The Glenn Family Foundation has a long history in India, building infrastructure for and supporting victims of child labour, equipping medical centres and schools and rolling out sanitation projects.
The GFF HELPS programme in India is focussed on education and preventing the amount of children dropping out of school and becoming child labourers. The Foundation, in partnership with a local NGO, initiated three Learning Centres in Kalimpong where children can access free tutoring from qualified teachers, assistance getting into vocational studies and a range of other extra-mural activities. These centres also serve the broader community by offering health workshops, adult literacy courses and facilitating visits from welfare agencies.
Volunteer Representatives are sourced locally, from within India, and assist in all these learning centre activities as well as initiate their own projects. They also conduct surveys and research that further informs us of the ongoing needs.
"One of the things that working with the beneficiaries of Bal Suraksha Abhiyan Trust taught me was that children have more resilience than most people believe or give them credit for and can endure a number of horrific hardships and still maintain a smile and pure enjoyment."
"I learnt to appreciate that on the whole people are generally good and want to do what they can to help others. Almost every person I met during our stay was incredibly welcoming and couldn’t do enough to help us be comfortable in their country."
GFF HELPS entered the Philippines in 2018 to establish new projects in the Aklan area. We worked alongside a local NGO, the Yolanda Aklan Reconstruction Programme, and learned a great deal about their successful livelihoods programme. Our pioneer Representatives, Michael Fanning and Willyn Carrascal lead the way and initiated our first projects:
Today there is a widening gap between those with and without access to technology. The amount of information available online nowadays means that every child’s learning could be supplemented with rich and engaging content. As technology grows increasingly more affordable and available, GFF HELPS set out to see whether small rural schools could benefit from simple inexpensive tablets, pre-loaded with effective teaching tools, like the famous Khan Academy, or a range of local apps that can be accessed offline.
Michael and Willyn piloted the idea with four small local schools in the Banga area. They conducted teacher training sessions to ensure teachers understood how to use the technology and shared their expert opinions about how it could be best used in the classroom. Teachers took to the technology well and found maths applications particularly useful to enhance their lessons. Children navigated the apps with ease and engaged well with it.
In 2019 we will be conducting a broader test of this project before we decide to expand it into other schools. We look forward to learning more from our findings – report coming soon.
Those in the most rural parts of Philippines do not have access to the electricity grid. They use kerosene lamps which are harmful and often dangerous, or do not have light at all after sunset. Solar lights are safer and increase the productive hours in a day. GFF HELPS piloted a small roll out of solar units to 40 households in Magdalay, a small community in the hills. They worked closely with the local community leaders to determine who was most in need and how to store and install the lights. This cooperation was integral to the project and we learned a good model for doing this type of work in other similar locations.
Reading Workshops and Mobile Libraries
Another thing they noticed in the small schools they visited was a shortage of reading materials and children did not spend much time learning how to read. They developed a reading workshop and sourced appropriate books that could form a mobile library. The workshops helped the children with their comprehension and the interactive storytelling got them engaged and eager to learn. They children are continuing to exchange books and we hope to expand their selection and find ways to further enhance their reading skills.
"This experience has given me the opportunity to connect with communities in rural areas and allowed me to learn more about my own culture."
"I have learned that sharing and giving can be just as rewarding as receiving. There is a big hospitality culture in the Philippines and people will try make you feel at home whenever they can."
Image: GFF Representative Tharaka Munidasa (right) and GFF India Manager Saom Namchu (left) at the entrance to SANASA Campus in Kegalle
In early 2019 GFF visited Sri Lanka with GFF Representative Tharaka Munidasa to facilitate a partnership with local NGO, SANASA, and establish a new location for the HELPS programme.
SANASA is an organisation which follows a cooperative philosophy. One of the main goals is to uplift communities in a way that encourages local empowerment and local ownership. It’s SANASA Campus is a community-based, non-profit co-operative sector university.
Some of the broader needs identified in these communities are economic empowerment, health services and education programmes. Specifically, there is a need to develop more income generation opportunities in local villages to retain skilled youth who opt to leave the community in search of better opportunities, causing a skill drain in the area. There are also not many educational opportunities, particularly for learning English, IT and business.
In March GFF visited for a five-day exploration of the rural villages and the work of SANASA. The extensive discussions were fruitful and together we identified some good introductory projects:
Teaching English to campus students to transfer their skills onto the village community and assisting the Centre for Cooperatives and Community Studies (CCCS) to educate the wider community
An IT skills development programme for students and the local community
Village projects including digital learning, environmental awareness and recycling, heath workshops, first aid training and educational workshops
We thank SANASA for their openness and willingness to work together for the common good of those in need and look forward to seeing how these and other new projects develop. If you are interested in being a future GFF Representative for Sri Lanka, send in an application to GFF here.