An NGO of the noble kind
Not all nongovernment organizations are of the Janet Napoles genre; there are many more out there, unnoticed by the media but nevertheless doing us and our country a lot of good. One of the latter is Community Welfare Service Lotus Foundation Inc. (CWSLFI), established in the Philippines by Heinrich Maria Heumann, a German national.
I still remember how, 10 years ago, he was referred to us by a German law office. He needed our legal assistance in conducting his philanthropic work in Panabo City, Davao del Norte. We agreed to help him out. And we are very glad we did.
As of his latest communication with us before 2014 ended, Mr. Heumann and the CWSLFI reported presently catering to about 180 schoolchildren living in poverty in Mindanao, training around 35 unemployed parents, and extending vocational guidance to some 28 out-of-school youths.
The schoolchildren attended to by the foundation are unlike those who go to the exclusive schools in the major cities. Most of their parents are dead, unidentified, or nowhere to be found. Most are thus raised by relatives, or foster parents. Those who take the children in their care are themselves very poor, often rummaging through other people’s garbage. Definitely, they themselves live way below the minimum subsistence level.
The core of the service rendered to the beneficiaries of the CWSLFI is known as holistic education. The idea is to gently guide, in a compassionate learning environment, the children and the adults into learning practical skills which are specifically selected to effectively equip them with the ability to step up to higher rungs where they would be able to further improve themselves. The focus is on eventual self-help, and certainly not perpetual dependence on doles.
Imbedded in the idea of self-help is the notion of the beneficiary’s duty of giving back—hence the establishment of the cycle of receiving and giving. Accordingly, although the beneficiaries start with their receiving help from the foundation, they almost simultaneously are moved into also giving to others in need; the recipients are inspired at the same time to be givers—hence, the notion of a cycle. But the flow of receiving and giving is not a self-enclosed cycle. It is spiral.
Thus, from a limited center in the beginning, the flow expands wider and moves higher. Hence, the receiving and the giving and the receiving are not self-enclosed but go higher and wider.
The core service of the foundation is education, and the process begins with a scholarship grant from a donor to a child beneficiary who receives primary education that enables him or her to go on further and acquire some vocational skill, or set up a small business, or get employment. From his or her resulting earnings, he or she, and others similarly benefited, make his or her own donation to the foundation, thereby setting up a new batch of scholarships for incoming beneficiaries. These new beneficiaries go through the same process; the movement of the cycle is spiral and is aptly labeled “circle of life.”
Crucial to the success of the CWSLFI is the mix of activities that make up the education of the beneficiaries. Since the basic concept is that of a school, the beneficiaries take the normal subjects in the regular curriculum. But there is, in addition, stress on their being well-mannered, self-confident, and respectful of everyone and of nature. They are even provided with sex education to alert them to dangers and to enable them to protect themselves.
Consequently, topics not usually covered in the standard curriculum are also covered by holistic education. For instance, children are taught to swim, and music therapy is administered to heal those who have been traumatized. The beneficiaries are made to participate in games that require teamwork and are required to take part in school plays and presentations to inculcate in them the need to work as part of a whole, the ability to face an audience (thereby enhancing their self-confidence), and the desire to continually improve themselves in order to further enhance their value to their immediate society.
Foreign entities, as a result, have taken notice and have encouraged the CWSLFI with their donations. Klaus Döhl Foundation, for instance, donated a school kitchen and some of the initial equipment. W. P. Schmitz-Stiftung and the Rotary Club München International also provided tailoring machines. And Mirja-Sachs-Stiftung in
Munich gave about 26 musical instruments and accessories to enhance the ability to administer music therapy to the beneficiaries. Edith-Haberland-Wagner Stiftung gave funds for the extension of the CWSLFI bakery needed for the school’s vocational training component.
The Australian Embassy in the Philippines has taken special interest. In addition to giving a generous sum, its ambassador, Bill Tweddell, took time out to personally visit on Feb. 3, 2013.
Those of us wanting to visit the CWSLFI’s offices may go to the fifth floor of Mantrade Building at Monteverde corner Sales Street in Davao City 8000. The foundation may be contacted through 0915-3841748 or 0947 7630286 or [email protected] or [email protected]. There is nothing more convincing than seeing with our own eyes how the misuse of the idea of an NGO, magnified by the media, has blinded us to the good work that the faithful ones have been doing.
Ricardo J. Romulo is a senior partner of Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles.