BASILAN, May 14, 2015 — Believing that education is a way to help end poverty, a foundation in Basilan has been helping Samal Bajau children make their dreams a reality.
The Claret Samal Foundation, Inc., a foundation run by the Claretian Missionaries has been funding the formal education of Bajau children from pre-school to college.
Bro. Nicer Natulla, CMF, the person in charge of the project, said the foundation wants to alleviate the poverty of the Bajaus, who are a marginalized, indigenous people of the Philippines.
“The Bajaus live in the sea and they have difficulty in integrating themselves in the society. They are even displaced due to armed conflict with some of them forced to leave their homes and beg in different cities like Davao and Metro Manila,” Natulla said.
“My fellow Bajaus have been discriminated since time immemorial. I want to change this by helping them to learn,” said Gaira Nelson, 23, a pre-school and livelihood teacher in the Samal Village Learning Center in Basilan.
Nelson is a product of the scholarship program of Claret Samal Foundation, Inc. She is one of the nine college graduates who have been supported by the foundation and who are now “paying it forward” in their own capacities.
The foundation today runs 5 preparatory schools with 140 pupils from nursery to kinder and has also sponsored 245 elementary pupils, 30 students in high school and 5 students in college.
Natulla said they want to continue this program despite the financial difficulties they experience in running the scholarship.
To augment the expenses, the foundation asks businesses, groups, and individuals to sponsor the annual expenses of college students.
Donors may deposit any amount to the CSFI Bank of the Philippines (BPI) bank account in Zamboanga, Account name: Claret Samal Foundation Inc. Account number: 2123-4346-28.
Interested parties may find additional information on how to help on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ClaretSamalBajauFoundation.
Natulla said the Claretians prepare to launch the scholarships by first organizing the Bajau communities before identifying beneficiaries.
The Claretians also handle the health education, livelihood training, and preservation and promotion of the Bajau culture, as this has been slowly dying, he added.
“If we do not do anything, their culture as a people will die,” Bro. Natulla added.
Nelson, on the other hand, continues to assist her tribesmen the way the Claretians helped her when she was younger.
“When you are afraid, you will not reach your dreams. It is a great achievement for us to be able to finish college,” she explained. (John Frances C. Fuentes/CBCP News)