Better future for Badjao Children

by Griffins Malazarte, Rotaract Club of Cebu South

“I passed by a street and I came across a Badjao kid asking for a peso coin (two US cents) to buy food. I asked myself, "aside from giving this Badjao kid a peso, what else can I do to help make this kid be better?"

That is when I realized that we need to help these children secure a better future for themselves through education,” said Jess Anthony Dela Cruz, Past President of the Rotaract Club of Cebu South and the founding chair of the Agak a Badjao Project.

This project is a recipient of Rotary International’s 2020 Rotaract Outstanding Project Award for Asia and the Pacific for demonstrating impact, sustainability and the power of collaboration.

The Badjao are an indigenous sea-dwelling tribe in the Philippines. Often known as “sea nomads”, they live, fish and dive for pearls in coastal areas. They dwell in stilt huts or boat houses on shallow waters. They live in extreme poverty due to their nomadic existence. As a result, many of them dive for coins thrown by boat passengers - or are driven by the poverty to join the ranks of beggars in the country’s urban centers.

Barangay Mambaling in Cebu City, Philippines is home to over 1,000 Badjao households. They live in a 5,600 square meter community in New Alaska Beach Association (NABA), the name given to the urban settlement near the shore of Sitio Alaska in Mambaling. In this site, the Rotaract Club of Cebu South started its Agak a Badjao (i.e., Help a Badjao) Project in 2016 that has been continued by the club through the years.

The Rotaract Club of Cebu South began supporting the makeshift day care center in the Badjao community in Sitio NABA. Rotaractors provide school supplies and uniforms to the daycare pupils, implementing a feeding program and conducting monthly educational sessions such as handwashing, storytelling and tutoring along with various partner organizations and twin Rotaract clubs.

Young wards gather at daycare center for lessons, feeding and play.

Rotaractors conducted an annual wine night for a cause to raise funds to support the day care center. They also provided the teaching materials and supplies in the center by individually contributing 50 pesos (approximately $1) per month per student.

The lawyer-members of their sponsoring Rotary Club of Cebu South assisted in the processing of the late birth registration of the day care center pupils. Birth registration is a requirement prior to entering the first grade of Philippine formal basic education.

Telasa Mahadami is a member of the Badjao community, married and has six children, some of which are enrolled in the day care center. “As a mother, my dream is for my children to be the people that they want to be. I don’t have anything even money so I can only wish that they can finish their education,” shared Mahadami.

Airal Daomani, a member of the Badjao community, has been the teacher at the day care center for twelve years. He chose to teach the Badjao children in their community to demonstrate that the Badjao children are capable of completing their studies.

Not long after the Rotaract Club of Cebu South started assisting the day care center, Teacher Daomani faced a problem. He and his students realized that they could no longer safely use their makeshift classroom. It is a room in a stilt house along the sea and at risk of being destroyed when a calamity strikes the area. They are also just borrowing the room from a church in the sitio.

He did not know back then if he could still continue teaching the Badjao children. He reached out to the Rotaract Club of Cebu South and its sponsor Rotary club. Since 2016, they have been tapping various potential partners and conducting fundraising to finance the construction of a new day care center.

The Rotaract Club of Cebu South is working on documenting the ownership of the proposed new lot for a permanent day care center. They received a donation of $2,000 from the Rotary Club of Higashi Osaka Midori in Japan to subsidize the construction of a new day care center. They are continuously seeking for more partners in making the new day care center for the Badjao community in Mambaling a reality. Individuals or groups who would want to support the project can reach

Rotaract empowers young adults to create sustainable solutions to local and global challenges. They plan, raise resources and carry out service projects aligned with the causes of Rotary and are important to their local communities. On the platform of Rotary service, they seek to transform lives and communities as true People of Action.

Cebu South Rotaractors distribute new slippers to daycare pupils.

This article was featured in the August 2020 issue of the Philippine Rotary Magazine as seen below.

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