Written by MindGym alumni Joharrah Eunice Mae Y. Rafanan
I had no idea what ALS was. In fact, I didn’t even know what the acronym stood for.
All I remember was that our speaker at a youth camp, an officer of the United Methodist Youth Fellowship, approached me and asked: “Gradweyt ka na, di ba? Gusto mong maging IM?”
I’m telling you, it was a roller-coaster ride!
I was truly excited in discovering the wonders and virtues of ALS. I found out it was a holistic approach to teaching children and youth who otherwise could not avail of formal basic education. I really felt like a superhero, saving all those children from certain doom of poverty and ignorance.
Imagine what these little angels picture me to be when I was the one who actually hand to them free allowances for their school supplies and transportation expenses. Plus, ALS provides them a safe place where they can play and act like children that they are.
Aside from the joy of knowing that I’m helping these children, I also enjoy other things that go with being an IM. Like the love that I feel from them when, last October, they surprised me and my co-IM with a Teachers’ Day Party. They gave me gifts and they even cooked “biko” for me.
It was a real blast!
But being an IM is not exactly all bed of roses. There were struggles. Real ones. The least of my problems was the difficulty of teaching children and youth who have gone from formal education so long that learning became foreign to them. One needs to repeat lessons again and again for the students to learn them. I had to adjust to their capacity. IMs. Indeed, need patience. Lots of them.
Being an IM is more than being a teacher, I remember my friend telling me that people “don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” And I am in a perfect place of meeting people from different walks of life who have different stories to tell. I observed that, at their young age, the ALS students are already carrying the burden of earning for their respective families.
Jane, a student of mine, was sexually abused while staying at her employer’s house. There’s another. JP, 12, doesn’t know how to read and write but he is good at computation since he is a vegetable vendor. Rhianne, a hardworking student, has been working in canteens since she could remember. She grew up providing for herself.
They are all ALS students, they all have dreams, they all have capabilities but the urgent need to earn money hinders them from attending our classes.
How can you think of graduating from school when you don’t have food to eat? How can you convince them to stay and finish the ALS program when their families are hungry? You cannot educate a student with an empty stomach.
Important as they are, these concerns are secular. Others may scoff at me, but I am more concerned about their spiritual well-being.
If I have my way, I would certainly like them to attend our care group sessions regularly. Why? Because these sessions, although they may not change their life-situations, the care group sessions can certainly change the way they look at their lives. That’s a lot, if you ask me.
Free dinner aside, care group is a wonderful emotional support for any person. And there are other similar activities that could help students grow spiritually. For example, the KKFI has this activity called YLEAD or Youth Leadership, Educate and Advocate for Development. It aims to train leaders to go and help their respective communities.
With all the ups and downs of being an IM, why do I love it so much? One of the many reasons is Zennie.
Zennie is a shy 18-year-old who couldn’t hurt a fly. She was like an unborn chick too afraid to come out of her shell. But since I was able to develop an emotional bond with her, she began to open up and stepping out of her guarded comfort zone. That’s when she started discovering her potential.
Zennie is a gifted poet. She was as surprised as I was when she realized it. Her confidence grew and along that her circle of friends. Now, she is one of the most adored students in her batch.
Children like Zennie made me love my job.
If you have your own “Zennie,” wouldn’t you love to be an IM, too? 🙂
Originally posted at Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI)’s Facebook page.