Efren Balajadia, director of the Books For Asia, of The Asia Foundation gets books, as Dr Steven Rood, Asia Foundation representative (2nd from left) looks on during the hand-over of some 17,700 books Monday 28 Aug 2006 to more than 500 government schools in Zamboanga City and Basilan island in the restive southern Philippine region. The California-based Asia Foundation has distributed more than 74,000 books in Mindanao since last year. (Darwin Wee)
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 28 Aug) The California-based The Asia Foundation on Monday donated close to 18,000 books to more than 500 government schools in Zamboanga City and Basilan island in the southern Philippines, officials said.
Officials said more shipment of books, donated by different publishers from the United States, are on its way to the southern Philippines that would benefit tens of thousands of Filipino students.
"We have no other wish but to help the Filipino children and students to learn more and with these books donated by The Asia Foundation, we hope to spread education in every islands and provinces in the Philippines," Efren Balajadia, director of the Books for Asia, of The Asia Foundation. told the Mindanao Examiner.
Balajadia said some 74,000 books have been distributed to different schools in Mindanao alone since last year. "The Asia Foundation has been actively helping the Filipinos through education and literacy campaigns.
Since 1954, The Asia Foundation distributed more than 14 million books in the Philippines," he said.
Aside from the schools, the Asia Foundation also partnered with the online newspaper the Mindanao Examiner (http://mindanaoexaminer.com/) to help poor and street children in Zamboanga City and other areas in Mindanao.
"We have read your article entitled “No Feast For The Lumbangan Children”. As response to your request, we would like to help by way of donating books to the children of Lumbangan (in Zamboanga City) through your organization."
"Your concern to improve the literacy of your community children is greatly appreciated. We want to include your organization as part of the beneficiaries of this books donation," said Reynald Ocampo, assistant program officer for the Books for Asia.
The Asia Foundation included the Lumbangan Elementary School as one of its benefiaciaries and pledged to send more books to the Mindanao Examiner next month for distribution to day-care centers in Zamboanga City.
"We have allocated a box of new books for the Lumbangan Elementary School. We will allocate new books in our next shipment to your constituents with Mindanao Examiner as our media-based partner. We are waiting for a new shipment sometime in September," Ocampo said.
The Mindanao Examiner, maintained by journalists, is actively involved in helping the poor and street children in Zamboanga and other areas in Mindanao.
In the Philippines alone, Books for Asia Program has distributed over 14 million books and journals to public and private institutions as part of international understanding, national development, and English language literacy.
Donations of books for this program are largely made possible through the tax deductible contributions of American publishers, libraries, bookstores and individuals, Ocampo said.
The Asia Foundation’s current programs in the Philippines promote better governance to support economic growth, strengthen rule of law, and foster peace and development in Mindanao, he said. "Building on years of support, the Foundation is helping government, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector to strengthen democratic institutions and create sustainable economic growth," he said.
Dr Steven Rood, representative of The Asia Foundation, said more books will be distributed in poor areas in Mindanao, particularly the Muslim autonomous region.
"We will help the children and we will provide books for them," he said. "We are providing wide access to books for learning in a variety of communities -- rich and the poor, Christians and Muslims -- in solidarity with leaders and citizens in the struggle for development against poverty and disruption of peace and order."
The donation was part of Books for Asia's work under The Asia Foundation's Transparent Accountable Governance (TAG) project, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), according Ocampo.
"The provision of books and other educational resources serve as a joint commitment in the campaign against poverty. Books are vital to learning and rehabilitation in areas critically affected by poverty, armed conflict, emergencies, disasters and poor quality of life," he said.
Aside from donating books, The Asia Foundation currently supports Mindanao-based research institutions and non-government organizations in investigating the dynamics of clan violence.
The studies provide comprehensive conflict maps showing the scope and magnitude of clan conflicts in Mindanao.
It also highlight specific cases of conflict, exploring their root causes and conditions for escalation and recurrence, their interaction with state-related conflicts, and the potential for conflict resolution. The Asia Foundation also regularly brings together groups of experts to discuss and address issues of conflict management throughout Asia and recently hosted a workshop with experts focused specifically on conflict in Mindanao, to discuss key issues, priorities, and strategies for resolving the conflict.
"The U.S. government is very proud to support the work of dedicated organizations like The Asia Foundation and committed schools and communities across Mindanao to help improve educational opportunities for school and young scholars. Education forms the foundation for all prosperous and democratic societies," said Steven Edminster, USAID governance officer.