TACLOBAN CITY – Despite limited resources and health restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, soldiers from the 543rd Engineer Construction Battalion were able to build a library for indigent children in an interior barangay in Allen, Northern Samar.
Lt. Col. Vedasto Cabales of the 543rd Engineer Construction Battalion said the library project started with a feeding program as they noticed that children living near their camp were malnourished.
They were able to sustain the program every Wednesday and Friday through their strengthened partnership with the barangay and stakeholders.
Despite quarantine restrictions, children also received medicines and vitamins through a medical mission initiated by the Army.
Because of the distance learning system being implemented due to COVID-19, they thought of helping the children learn in different ways.
Cabales said they were able to coordinate with “Book for a Cause” of Ramil Sumangil who sent them books and were eventually able to build a library from materials they have bought and those donated from the community. The library is divided into a play area and a reading area.
Every day, a soldier is manning the library to teach the children to read. Some civilians also volunteer to conduct story-telling before their regular feeding program.
Cabales said they also received tablets that they have downloaded with educational applications. They have an hourly schedule for using them since there are only a few gadgets being shared among 60 to 80 children.
“We also want them to experience technology because children are already tech-savvy nowadays. We don’t want them to be left behind,” he added.
Other books they received are also being donated to benefit other children in hinterland areas in Northern Samar.
Cabales believes that insurgency may not only be solved by war and that education plays a vital role in the fight against it.
“Kahit ano’ng effort namin na madecrease ‘yung strength ng CPP-NPA kung patuloy silang magrerecruit, marereplenish pa rin. Ang sinasabi natin ang root ng insurgency ay ignorance so ieducate natin para hindi na sila marecruit (Our efforts to decrease the CPP-NPA strength will go to naught if they continue to recruit which enables them to replenish their ranks. The root of insurgency is ignorance and we should educate these children so they won’t be recruited).”