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Five-hour trek to school rewarded with smiles

23 Feb 2017

Hundreds of primary school children from Labney Elementary School were overjoyed to receive 300 school bags filled with a year's-worth of school supplies, cartons of games and art materials, and boxes of treats and goodies from a Macquarie Manila team before Christmas last year.

Macquarie volunteering and fundraising team coordinator Jet Ibanez said the school was chosen because it is located in a very remote area in Central Luzon, which made it difficult for non-government organizations to help it. He said the location also made it hard for parents to purchase school kits as the closest town that sold them was across a mountainous pass.

It took five hours for the Macquarie volunteers to drive the 180 kilometres north to the school, navigating mountainous zigzag dirt roads and a 100-metre wide river, but Ibanez said the 39-strong volunteer team immediately mobilised upon arrival to set up the morning’s activities.

These included around half of the volunteers, led by Alvin Dimaano, Aldrin Ramirez and Federico Domingo, helping haul bags of sand and plaster for the new classroom walls being built; eight staff led by Elsie Naval and Rosemary Hannah organising a paper lantern-making workshop with fifth and sixth graders and the remaining volunteers working with Catherine Daileg, Juls De Guzman and Josephine Lopez to play parlour games for the other children.

The school supply backpacks were distributed to the children before the volunteers left to return home after two hours at the school.

More than PHP270,000 was raised by Macquarie staff to purchase the school kits, food, loot bags, game prizes and art materials used on the day.

“It was a memorable experience and an awesome way of giving differently,” Ibanez said. “We all left exhausted but happy knowing that we were, in our own little way, able to give back to the community.”

Image caption: From left: Elsie Naval and Kim Zafra were two of the Macquarie Manila staff who travelled to Labney Elementary School as part of the volunteering effort.