remarked how Malaya and Tala’s efforts ultimately show age should not hinder one from making a difference in the country. Borgeson explains how the girls initiated the MTF despite being young and never having set foot in the Philippines.
“The greatest lesson that Malaya and Tala have taught us is the outstanding potential of our youth to take action as social entrepreneurs, as creative artists, and as philanthropists. This project shows the importance of empowering our youth and providing them with opportunities to express themselves in these ways,” Borgeson added. – Rappler.com
Miguel Sevidal is a Rappler intern