Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Learning Place

P3 features Mano Amiga volunteer Florian Trinidad's insights on what's so unique about the Mano Amiga school model and how more people could help the organization fulfill its mission of providing quality education to underprivileged youth.

Have you ever wondered why a four year old child selling sampaguita in the middle of the street is a normal sight here in the Philippines? Ever wondered why people don’t get surprised with seeing families sleeping on the sidewalks with beds made of cardboard and newspaper? Well this is a pretty normal scene in the Taguig area.

What Started It All 

Despite the fact that most of us are insensitive about the matter, fortunately someone noticed. Enter Mano Amiga, a school that aims to provide education to marginalized families. “The thing is, people keep saying how they support education because it has that equalizing promise but how can it be an equalizer in the Philippines if the poor have access to poor quality education and only privileged families have access to quality education” says Lynn Pinugu, Institutional Development Director of the Mano Amiga Academy. 

Mano Amiga was founded in Mexico by privileged high school students who saw how bad reality was in their country. They raised funds in order to put up a school that would offer the same books, curriculum and every academic advantage that these high school students have in order to give the less fortunate the equal treatment that they deserve. They started small but they started with heart, so it’s no surprise that Mano Amiga has been growing since. “The model became successful that it eventually grew into a network of schools all over Mexico and it mushroomed all over Latin America,” Lynn says. Apparently, it didn’t stop at Latin America. In 2008, Mano Amiga was finally brought to the Philippines.


How You Can Help: Y
ou don’t have to be a major corporation or a millionaire . Be a volunteer and help in building a better life for these wonderful scholars. Build schools and houses for them, educate them in proper cooking and good nutrition and teach them what is right and wrong. You not only save a child’s future but you also get yourself saved from the whole experience.
Read this article in full by visiting:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A New Perspective

Volunteer Cristina Lobregat shares the experience of watching the Azkals-Galaxy game with twelve exuberant Mano Amiga kids in tow, and the insights she gained along the way.

"Kung nandiyan lang sana si Coach Richard, siguro panalo na yung Azkals." Said in the most matter-of-fact tone, this was one of the endearing moments that really put the Philippine Azkals-LA Galaxy match into perspective; Particularly, the perspective of a grade 2 Mano Amiga student. Though it may come as a surprise to some, the students in Mano Amiga are actually football fans, thanks to the generosity of Coach Candice and Avery del Rosario of Futbol Funatics, who together with Coach Richard, volunteer to teach football every Friday to the Mano Amiga kids. The weekly games in Mano Amiga, coupled with the growing popularity of the Philippine Azkals peaked the students’ interest in football. With their newfound love for the sport, it was almost too good to be true that twelve students were given the chance to see the much-anticipated match last December 3.
While many people who watched the friendly match were looking forward to seeing David Beckham, the Mano Amiga students who trooped over to the Rizal Memorial Stadium from FTI, Taguig barely had an idea on who he was. In fact, they were more excited about finally seeing the Azkals live, so much so that the students actually prayed before the game, asking God to help the Azkals win. What a sight they were, twelve small children sitting quietly in prayer amidst a noisy, cheering crowd. Their excitement showed as their voices stood out from the rest during the National Anthem, prompting others seated around them to look over, where many, if not all, couldn’t help but smile.he Mano Amiga students were oblivious to the hype over LA Galaxy, continuously rooting for their home team, cheering with the rest of the crowd when the Azkals had finally scored a goal. The energy and excitement in the air had gotten to them as they were running up and down the bleachers, calling out the names of the most popular Azkals they knew.
But as with all children their age, by the time the game was winding down, so were they; Understandably so, it being way past their bedtime, the game ending at almost 10pm. But despite their sleepy eyes, tired but grateful smiles filled their faces as they walked out of the stadium. While waiting for the van, there was a renewed energy as the students recounted the highlights of the match. This experience was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime event for all those who watched the game, but for these students, the reason for that differs from the rest. In the end, it didn’t matter that David Beckham and the rest of LA Galaxy were there, nor did it matter that the score was 6-1, what mattered was that these students were able to watch a team they knew, play the sport they love.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tax Exemption for Mano Amiga donors

Mano Amiga Academy, inc. is proud to announce that it was recently granted by the Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC), a certification for donee institution status.

The PCNC accreditation gives corporate and individual donors exemption from donor’s tax and allows the donated amount to the Foundation to be deducted from their taxable incomes. Based on the Philippine Tax Code, the cap for deductibility is 10% for individual donors and 5% for corporate donors. Only organizations with a successful track record for at least two years could apply for the status.

PCNC was established as a response to the growing number of “fly-by-night” foundations and those that are being used solely to avoid paying taxes.

