The Philippines has just survived another election season. Almost everything is new in government. There is a new president, a new set of cabinet members and new officials in national and local posts.
But the challenges faced by the new administration are old —poverty, corruption, debt, insurgency and a host of other enduring problems that mark government inefficiency and inadequacy.
There is a significant change, however. And this is happening not from top down, but from bottom up. The battle cry of today’s generation has become: “Change begins with us.”
People are realizing that nation building must involve the government and non-government sector, the latter having a key role in tapping society’s grassroots.
Proactive citizens. The Philippines needs them. Though it may take time for the entire nation to catch the fire, it is beginning to spread.
Over 16 months ago, a fledgling organization took on the challenge to build a brighter tomorrow for local farmers in San Miguel, Bulacan, a town just over two hours drive from the bustling Philippine capital of Manila.
For decades now, this vastly agricultural area has been ravaged by insurgency, lack of farm-to-market roads and infrastructure, environmental degradation and technological backwardness.
Guided by Christian principles, GreenEarth Heritage Foundation, Inc. set out to alleviate the plight of the farmers in Sitio Malapad na Parang in the foothills of the bucolic Sierra Madre mountain range.
GreenEarth’s goal is to preserve the environment and to alleviate poverty through livelihoods centered in organic agriculture and community development.
These combined thrusts make GreenEarth a holistic organization. In each of these spheres, it is implementing key programs that are slowly empowering the farmer beneficiaries and reversing the adverse effects of deforestation and charcoal-making in the area.
GreenEarth teaches its beneficiaries organic agricultural practices and has weaned them from their dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Through an ever-expanding organic kitchen garden, it trains its farmers in the principles and practice of vermiculture as well as natural/non chemical based strategies for pest management They now have a weekly harvest of organic vegetables and leafy greens marketed to health-conscious customers in the metropolis.
With a farm-to-table approach, the foundation’s farmers are at long last insulated from exploitative trade practices. As a result, they are now receiving fair wages and for the first time in their lives, are able to contribute to Social Security and Philhealth , all because of kind-hearted buyers who buy their produce direct with every peso going back to them.
The foundation also implements reforestation programs to bring biodiversity back on its land. Volunteers from social responsibility departments of corporations, Christian churches, as well as friends and family of the foundation’s staff plant fruit-bearing trees and forest hardwoods at GreenEarth. In unity with its farmers and volunteers, foundation staff members do their share to plant an average of 30 trees a month.
But to truly put an end to poverty in the area, GreenEarth seeks to improve the education of the heirs of its land. It started a Child Sponsorship Program to provide for the school needs of the children of its farmer beneficiaries. For just 450 pesos a month provided by child sponsors, the farmers’ children’s school supplies and uniforms are covered.
On its second year, the foundation is taking bolder steps in meeting the educational needs of the farmers’ children. It is building an on-site learning center with the vision of implementing a holistic and competitive curriculum, similar to home school.
rdana, arial, sans-serif; font-size: 11px; text-align: left; line-height: 1.5em; margin: 0px;”>This is GreenEarth’s solution to end the children’s difficult three-hour roundtrip travel by foot on rough roads and across a bridgless river just to reach the nearest school.
The newly established educational program on-site is first and foremost, working on the basics that include early reading and literacy for all age levels. There is a lot of catching up to do with the farmers’ kids.
Lastly, the foundation believes that a change of perspective from man to God will ultimately bring peace, true joy and contentment to its people. Though its programs deal with physical and material needs, the Bible declares that “man shall live not by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Thus, intertwined with all its projects is spiritual transformation.
GreenEarth’s Bible teacher and community organizer helps the people know God more through Bible-based devotions, prayer and Sunday worship. Sunday school is also offered to the children where they learn about honesty, courage, faith and hope among others through the examples of Bible heroes.
One by one, the men and women of Sitio Malapad na Parang are experiencing changed lives–this is evident in their self-image, dignity, empowerment and ultimately their relationship with God.
GreenEarth Heritage Foundation is doing its humble share towards nation building. Nothing at all comes easy and help is tough to find. It is an arduous mission, definitely not for the faint-hearted, given the incessant challenges and roadblocks.
There is a bridgeless river that still needs action from government, despite relentless appeals, follow-ups and engagements. There are hostile citizens who doubt the foundation’s motives. There is just so much to do with very little funding and help. But what inspires this fledgling organization is an assurance from the Almighty, “with God, nothing is impossible.”
The journey of a thousand miles has indeed begun with that courageous single step for GreenEarth.
“Change begins with us,” the adage goes. And comes with it is the challenge to act.
Will you be moved to help?
Learn more about this organization.