While doing homework during quarantine and listening in on the news about how underprivileged children are not getting a proper education, 17-year-old Renoa Richelle King thought about how she could fill in the gaps of the current educational system.
Renoa was exposed to outreach initiatives at an early age through her parents’ philanthropy. She knew she wanted to start her advocacy but wasn’t sure when or what. With the news about the growing problems of education in the country and how it worsened with the pandemic, Renoa knew this was her legacy.
This led her to found Set Forth Philippines, a community-based non-government organization that aims to empower every Filipino child through sustainable and advanced learning initiatives providing them with equal, accessible, and transformative learning opportunities.
“I enjoy the process of learning and I realized how many opportunities you can get through education. We hope to have every Filipino child learn and dream. These kids are discouraged to dream with their situation. We want to be able to support their dreams and aspirations and give them an opportunity in any way we can,” shared Renoa.
Renoa recounted how it took some time to come up with the name of the organization, as she looked for verbs that would best describe the organization’s purpose. When she came across “set forth,” she knew it’s the right name that would explain their journey.
Being community-based, Set Forth Philippines engages in involving other people by partnering with local government units, non-government organizations, the youth, and the community to better respond to the gaps in the current educational system. In all of its activities, Set Forth Philippines spends some time making sure that it identifies those who are truly in need of help.
With its tagline, “All for education. Education for all,” Set Forth Philippines drives to keep pushing forward to ensure that nothing gets in the way of kids reaching their fullest potential.
Set Forth Philippines’ projects aim to provide a holistic approach to helping Filipino grassroots communities, especially children, in obtaining a quality education. It believes that a holistic approach is important in creating a sustainable impact. It currently has three main programs, which are the assistance learning center, livelihood program, and the ISIP Kits of Project Eduk-Aksyon.
Set Forth Philippines also makes sure that the recipients of all their projects are not only the children but their parents as well.
Renoa hosted a dinner for a cause with her family to fund Set Forth Philippines where she raised Php 400,000. She shared how she will continue to host fundraising dinners to help with the funds for the organization.
Despite being busy with school and other extracurricular activities, she said she enjoyed the whole process of creating Set Forth Philippines, especially brainstorming with her parents and being involved in every aspect of the organization.
“I like being busy. I’d rather be busy than not do anything because with being busy, I’m learning something new. Like with Set Forth, I learned a lot about finance,” shared Renoa.
One of its programs is creating an assistance learning center in the mountainous areas by providing educational materials and internet access to untapped communities. Currently, the learning center at Barangay Guba, Cebu is under construction where it’s expected to be finished in February 2022.
Renoa recalled how the barangay officials of Guba were very supportive of their initiative and gave her a space in the barangay hall for the learning center.
Unfortunately, the space isn’t enough to accommodate the computer area, activity area, and library that Renoa dreamt of for the learning center, especially with the strict safety protocols. Thus, they settled to have it built on her parents’ lot.
Renoa’s mother, Fiona King, emphasized the importance of having the learning center.
“With modular learning, parents are forced to teach their children. I already find it hard to understand their subjects at school, how much more the parents, who were only able to reach grade two. The learning center is put up to be available to the children who want to learn,” Fiona King said.
The assistance learning center will have volunteer educators and mentors that will teach the children.
For the learning center that is to be built in Marawi, Renoa shared that they partnered with an NGO that catered to the refugees and victims of the Marawi war.
She said that the project would be for the refugees to help them to forget about what they had been through even for just a short amount of time at the learning center.
Another program of Set Forth Philippines is the livelihood program, where they introduced composting to parents.
Renoa said they surveyed Barangay Guba in Cebu City from its resources to the means of income of the people.
She said since it’s a mountainous area, most of the people plant their food; and thus, composting would be fit because they could do it in the comfort of their own homes.
“When they need money, they can sell their compost to Set Forth Philippines who will sell it to the market, already with packaging and branding. Of course, the money earned from it will be given back to the community,” said Renoa.
Set Forth Philippines’ project, Project Eduk-Aksyon gives away ISIP Kits to children all over the Philippines. The ISIP Kits are bags with educational materials such as crayons, pens, notebooks, and papers. The content of the kits will be varied based on the needs of the children. The goal of this project is to support children’s education by lessening the financial burden of schooling.
Renoa recalled how stressed she was when she had the bags made in Alibaba especially when it came to the additional taxes and shipping fees. Currently, they are producing new ISIP kits bags in Manila. Set Forth Philippines started distributing their ISIP Kits at Barangay Day-as, Cebu with the Senior High School teachers of the University of San Jose Recoletos as volunteers. Set Forth Philippines will also deliver ISIP kits in Marawi, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi with the help of the AFT and the Philippine Navy.
“We are all instruments of God. With my family, God gave us friends and connections. It’s up to us how we leverage these connections. I have everything I need to make this, so what’s stopping me from helping,” she said.
A child’s ability to acquire proper education should not be affected by their financial status. It is an equal right that all children hold and Set Forth Philippines is determined that no Filipino child is left behind. With the vision of transforming communities through education in the spirit of Bayanihan, Set Forth Philippines takes little but consistent steps so ordinary acts become extraordinary.
Anyone can create a real change. You don’t have to be an adult to make a difference. It just takes one step at a time, and Renoa’s story with Set Forth Philippines proves that you can have an impact no matter what your age is.