BANTAYAN ISLAND, Cebu, March 21, 2016 – Hundreds of school kids braved the summer sun to greet Swiss Ambassaddress Andrea Reichlin, who was the guest of honor for the turn-over ceremony and blessing earlier today of the now disaster-ready Malibago Elementary School on this island.
The ambassador, during a brief message at Caritas Switzerland’s official handover of the 12-classroom school, lauded the participatory approach the community took in building the school, saying in the long run it will be the students who will “make the difference.”
“You, as a community, saw the situation and decided (to do something)”, said Reichlin, noting how locals took concrete steps to address the damage wreaked by super typhoon Yolanda in November 2013.
Before Caritas Switzerland’s intervention to build completely new retrofitted, disaster-ready classrooms, some 500 elementary students had to make do with a tent for daily classes for the last two years as the school had been deemed structurally unsound after the typhoon.
According to Orwell Obach, shelter project manager of Caritas Switzerland in Bantayan Island, each classroom is retrofitted with specially treated pinewood reinforcements from New Zealand, ensuring that each structure is able to withstand 7.2 magnitude earthquakes as well as super typhoons.
Caritas Switzerland chief delegate Marcel Reymond; Emergency Architects head of mission Claudie Delebecque; Malbago Elementary School head teacher III Zita Tampus; and Brgy. Malbago barangay captain Thelma Compra were present during the ribbon-cutting and handover ceremony, which was presided over by Fr. Charles Jayme, Cebu archiocesan relief and rehabilitation unit director.
Various stakeholders and representatives from the local government were also present at the event, including Jay River Dela Fuente, Madridejos mayor Salvador Dela Fuente’s son; Compra; Department of Education (DepEd) VII Office of the regional director OIC Dr. Juliet Jeruta; Supreme Pupil Government president Joecel Espina; and DepEd district supervisor Chloe Garucha along with the entire student population.
Following the turnover of Pili Elementary School in Madridejos on Dec. 11, 2015, Caritas Switzerland aims to complete building 5 other similar elementary schools on the island by June 2016. (Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz / CBCP News)