Out of 30 high school graduates, only 8 to 10 continue their education and move on to college, while the rest choose to become farmers, casual laborers or decide to start a family at a very young age. This is the reality faced by the youth of Sta. Ines in Tanay, Rizal. It may be only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Manila but it is worlds apart in opportunities. Situated in distant mountains of Tanay, one must cross nine rivers to be able to get to Sta. Ines Elementary School.

Out of the school’s 260 pupils, 40 represent Dumagats, an indigenous tribe with roots tracing from the Aetas. They were sea gypsies: semi-nomadic people who made their homes along the coast of Quezon. Living in a remote area, the community has difficulty in getting access to education. The mountains they live in may paint a beautiful landscape to the province but it serves as an obstacle wall to the community.

Thanks to the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997, the elementary school in Sta. Ines was able to establish satellite classrooms in the Dumagat communities and worked closely with the Department of Education to a create a customized curriculum for the tribe’s children. Teachers of Sta. Ines also learned the Dumagat language so that it would be easier for students to understand the lessons.

“We can’t do it alone”, shares Sta. Ines Elementary School Principal Adoracion Valdez. “We need stakeholders who can help us empower the children and show them that it is possible to graduate from the school and accomplish anything they want.”

Mrs. Valdez, the seventh of 10 children, said her parents had always motivated her. Despite being simple farmers, they struggled to be able to send all their children to school. “That gift is immeasurable”, she said. “My parents believed that education is the only inheritance they could give us.”

This belief is shared by 13-year-old Elizabeth Laurio, a sixth-grade student at the Sta. Ines Elementary School, who upon her mother’s untimely death last year, had to step up to become a “mother” to her five younger siblings. Many times, Elizabeth had to absent herself from school to look after the children at home.

Moneygram Black Pencil Project Elizabeth doing laundry
Elizabeth doing laundry.

Elizabeth lets circumstances surrounding her motivate her, even more, to continue her studies and fulfill the dream of becoming a teacher to help her family and many more children in her village break out of the cycle of poverty.

“Dreams are free”, she said in Filipino. “So I will hold tight to my dream.”

The solution

In order to help children like Elizabeth fulfill their dreams, MoneyGram, a global provider of innovative money transfer services, through the MoneyGram Foundation, donated P1 million to the Black Pencil Project, a civilian volunteer organization helping to promote primary education and welfare to remote and indigenous Philippine communities to promote children’s primary education and welfare.

MoneyGram Foundation’s mission is firmly rooted in the belief that education is the key to better economic opportunities, healthier families, individual freedom, and empowerment.

The donation will benefit at least six barrio schools and provide at least 2,500 students from kindergarten to grade six with prescribed pencils, writing pads, notebooks, and art materials.

Aside from Sta. Ines, MoneyGram will provide supplies to the Ivatans and Ifugaos of Banawe from Cambulo Elementary School, the Dumagats of Rizal from Casili Elementary School, and the Aetas of Tarlac from Labney Elementary school in Mayantoc Tarlac. Other communities that will benefit from this donation include the Ivatans of Batanes from Sabtang Central Elementary School, the Palawanons of Palawan from Cagayan Elementary School, and the Mangyans of Mindoro from Sablayan Elementary School.

“This is our way of reaching out to our brothers from the marginalized communities to let them know they are not alone in reaching their dreams”, said Alex Lim, MoneyGram Philippine country manager. “We firmly believe that education is the key to a better tomorrow.” A belief shared by Adoracion Valdez and Elizabeth Laurio.

“I know it’s possible. I’ve seen it happen in my life. I want to empower my students to do the same like my parents did once for me”, added Valdez.


Liked this post? Follow SwirlingOverCoffee on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

About MoneyGram International, Inc.

MoneyGram is a global provider of innovative money transfer and payment services and is recognized worldwide as a financial connection to friends and family. Whether online, or through a mobile device, at a kiosk or in a local store, we connect consumers any way that is convenient for them. We also provide bill payment services, issue money orders and process official checks in select marketsMore information about MoneyGram International, Inc. is available at moneygram.com

About MoneyGram Foundation

MoneyGram established the MoneyGram Foundation in 2012 to help children around the world gain access to educational facilities and learning resources. Its mission is firmly rooted in the belief that education is at the heart of better economic opportunities, healthier families and individual freedom and empowerment. The MoneyGram Foundation is focused on inspiring minds and improving lives and grants funds to deserving organizations with this mission in mind. To learn more, please visit moneygramfoundation.org or connect with us on Facebook.