Mano Amiga Academy received its accreditation after PCNC conducted a thorough review of its operations, finances and policies. PCNC also looked at the dif- ferent resources that the school had in place to ensure project sustainability.

“Acquiring our PCNC accreditation is an important milestone for Mano Amiga Academy because it helps attest to our legitimacy and professionalism as an organization,” Development Director Lynn Pinugu said. “My deepest gratitude goes to the Grupo Integer administrative team for helping us prepare the necessary requirements, as well as to the Mano Amiga staff, students, and families who had given powerful and inspiring testimonials all throughout the evaluation.”

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Healing Hands

British Alumni Association holds Medical Missions in Mano Amiga

A child from a disadvantaged family has to work doubly hard in order to succeed in life. Giving him access to quality education is part of the solution, but hardly enough to ensure that he would be able to rise from his circumstance. This is why Mano Amiga Academy is more than just a school. It also serves as a community center, seeking to provide students and their families all the necessary support for them to build a better life.

One important aspect is addressing the health concerns of the community. As part of the PHIL-UK friendship week, the British Alumni Association (BAA) and the British Embassy Manila staff held Medical Missions at Mano Amiga Academy.

The project veered away from the traditional “one-day” format of giving free food and medicine. Under the leadership of Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go, the team focused on health education and patient diagnosis. BAA seeks to inculcate among the residents the discipline of regular visits to the local health office and for them to take advantage of the different medical services it offers.

BAA also asked for feedback from the families on how the public health centers could improve their services. It is part of BAA’s objective to help the Taguig local government better address the health concerns in marginalized communities.

The health education component during the Medical Missions focused on disease prevention, reproductive health, proper nutrition, drug abuse responses and other necessary information. Beneficiaries had access to free screening for diabetes and hypertension for adults, and free medical checkups for the children.

*Special thanks to Ms. Nell Belgado for the photos. More pictures from the event could be seen at her flickr site:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Students receive TOMS shoes

In PNR Taguig, the community of shanties where most Mano Amiga students live, majority of the population live on less than a dollar a day and a sturdy pair of shoes is a luxury most families cannot afford. Children running barefoot are an ordinary sight and slippers are not replaced until the soles are completely torn open. Siblings close in age often take turns wearing a pair of worn-out shoes to school.

It’s an all too common scenario that happens in every impoverished community in the world. In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie saw how children in Argentina often played outside without anything to protect their feet from skin infection, diseases and injury. This moved him to start TOMS, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. It became known as the One for One movement.

TOMS received overwhelming support and has given shoes to rural and urban communities in different parts of the world- Argentina, Ethiopia, and most recently, the Philippines.

To help the children from the PNR community, Mano Amiga Academy, in collaboration with TOMS and Philippine based group WE international, organized a shoe-giving event in the school last September 16. Each student received a new pair of TOMS footwear.

Mano Amiga volunteers also organized a fun workshop for the kids to teach them the importance of wearing shoes, particularly in preventing soil-transmitted diseases that could cause long-term physical and cognitive harm.

“We feel incredibly fortunate that our community was chosen as one of the beneficiaries of the program,” Mano Amiga Development Director Lynn Pinugu said. “The long-lasting pair of shoes is a powerful intervention to help keep the children healthy, allowing them to stay in school and work hard for a brighter future.”

One such child is Johnny Canares, 8, who experienced wearing new shoes for the first time. Before his TOMS pair, he had always worn hand-me-downs that his 5 older brothers had outgrown.

“I love my shoes. They smell nice and they feel so soft,” he said with a proud smile. “I’m going to wear them everywhere!”

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Raising Little Heroes!

School year 2011-2012 marks another exciting development for Mano Amiga Academy as the One Core Success Center launches Born to be a Hero Values Program, a highly interactive program where character building and formation is done through exciting and fun-filled activities.

The program features afternoon workshops filled with laughter and creativity. The program aims to instill in young minds the core values they need in order to maximize their potential and achieve their goals.

In the first session, the students talked about their dreams and ambitions in life by creating a small mural. The activity also allowed them to realize their responsibilities and commitments that would help in keeping their dreams alive for themselves and for their families or communities.

Coaches Auee Umel and Elie Diccion facilitated the second session, which focused on the theme, "WHO IS MY HERO?" It allowed the pupils to share the heroes they look up to and how they can become heroes in their own ways.



OneCore Success Center accepts supplies donations, monetary contributions and volunteers for our sessions!

Contact Koi Mejia at 09285501702 and or Patricia Sumbingco at 09209326049 and

Monday, August 8, 2011

Veggie lovin' with Vegan chef Marie Gonzalez

Marie Gonzalez has been volunteering in Mano Amiga Academy since it first opened in 2008. In the same year, she started Kitchen Revolution, a vegan gourmet food business that offers private chef services, in-home healthy eating consultations, cooking classes and catering. She earned her culinary degree from the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York and trained at Pure Food and Wine, a raw vegan restaurant also in New York. For nutrition month, Chef Marie spent an afternoon with the community kids to tell them why it's important to include a lot of vegetables in one's diet, and prepared them a vegan meal that no carnivore would be able to refuse! Learn more about Chef Marie and Kitchen Revolution at

About a month ago my good friend Lynn Pinugu invited me to share my vegetable love with the kids of Mano Amiga, a school that she runs in FTI Complex, Taguig. I had the privilege of doing just this two Saturdays ago on the 23rd of July.

To be honest, that Saturday was a pretty hectic day for me and an end to a pretty hectic week. That morning I held the Fantastic Salads class and immediately rushed to Taguig for Mano Amiga. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to teach kids how to enjoy vegetables! And boy was I glad I did. Nothing warms my heart more than to see a room full of kids eating healthy, vegetarian food (hanging out with cute farm animals comes as a close second).

Soy milkshake appreciation

Lynn Pinugu, headmistress of Mano Amiga (official job title: Institutional Development Director) is one amazing woman. I am privileged to call her my friend and we both share a passion for creating change in this country – for her through education, for me through food. And all, hopefully, with style :)

In the past, I have lent a hand at painting classrooms, scholarship fundraising by way of a dance-a-thon (yes! And I don’t dance!), conducting a book drive and book fair for the school library (back in my old corporate job with former work colleagues), bringing the kids to an Enchanted Kingdom field trip, and volunteering at some Saturday activities. Whatever amateur expertise I had at web design, I lent to the Mano Amiga Pilipinas blog. I wish I had more time for Mano Amiga’s kids!

Anyway, back to veggie love:

I started off the afternoon with bringing the kids to the school vegetable garden and explained that our food has to be as colourful as the world around us. A plate full of white, khaki, brown, and black food is not as exciting as a plate of food brimming with colors of the rainbow. Truth!

Mano Amiga’s veggie garden, aptly named Kinder Garden, was donated and planted by Starbucks Philippines by way of Zarah Zamora Perez. Zarah is as enthusiastic about urban vegetable gardens as I am about eating vegetables. The garden currently grows okra, squash, sili labuyo, malunggay, papaya, eggplant, and chives. Read more on Mano Amiga’s garden here.

We moved back to the classroom and I did a food demonstration of a black bean and seashell pasta salad. I had such a riveted audience; they ooh’d and aah’d at all the right places. Sarap to have my own veggie cooking show! Moving forward…

The dish was super colorful and that really piqued their interest – black from the beans, red from the tomatoes, yellow from the mango, green from the avocado and herbs, purple from the onions.

I followed the salad with a banana peanut butter soy milkshake which they LOVED. It was a healthy beverage that had zero added sugar. Of course, I included a brief explanation on the health benefits of plant-based milks over dairy milk. The kids didn’t have to take my word for it – they were busy enjoying their dairy-free milkshake.

Daniela, my pretty sous chef, developed a soymilk mustache which the kids all giggled at.

Well, we ended up sporting the soymilk mustache too!

All in all, a good Saturday well spent with fellow volunteers.

Merienda with Lynn Pinugu, Mina Herrera, Irene Balinao, Mark Brazil, Amor Herrera, Zarah Perez, and Jerome Gatmaitan

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kinder Garden Harvest

Volunteers from Starbucks Philippines and MFI Foundation joined the Mano Amiga Kindergarten class in harvesting the first fruits, vegetables rather, of the Mano Amiga Vegetable Garden. Starbucks CSR head Zarah Perez shares some excerpts from her journal entry on what happened during the activity:

District Manager Jovie Bonifacio and her magic wand gets us started with introductions. Our friend here wants to be 'matalino' when she grows up.

I meet Mark and I tell him that one of my best-est of friends is named Mark too. This young Mark aspires to be the school principal someday.

In the other classroom, MFI Foundation's Rita is with the Mano Amiga moms carrying on about taking care of their other child - the Mano Amiga kinder gardens. Thanks to MFI for teaching us how to nurture veggie friends along with their worms and insects.

Time to harvest those veggies!

Helping that little herb breathe by taking those nasty weeds out.

Mano Amiga's Lynn and Jam both proud and happy with their achievement.

All of us working intently on our stations.

Break Time! Red velvet cupcakes; available only for our special Mano Amiga kids.

It seemed to be over too soon. Thanks to my colleagues at Starbucks in the Asia Pacific and Seattle offices for letting us grow; vegetables, friendships and more of ourselves.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A School for All

The following article, reprinted with permission from The Philippine Daily Inquirer, tells the story behind the first Mano Amiga school in the Philippines, the different challenges it faces, and the fulfillment that comes with helping marginalized children transform their lives and achieve their dreams and aspirations.

A School for All by Vicky Herrera

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted: July 2, 2011

When you ponder the question, “What do you do?”—you’ll be surprised where it can lead you to.

I met an energetic, friendly 26-year-old girl named Lynn Pinugu. She runs a nonprofit school. I already found this interesting, but learning more about her opened up a whole new world for me.

Pinugu moved to Mexico to work as an international youth volunteer in 2006. Part of her work was to go to schools to encourage high school students to volunteer for social action programs. Her story began when she walked into the Mano Amiga Guanajuato school.

“I was surprised when I found out the students only paid a symbolic amount for their tuition, because the campus had spacious grounds and up-to-date learning facilities,” she said of the school set up by a nonprofit organization to provide quality education in places like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and Venezuela.

“I was immediately impressed by the students’ self-confidence, good communication skills and enthusiastic participation,” she said.

According to Pinugu, what made a profound impression on her was the students’ genuine desire to serve others. “Many of them voiced out how they consider themselves more fortunate than other children because they were given an opportunity to study and they would like to share their blessings by joining a volunteer program.”

From Mexico to Manila

Before she left for Manila, Pinugu told the program director to give her a call if they considered Manila as one of their future development sights.

Little did she know that the conversation with the program director would alter the course of her life. The Altius Foundation, which operates the schools in Latin America, asked Pinugu to pioneer the school system in the Philippines.

Pinugu was 23 then, and the responsibility she inherited was enormous. For starters, she had to convince a group of investors to trust a young girl in her early 20s with their money.

Armed with her vision and her slides, Lynn pursued as many people as she could to get the school started. “All I could show potential donors was a Power Point presentation on the success of Mano Amiga schools in other countries, and the promise we will do our very best to achieve the same results here,” she said of how she started the small campus in Taguig City.

“I will always be grateful to the different individuals and organizations who supported us during the first few months. They took a leap of faith by supporting the school,” she stated.

From a class of 35 students in kindergarten to 90 students this June, the school is growing slowly, but steadily. “We can still remember how the school only had a makeshift bathroom for the first three days and everyone really watched their food and liquid intake,” she recalled.

Volunteer-inspired progress

Volunteerism played a big role in the development of the school. Through the volunteers who donate their time, resources and knowledge, Mano Amiga has been able to offer student enrichment programs, free medical services, skills and training seminars, and parenting classes.

Programs can range from ballet to football classes, as well. In fact, a few of their students received a scholarship from the ballet school because of their amazing potential.

A lot of the volunteers are also young advocates. Doing everything from painting the walls to playing with the kids, the volunteers are energetic and excited to be there. “I constantly experience first-hand how our youth volunteers could be so effective in empowering our students, who are simply starving for good role models to look up to,” Pinugu shared.

She added: “Interaction with youth volunteers improves the students’ social skills, builds their confidence and motivates them to have higher aspirations. What is just an afternoon or a day for a volunteer has a lasting impact on a child, who receives the inspiration he needs to thrive in life.”

This year, the volunteers got even younger. There were groups of 8-year-old girls who made bookmarks and sold it to relatives and neighbors to help earn money for scholarships. To raise more funds, a group of fourth graders conducted a bake sale and car wash to buy armchairs for the school. This proves you are never too young for volunteerism.

Community building

Each year the Mano Amiga staff and volunteers conduct house visits, where they spend time getting to know the family of each student.

“We cannot understand the circumstance of a student without understanding his situation at home,” Pinugu shared. “We also recognize that parents are the primary teachers of their children, and that the school cannot fully accomplish its mission without the parents’ cooperation.”

The school makes sure they keep all levels of communication open with the parents with dialogues and parenting seminars. Pinugu encourages families to participate in the development services offered by the school. After all, it is important that a peaceful home environment supports what one learns in school.

Pinugu understands the misconceptions regarding charity work. “For me, the biggest mistake a person can make when it comes to working with marginalized communities is to give them everything they need without asking them to do their part.”

She was inspired by the idea of teaching a person how to fish, instead of giving them fish. “We discourage the dole-out mentality in Mano Amiga because it’s not going to be good for the families in the long run.”

Learning from students

After working so long with the kids, Pinugu shared how she, too, is learning a lot from them. “It’s their generosity toward others, despite having so little. Sometimes we get so caught up in the consumerism mentality, and we’re always fixated on what we can have. These children constantly remind me of my responsibility to use whatever resources or talents I have to improve someone else’s life.”

The students also teach Pinugu about life’s simple joys. “I think it’s really beautiful how the children never take anything for granted,” she says.

“One time, about nine kids visited me in the office. They got so excited when they saw the swivel chair. For an hour, the children just took turns spinning around. They found it magical!