by: Cecille Catherine A. Bautista
When I started working with AHON in May 2006, everything was merely ‘ideas’. What we had then was a simple dream – to give public school children a chance for a better life through the gift of education.
Realizing the significant role that books play in the formation of a child’s knowledge and values, we focused our efforts to giving our beneficiaries access to relevant learning opportunities by assisting the schools and communities in developing their libraries. Being part of the start-up team of AHON Foundation, I witnessed how our goals and plans slowly unraveled into tangible and worthy projects.
We were off to a good start. A year and a half since we began this mission and we have already adopted 8 public school libraries – transformed them into magnificent and functional libraries filled with quality books and other useful learning materials. No more dusty shelves, dilapidated shelves, and tattered and obsolete books. This was made possible through the help of Filway Marketing, Inc. and the incredible support we got from the community members. Local officials, parents, teachers, volunteers, and even the pupils themselves all contributed to refurbish their libraries.
Whoever said bayanihan no longer exists hasn’t met our beneficiaries yet.
Inspired by the success we’ve had the past year, we decided to embark on a bigger and more ambitious challenge. Together with K.I.D.S. Foundation, Campaigns and Grey, and Pizza Hut, we have launched Isang Milyong Aklat, Isang Milyong Pangarap – a yearlong campaign to raise at least ONE MILLION BOOKS for the benefit of the poorest public schools in the country.
We created this campaign in an effort to invite Filipinos everywhere to donate books and volunteer their time in making sure that public school children can have access to a wealth of knowledge that can be found in reading books. It was launched last July on Diether Ocampo’s birthday celebration at A.S.A.P on ABS-CBN. Diether is the President of our partner organization K.I.D.S. Foundation and is also our main spokesperson for our campaign.
What’s great about Isang Milyong Aklat, Isang Milyong Pangarap is we made donating books easier and more accessible. We have drop boxes located at over 30 Pizza Hut, Pizza Hut Bistro, Taco Bell, and Dairy Queen branches in Metro Manila. We also pick up book donations in bulk. Donors can also bring the books directly to our office in Libis, Quezon City or at Filway branches in Lipa City, Naga City, Iloilo, Cebu City, Davao City, and Cagayan de Oro. Donating books has never been this easy!
Our excitement about our new endeavor was met with enthusiasm and outright support from different individuals we do not even know. Emails and phone calls not only from Metro Manila but also from as far as Canada, United States, and the Middle East started to pour in. It was totally overwhelming and inspiring. We realized we were not alone in our advocacy.
A few months since we began our mission, I’m delighted to share with you great news that we’ve gathered around 200,000 reading materials from organizations, schools, and private individuals! The support we’ve been getting makes us even more aggressive with our campaign and gives us the courage to hurdle the challenges we encounter along the way.
Another great surprise is the recognition that we’ve been getting from commendable institutions in the media. We have been featured by PCIJ, Manila Standard Today, and Probe at ABS-CBN. I’d like to think this is an affirmation that we’re doing something worthy. Like what Emil Jurado said in his column, what we are doing might be small considering the number of poor children in the country but it is with little things that we begin to make a difference.
Aside from books, we are also raising volunteers to help us in pick up books from our partner establishments, assist us in events, and organize book drive in their own office, community, or school. We are also gearing up for our Isang Milyong Aklat Day on December 8 at The Fort. This event includes a mini book fair and lots of fun filled activities for kids and adults alike. People can also bring their book donations at the event and be part of this worthy cause. This is our way of celebrating the holiday seasons – by encouraging people to share the gift of knowledge.
We’re still a long way from our goal but we are positive that through the help of more people, we’re going to sail through this endeavor with flying colors. It has been a very rewarding experience and we are committed to keep the fire burning until we reach our goal – 1 million books for thousands, even millions of deserving children!
I can’t wait to see the sweet smiles on the children’s faces the moment we distribute the books. I have experienced that many times with our past beneficiaries in AHON but being with the children and seeing their eyes widen with excitement is something I would always look forward to. At the end of a tiring day, what keeps me going is the thought that I’m part of the team that is helping build a million dreams.
What could be better than that?
*Cecille Bautista was a former program officer for AHON Foundation. She pioneered the library build projects of the organization in Marikina area.