Volunteers: Free to Help, Helping for Free

Teacher Belen is all prepared with learning materials for a
one-on-one tutorial session with one of the CICLs in MYC
who has never been to school.

[Click picture to enlarge]

They are one of society’s most unrecognized sectors helping society’s often forgotten, vulnerable and disadvantaged sectors.

They are our volunteers.

While there are many valid excuses not to have the “extra time” to rest from work, much less to render service with no tangible benefit in exchange, there are still able to find the time and offer their talents, skills and services for free.

Jecelyn Belen, is a solo parent of three children and has been a public elementary school teacher for almost two and a half decades in Bansud, Oriental Mindoro.

Summer time could be the perfect opportunity to rest and fulfill commitments she

might otherwise have passed due to a demanding profession of not only handling her regular class load but also taking extra time to help students who are slow learners. This year, however, she chose to spend it with the Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) at the MIMAROPA Youth Center (MYC).

Known for being the best teacher in town for slow learners and students who find it difficult to read, she offered to help the children at the center, after hearing that her co-teacher was also volunteering there. Two others, including a private school teacher, also rendered tutorial services to the CICLs in basic literacy, reading and comprehension skills since January of this year.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, the principal author of RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act, said that “the law not only seeks to remove children from jail but more importantly challenges us to view CICLs as products of society’s ills and not as criminals.”

It is not surprising therefore that CICLs often come from large, poor, broken or abusive homes. Most of them have not graduated from primary or secondary schools. One of Teacher Belen’s students in the center, at 18 years old, cannot read nor write because he’s never been to school. All of the CICLs in the center have never reached high school, one of them has only reached Grade 1.

“Since these children have never spent enough time in school to actually have the interest and appreciate learning, some of them are sometimes lazy to attend these tutorial sessions, which are done three hours a day during weekdays,” shared Francis Lou Pedraza, Center Head of MYC. “But when they realized that these services are offered to them for free and for their benefit, they get encouraged and are grateful to the teachers.”

Summer is over and now these CICL’s are enrolled in Dep Ed’s Alternative Learning System and will be taking an acceleration test this coming October.

The patience of Teacher Belen and the others paid off. However, tutoring the CICLs basic reading and writing skills was more than just a preparation for them to go back to school. This simple gesture of taking the time for these children, who may have been wrongly-judged by their families or abandoned by friends for mistakes committed, proved to be the best gift they have offered these CICLs.

As Teacher Belen puts it, “these children need all the help so they can see life in a positive way again.” Rightly so, for children, that should have been the case all along. (Written by Ms. Florence C. Baula, DSWD Field Office IV-B)