x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

In its second year, the organisers of the school supplies collection campaign, lapis at papel (paper and pencil), hope needy children in the Philippines will not quit school because their parents cannot afford to have them educated.

Wilfredo Aguilar and Ryan Cabug sit with school supplies to be donated to underprivileged schoolchildren in the Philippines as part of an education project called “lapis at papel” (pencil and paper). Charles Crowell for The National
Wilfredo Aguilar and Ryan Cabug sit with school supplies to be donated to underprivileged schoolchildren in the Philippines as part of an education project called “lapis at papel” (pencil and paper). Charles Crowell for The National

DUBAI // Wilfredo Aguilar hopes poverty will not keep Filipino children out of school.

The 33-year-old planning engineer in Dubai led a “lapis at papel” (pencil and paper) collection campaign for needy schoolchildren in the Philippines last December, which is being repeated this year.

Boxes of pencils, erasers, sharpeners, paper, notebooks and crayons were shipped to Manila and distributed to 2,530 grade-school students in three public schools.

Mr Aguilar and a group of computer enthusiasts, the Filipino Digerati Association, made the donation in coordination with the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, a Philippine government agency under the office of the president.

Mr Aguilar, who served as the group’s president last year, is aware of the hardships of some children who want to go to school.

Both his parents died while he was in high school. His mother died of emphysema in 1996 and a year later, his father, a seafarer, succumbed to bone cancer.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, also a government agency, provides death benefits, including scholarships and financial assistance for education, to dependents of overseas Filipino workers.

“I was fortunate to get some help from the government,” Mr Aguilar said. “But I know of many children who are struggling in public schools and are forced to quit since their parents could not even afford to buy them pencils and notebooks.”

There are more than 46,000 state-run schools in the Philippines. Overcrowding and a lack of classrooms and teachers are among the many problems.

“Getting a good education should be a right, not a privilege,” Mr Aguilar said. “I would really like to make a difference to the lives of these children through our project.”

Ryan Cabug, 41, a mechanical technician in Ajman who assisted with the school fundraiser, said students, housemaids and companies supported the cause. Some offered in-kind donations, while others gave cash.

“It felt so good seeing the photos of smiling children and their teachers with the school supplies,” he said. “We were tired gathering the items and packing non-stop but it was worth it.”

The group began collecting more school supplies this month to ship in time for Christmas. Another delivery of school supplies will arrive in the first quarter of next year, before the start of the new academic year in June.

A similar project, “Lapis, Papel, Aklat Atbp” (Pencils, Paper, Books etc), was launched by the University of the Philippines Alumni Association in the UAE in 2009.

Last year, dozens of boxes of supplies were shipped to Dayap Elementary School and Santo Tomas Elementary School in Calauan, Laguna, south of Manila. The schools have 3,188 pupils between them.

rruiz@thenational.ae