A laudable feast

By Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo |August 17,2018 - 09:42 PM

CRIS EVERT LATO-RUFFOLO

There was something special about the island-barangay of Hilotongan. I could smell it from the pump boat where I was seated with 35 other individuals from the Department of Education, Vivant Foundation Inc. (VFI), and local residents.

We just left Hilotongan on Friday, a few minutes passed 11 a.m. after a two-hour festive program that involved a kilometer-long line of students and teachers waving thank-you flags and a lyre and drum band of children wearing gold and red uniforms.

I saw the sparks and glitters in their eyes and looks of gratitude on their faces. Edmar Orpeza, 15, thinks that the 50-kWp (kilowatt peak) solar power system that VFI installed at the Hilotongan Integrated School (HIS) is the coolest thing that ever happened to him and the 733 students in the island.

This gift powers the two central processing units, 46 monitors of the High School computer laboratory and the six computers at the Grade School computer room.

The school was also given an air-conditioning unit and perimeter lights as well as electric fans and LED lights in its 20 classrooms. Learning has become conducive for both teachers and students.

Executive Director Shem Garcia said the foundation, which is only four years old, is committed to support communities with emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as these are the areas that many Filipino students lag behind. VFI is the corporate social responsibility arm of Vivant Corporation, a publicly-listed holding company with a diversified portfolio in the power generation, power distribution and retail electricity supply business.

The company has headquarters in Cebu, and Garcia says that with Project Liadlaw, they are on its way to give back to their home province after donating science laboratories and conducting teachers’ trainings in Palawan in the previous years.

My exposure in the development world taught me the importance of project development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation (PDIME).

This is how I learned to craft projects and think about what benefits the communities can reap from them — and if the communities are actually part of the entire PDIME process so they will have ownership of these projects.

VFI’s Project Liadlaw includes integrating solar power into the Electrical Installation and Maintenance (EIM) technical-vocational curriculum of Bantayan Senior High School (BSHS) so the maintenance of solar power system will be part of the on-the-job training of BSHS EIM students. An exciting tidbit: BSHS is the first senior high school in the country to offer EIM-Solar.

I have a soft spot for stories of hope and inspiration. In Barangay Hilotongan, I saw those stories on the faces of those children. Edmar says he is learning how to use office programs so he can make resumes and presentations.

The privileged few, that include you and me who have been using these programs for decades, do not often see this as something to be teary-eyed about. But this is spectacular for Edmar and his two siblings who dream to be a mechanical engineer, a nurse and a teacher.

I laud VFI for this project. It is well planned, well executed and a project that is well within their line of business. It utilizes the company’s strength to serve communities and uplift the lives of people. I extend the congratulations to Benjamin Chiu, a former colleague in my life as a social development worker, who is enjoying his meaningful job at VFI.

Here’s wishing that more companies will implement CSR projects that are sustainable to communities the way VFI did. This should challenge more companies to roll out projects that transcends dear old photo opportunities.

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