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Feature: Basilan girl excels in school on P5 "baon"

Zamboanga City (24 October) -- Going to school is both fun and a challenge for other school children. But for Rachelle Faye Lopez, 11, it's more of a struggle that she has to overcome everyday.

This writer met Rachelle shortly after recess time that day in Lamitan, Basilan. She had just finished browsing her notes. An innocent smile etched on her face as I introduced myself to her. "Fine but a little busy", she told me when I asked her how's her studies. "Ta prepara yo para na Quiz Bee mañana" (I am preparing for the Quiz Bee tomorrow) she added.

Rachelle will represent Lamitan Central Elementary School in the District Level Quiz Bee on Social Studies. That day, she forgot to take her breakfast in her excitement to go to school and review her notes in preparation for the competition.

At an early age, she learned how to be responsible. With the five pesos that her mother daily gives, Rachelle goes to school through short-cut access road to save her fare so she can buy something to eat come recess time.

Lunch time is a get together for her and other classmates who were able to bring their lunch box to school. They happily share whatever food they have for the day talking about the good and not so good experiences in their classes.

Despite their situation, Rachelle's spirit is hopeful. Poverty did not dampen her aspirations to finish her studies. "Si!.. determinado yo acaba entra eskwela" (Yes!… I am determined to finish my studies) she said and added "Quiere yo ayuda mio mayores pati hermano y hermana" (I want to help my parents, my brothers and sisters).

She really admired her teachers that Rachelle wants to become a teacher someday. "Qiere yo queda un maestra para puede yo ayuda con otro maga bata," (I want to become a teacher so that I can help other children) she said.

Being one of the Top 10 of her class last year and First Honor for this school year's first grading period did not make Rachelle complacent; the more she tried her best to study well. "Estudya embuenamente y ayuda con el mayores" (Study well and help your parents) as she encouraged other kids like her.

"Muchisimas gracias con el ayuda" (Thank you very much for your help), she said of her benefactors. Rachelle is among the 535 school children in Lamitan being assisted by the PhilAm Foundation under the Aid for Basilan Children (ABC) Project of PBSP (Philippine Business for Social Progress).

The school supplies and other educational assistance that the project has provided her has been a great help to the family. "Ya dale yo los demas notebook con el di mio hermano" (I shared some of the notebooks to my brother) Rachelle said. "Un grande ayuda para kanamon el ta dale el proyecto" (The assistance provided by the project is a great help for us) Rachelle's mother also said.

Poverty seems heavy for Rachelle and the rest of the school children in Lamitan. But the determination to pursue their studies is stronger than the challenges being encountered along the way. Like her, other children in the conflict-affected area of Basilan continue to hope for a better future that through various assistance from private and public organizations, peace and prosperity would be theirs. (PBSP/PIA-SarGen) [top]

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