Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Booklover’s Plea: Can you help me put together a library this Christmas?

Last June, my grandmother passed away. She was 105.  As I stood close to her casket at the wake, I started talking to my cousin, Dino. I don’t really think we’ve had more a minute-long conversation with each other.  But I wanted to know more about the Caring Jesus Gawad Kalinga School he had put up with his father. The elementary school is named after my grandmother Caring and my grandfather Jesus. It is an apt tribute as my grandmother was an educator.  Together, my grandparents instilled in their children the importance of a good education. They made sure they provided the best for their six children, all successfully finished graduate studies abroad.  My father and my mom in turn passed on that legacy sending their children to the best schools in the world. 

You don’t really know what people secretly do. I had no idea this tattooed cousin of mine was regularly visiting my grandmother every week. While she lay in bed, he would talk to her about his dreams for the school. The school started in 2008 as a free school for the poorest of the poor, in the Gawad Kalinga Community in Pandi, Bulacan.  With no experience in running a school, he persevered. Each year, he added one grade level. This year he reached fourth grade, with now 56 students in total for the entire school.  Dino’s wish was for my grandmother to have been alive for the first batch of students to graduate grade 6 in 2014.  “What do you need for the school?,” I asked him.  He smiled shyly and didn’t answer. “Do you have a library?,” he shook his head. He was too shy to ask.  I promised I would help him by Christmas time to put together a library for the students. 

As my deadlines and commitments piled one on top of the other, I had not yet worked on the library I promised. With Christmas fast approaching, I contacted him again. This afternoon I visited the Caring Jesus School with Dino.  It didn’t matter how different our backgrounds were, or how we stood on different sides of the political fence growing up. It didn’t matter that we’ve only uttered a few words to each other all our lives. We both believed in this cause, and we both wanted to help.  This afternoon, I was on an instant road trip with a cousin I barely knew. For the first time, we got to know each other, simply as two human beings wanting to make this world a better place somehow.  We discovered we had much in common, and even enjoyed eachother's company. 

The teachers of Caring Jesus GK school warmly welcoming me
Teacher Liza and her Grade 2 classroom

After some hurdles, the Caring Jesus GK Foundation was able to complete the school building this year. It is a cemented structure that can ably house six grade levels.  The classrooms are clean but bare. But what needed the most help was the library. It is currently a stockroom, housing the cooking implements, plates and bowls used for the daily feeding program. The only thing the students pay for is P15 (less than US$ 0.35) for a nutritious lunch meal daily, with the school subsidizing those who can’t afford this amount.

My cousin Dino Pineda and the hardworking teachers

“What do you think, Maida?,” my cousin asked.  I have a soft spot for books. My parents did not spoil us with expensive toys or clothes, but they allowed us to buy books we wanted to read.  I grew up pouring over the books in our family’s makeshift library. I frequently opened the encyclopedia, often choosing the letter D to see the different breeds of dogs.  Other times, I would read stories from different countries. It let me travel in my head to places like Russia and Spain.  I often pretended to be sick to skip piano lessons in order to pour through my mom’s cookbooks and stack of Gourmet magazines.
This is what the library looks like now... not a single book in sight

This library needs books to feed their minds... 

These chairs and tables currently used for the feeding program will hopefully be replaced by reading-friendly kiddie chairs and tables!

So my dear friends, I ask for your help.  I have been so blessed this year to have more than enough.  I have been filled with love, caring family and friends, good health, lots of travel, fulfillment and joy. I’ve had enough food for all my three meals, snacks, and desserts everyday.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have access to entertaining and informative books to feed my curious mind.  Will you please help me put together this library?  I am accepting donations in cash and in kind for books geared towards elementary school children.  I would like to provide books in English and Tagalog.  They have very limited teaching aids.  If you have posters of the Human Body, Maps, and other educational materials you wish to share, that would be ideal. But what is a library without tables and chairs to sit and read. We need that, too.  And, yes, we need bookshelves to display our books.  If you want to help make this happen, please email me at  I would appreciate donations made by December 21. (It doesn't matter where you are, I'm sure we can find a way to make it happen). 

On January 7th, my late grandmother would have been turning 106.  What a birthday gift it is if we can continue her legacy of feeding hungry minds!

Many thanks and have a Christmas filled with gratitude and generous hearts. 

Lots of love,


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