I spoke to “Mano John” the Community Program Co-coordinator who handles an enormous scope of progress in a number of fields and different projects. Each project gets the same deserved acknowledgement and attention to detail, as Mano John’s work is expansive and he “could be anywhere” with his vast volume of work. As Mano John tells me what each project entails and the process one goes through to create and sustain a project which reaches out and supports the community, I can see that VFV “is beneficial for the Visayas”.
Mano John explains that the “Alternative Learning System”, although causing the most friction and difficulties due to certain jurisdictions in construction, is the creation of a building created for multipurpose use. When constructed, the community and the schools will be able to use the site for both education and pleasure, which provides a safe space to benefit both. Whilst with the Dumpsite Project, it locates “the less of child labor or scavenger of the dumpsite” and pays for them to enroll in school, through sponsorship programs. It is a challenging process as it “takes time” because of the various financial restraints upon the project, the fluctuating stability of progress with children from the project and the hopeful result of graduation, which is a goal that both VFV and Mano John hope to achieve. The purpose of the project is to transform these children’s lives from the dumpsite, so that they become independent and stand for themselves, not “being headlice to us”.
On the other hand, Mother’s Club is created as a hub where some of the mothers of the community come together and through donating every month, give loans to small business and enterprises. The club is about “discipline and how to manage your resources and money”. It is beneficial in supporting members of the community’s new trade or commerce, which in turn benefits the entire Bliss community. Whilst with the Adopt a School project, it is primarily organized and run by volunteers who bring a certain amount of finances and supplies with them to Tacloban, or are able to donate and sponsor online, thus Mano John and VFV “inform the school” and organize the distribution of supplies, as those who are “less visible to the community” and who may be more remote, don’t receive much help from the government. This project is solely sustained through the donations of volunteers and so is difficult to maintain.
Whilst Laura’s Craft is a different type of project, it allows members of the community to come together and create a variety of bags, mainly school bags for the sponsored kids. At the minute “we have a customer in Singapore we are working for”, although the task is arduous because the “tools, equipment and materials have been destroyed by the typhoon,” so members of the Laura’s Craft rely on donations from volunteers to sustain their work. Laura’s Craft is a beneficial project which provides an income for the members who attend and also creates a great social activity.
I spoke to Lucena Cabrera who is one of the four members who attends Laura’s Craft. The main drive behind why she keeps returning to Laura’s Craft is because its helps bring “an income to the family, it helps support kids, for schools and the transportation”. The name, “Laura’s Craft”, actually stemmed from a volunteer who Lucena was inspired by in crafts and so the name stuck. Lucena has further been inspired by a volunteer who stayed with VFV for more than a year, bringing “questions, ideas and input” creating lively brainstorms for fresh and revived new ideas. Lucena and the other members of Laura’s Craft look to new volunteers to bring exactly that, as well as; new materials, styles, designs and ideas which in turn, create more diverse products. When asked about what is the most difficult cog in the process of creating a bag, Lucena laughs and tells me “making the bag”, highlighting the focus of this club is not on the money, but the “result” of each product. A lengthy and laborious process, one can see how Lucena and the other members of the project really struggle with the challenges they face within the club, but still venture on with the task or toils one might say, of creating a bag for the benefit of others in their community.
Mano John when asked about his career in VFV, states the most rewarding moment of his career would have to be when he was a local volunteer, “just pure volunteer”. Whilst walking past a group of Korean students and their teacher whom were volunteering with VFV, the teacher gave Mano John a large donation, to help with the growth of VFV as they were inspired by the fantastic work VFV does, saying- “thank you, you changed us.” Mano John acted quickly, worried if anything would happen to the substantial amount of money and gave it immediately to the Director of the organization. This act of kindness that Mano John was receptive to, made him recognize how “rewarding and inspiring” those people were, and those who continue to donate to help support VFV and the members of the community that desperately need it.
Written by Vicky Carter