Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mission Possible: The Mano Amiga Story


 “I want to be a doctor” Grade 5 student Princess Villacorta shared when asked what she wants to be when she grows up. “I see our neighbors suffer because of their health illnesses and I want to help by curing their sickness. I know one day I will.” Princess is one of over 100 students studying in Mano Amiga Academy. When her dream finally comes true, she will be the first heart surgeon in the entire PNR Community - West Bicutan, Taguig City, one of the most depressed communities in Taguig City with more than 5,000 informal settlers who live in shanties, the same community that has been served by Mano Amiga since 2008.

Mano Amiga is a non-profit network of schools, with a mission to provide quality education and holistic formation to children from impoverished communities in the hopes of transforming their lives, ending the cycle of poverty in their families and creating a lasting change in their communities. Mano Amiga was founded in Mexico almost five (5) decades ago when a group of youth who went into an immersion visit; worked together to help address the poverty they had witnessed in the community. They raised funds to provide the poor children they met an equal opportunity to have a brighter future through quality education. The model became successful that it eventually grew into a network of thirty-eight (38) Mano Amiga schools around the world. It is known for producing alumni who are outstanding academic achievers with national scores at par with the best schools in their countries. Mano Amiga alumni include doctors, lawyers, businessmen, bankers, engineers, and educators. 

In 2008, Mano Amiga model opened its first campus in Asia, particularly in Taguig City, Philippines. It had 30 students for SY 2008-2009. “When I first heard of Mano Amiga, I could not believe that there is truly an International School for the poor. I can still remember when I was interviewed by the former principal. He mentioned that the school will be using an international curriculum. Also books and other school supplies would also be provided and that only a limited slot (20-25 students in class) would be offered to ensure the quality of teaching. Right then, I know I should do good so my son Angelo would be considered.” Mommy Melody recalled. “Then the principal explained that part of the scholarship condition is to diligently pay a small tuition fee amount and volunteer two (2) hours every week as teacher assistants, as part of our family’s contribution to the school. Hearing this, I honestly had to think twice but still said yes in the end. I know this would be a better scenario than sending my son to the nearby public school that will surely be for free but quality of learning is also not assured.” Mommy Melody proudly shared. “Then I saw how the teachers handled the students during the first day of class. I could not explain it then but I know there is a big difference on the approach. I cannot remember I was taught the same way when I was a student myself. The first school year ended at a breeze and my son Angelo could not believe he passed the first year in Mano Amiga. He did not even want the school year to end. He wanted to go back to school right after the first weekend of the school break. After that, I realized the difference I observed during the first day. Mano Amiga did not only teach my son new things, they made him love learning.”

Throughout the years the main focus of the Mano Amiga model is holistic education and skills development. To help us translate this mission in class, we invest on our teachers. The teachers are offered competitive salaries, and the school invests in creating tailored training opportunities and personal formation. We ensure that they are not only equipped with up to date teaching methods and techniques but also grounded on the social mission of Mano Amiga. More than searching for the top-notchers, we look for teachers who have the heart for service and are highly trainable.

 “Working in Mano Amiga brings so much joy but a lot of challenges. I have been teaching in other private schools and handled various levels of students. But the realities in Mano Amiga are far different. Academic performance alone does not dictate the intelligence of the students. My co-teachers and I observed a lot of our students have the potential to perform better in class but they fail their subjects because they do not believe in themselves and their references are very limited. They want to work on their assignments but their parents can no longer teach them because they themselves do not know the topic. The challenge to learning is not the students’ low comprehension but on their insecurities and self-esteem issues. We need to be extra creative in localizing our lessons so as to meet the learning needs of our students and take into consideration their background.” Homeroom Adviser, Teacher Mary Anne said.

“During my first year of teaching, one of my Grade 3 students Cyruz was very shy and quite in class. It was extremely difficult to motivate him to participate in class activities. Even if he knew the answer, Cyruz preferred to keep it to himself and only express his thoughts through writing.  After years of consistent encouragements from his teachers, various after-school interventions and guidance of his parents, Cyruz finally blossom. When he was in Grade 1, one of his teachers made him a group leader for the reporting tasks in Social Science class. Cyruz struggled at first but effectively worked with his team. When he found out that his group ranked the highest, Cyruz started believing in himself. He thanked his teacher for trusting him. Today, Cyruz is one of the best performing students in his class. He continuously leads during group activities and confidently shares his thoughts.” Homeroom Adviser, Teacher Mary Anne proudly shared.
 “In Mano Amiga, students gain mastery of subjects and develop their skills in Communication, Leadership & Critical Thinking. These are the skills they will need to succeed in life. More importantly, we strive to continuously form our students to be future leaders, confident, socially responsible and capable of seeing and responding to the needs of others. We cannot change the current realities of our students but we can certainly help them have a better future. It is with love and utmost respect for their unique gifts and capabilities that drives us to constantly find effective and innovative ways in fostering the development of the overall well-being of our students.” Institutional Development Manager Kris Jovet Garcia

No comments: