Since 2015, the Lee family, whose son was a pupil in Bramston's, have been sponsoring thirty-two Filipino children to attend Umapad elementary school. Many of these children come from large families that live and work on the local dumpsite in Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines. The then-Housemaster of Bramston's, Dr John Cullerne and his wife, Kay, who is still the House Secretary, made this the House project, with boys and staff joining the fundraising effort.
The aim of the Umapad Food Programme is to encourage children to attend their local school by providing them with a hot meal. For many this is their only meal of the day, at a cost of just 40p. The project runs in partnership with an independent day school in the region, the Singapore School Cebu (SSC). SSC has incorporated this project into its outreach programme, with each SSC student allocated a buddy from Umapad. Once a term they meet up, join in with games and lessons, and chat together.
In 2017, Bramston's Quelle team wrote about the feeding programme and raised over £1000 from magazine sales. In addition there was a charity House music concert, securing further funds. That summer, the Cullerne and Lee families visited Cebu to see the feeding programme in action. They met the children and led some maths and English lessons. They also visited the children's homes and distributed food. At the end of the visit, they presented a cheque for £9000, which would cover the food of the thirty-two children for the next four years.
During a Skype call between Bramston's pupils and the Umapad school in January 2018, the children were asked if there was anything else they needed. One child replied, "zapatos", meaning shoes. By June, further efforts had raised £1000, which was spent on shoes for children who were otherwise walking to school barefoot.
Persuading the parents to allow their children to attend school has been one of the most difficult challenges. The families are unable to plan beyond today. They may go without food for days. Many have experienced trauma: losing their homes and belongings in an instant, destroyed by typhoons or earthquakes. As a result, many children have to sacrifice their education to contribute to the family income. Whilst an education may secure a more sustained, positive future for the families; being in school puts additional pressure on their family's present situation.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools in the Philippines have been closed until summer 2021. The Umapad food programme is on pause as face-to-face classes are prohibited, and no food parcels can be delivered to the children. While some more-equipped public schools are able to hold online classes, Umapad elementary school does not have the capacity to do so. As an alternative, the children pick up a set of printed modules each Friday for self-study, and submit the assigned tasks the following week. Without the help of the teachers, the students have found it hard to learn.
However, at the beginning of the 2020 academic year, SSC identified four students with particular potential who are at a crucial stage of their education. They need to graduate junior school next year with the credits required to complete two more years of senior school. SSC is providing these four pupils with a full-boarding education, and all the resources and technology they need to continue their studies safely. Their studies include digital literacy, presentation skills, Bible study, basic hygiene, and culinary and domestic skills.
The four children have had to adjust quickly to their new life. They are homesick and miss their families greatly but recognise the importance of this opportunity to continue their studies.
The Umapad food programme will begin again later this year. The next cohort of children to benefit will be selected and a new cycle will begin. Thanks to a recent, very generous donation from another former Bramston’s parent, funding is now secure for the feeding and the schooling of Umapad children for the next three years.
Thank you to all those who bought Quelle magazines in the past, and donated to fundraising efforts, making such an impact in these children's lives. To find out more about, please email Mrs Cullerne.
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