DUBAI // Thousands of underprivileged schoolchildren in the Philippines who cannot afford to buy even the most basic school supplies will have a reason to smile.
After a two-year gap, the University of the Philippines Alumni Association in the UAE is relaunching the Lapis, Papel, Aklat, Atbp (Pencil, Paper, Book, Etc) project this year with a view to making it an annual event.
"There are many children in the Philippines who want to go to school," said Raquel Dulay, 33, head of the group's special projects committee.
"But resources are scarce. Many of them do not even have pencils or notebooks."
The group hopes to reach out to the 3,188 pupils at two primary schools in one of the country's poorest towns. Children there are in dire need of school supplies.
By the end of November, at least 10 boxes of supplies will be shipped to the state-run Dayap Elementary School and Santo Tomas Elementary School, in Calauan, Laguna, south of Manila.
"When growing up, my mum would tell us about their hardships while attending a public school in the province," Ms Dulay said.
"They had to walk barefoot through rice fields to reach their school. They did not have shoes or even notebooks, but persevered to get a good education."
Ms Dulay, a Dubai resident for 11 years, said she would like to visit the schools.
Seventy per cent of the 1,844 pupils at Dayap Elementary School cannot afford to buy notebooks, paper and pens, according Leny Corcolon, the school principal.
Most of children's families have moved to Calauan, Laguna, from typhoon-hit cities such as Pasig and Marikina.
"Many of them are malnourished because they do not have anything to eat at home," she said. "They do not have school bags and shoes. Donations will really motivate them to come to school."
Bantay Bata (Child Watch), a rescue and child welfare programme run by ABS-CBN, a television network in the Philippines, will co-ordinate the distribution of the school supplies. LBC, an international freight forwarding company, will ship the boxes free.
Galo Damon Calizo, 44, who headed the special projects committee in 2010, said he was “delighted” that the campaign is being relaunched.
“It only means one thing: more children will be happy with our small effort,” he said.
Lapis, Papel, Aklat, Atbp was first launched in 2010. The UAE community donated colouring and children’s books, pencils, pens and notebooks.
Most of the children’s families could not afford to buy books and shoes, with many forced to walk barefoot to school.
Moved by their plight, three Indian expatriates pooled several hundred dirhams to buy 400 pairs of flip-flops for the students.
Those wanting to donate can contact Ms Dulay at 050 426 7879 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.