After two months and thousands of miles, kitchenware from Minnesota arrived in the Philippines to change the lives of needy families.
The long journey started in May in Shakopee, Minn., where a group of fifth graders at Eagle Creek Elementary started a collection drive to obtain pots, pans, cutlery and other kitchenware. Their teacher, Jane Velde, read an e-mail from a school staff member asking family and friends for donations of kitchenware to be given to Outreach Asia, a non-profit charity based in Edina, Minn. With the e-mail was a photo of children in a rundown makeshift outdoor kitchen in the Philippines. The e-mail indicated that some of the families in need of kitchenware use tin cans to cook in.
Velde showed her students the e-mail and asked if they wanted to help. They were quick to agree.
“The fifth graders wanted to help those who were less fortunate and I had a personal interest in the project because I lived in the Philippines as an exchange student,” Velde said.
Within days, the students got the word out throughout the school about their collection drive.
Once a week throughout May, a student from Velde’s class made an announcement over the school intercom to encourage others to bring in donations. The fifth graders also created posters advertising the collection drive that were given to every classroom. Every day, they went from class to class checking to see if anyone brought in anything to donate.
“Collecting pots and pans was fun. Every morning, the students collected items from their assigned rooms and they felt excitement even if just one pan was brought in that particular day,” Velde said. “They would cheer as the donations were brought into our classroom. Watching the pile grow was exciting.”
The foods services staff at nearby Pearson Elementary heard about the collection drive and donated several large heavy-duty pots. Several other individuals in the school district also donated items.
On May 28, Mike and Gina Peck, founders of Outreach Asia, and their 4-year-old son Ian, arrived at Eagle Creek Elementary to pick up the donations. Velde’s students eagerly loaded up the Pecks’ mid-sized SUV with the mounds of donations that almost overflowed out of it.
“The fifth graders enjoyed meeting people who were actually connected to this project. The vehicle was literally filled to the roof and the students thought that was awesome,” Velde said.
Recently, Velde and four of her students received pictures sent by the Pecks showing the huge boxes of kitchenware arriving at the GEMS Heart Mission in Bacoor, Cavite in the Philippines. The pictures showed GEMS workers happily sorting everything and getting them ready to be given to more than 42 families who need them.
GEMS workers Amy Colata (left) and Dianne Masmila sort through the kitchenware and prepare them to be distributed to the more than 42 families that need them. (Photo courtesy of Mike and Gina Peck.)
“The students were surprised to see that their efforts helped so many people in the Philippines, and they felt very proud of themselves,” Velde said. “Helping others is an important duty as we all need to be caring citizens of our community, and the fifth graders learned that they can make a difference even halfway around the world.”
Social worker Cora Buenasflores, founder and president of GEMS, was touched by the Eagle Creek students’ efforts.
“I am excited and at the same time feel blessed. It also makes me feel that we are important. I appreciate the efforts and concerns of the children in collecting the kitchenware. At their young age as fifth graders, it’s very impressive,” Buenasflores said. “The kitchenware is a blessing to us. They’ll be useful in preparing, cooking, serving and storing food. Most importantly, they will help families practice hygiene and sanitation and prevent illnesses.”
GEMS, named by Buenasflores because she said “everyone in the world should be treated like a gem,” offers various programs that help Filipinos in rural areas where household poverty and the lack of a source of drinking water and proper sanitation lead to malnutrition and poor health.
Buenasflores said kitchenware in the Philippines is expensive and the quality is poor compared to the ones they received. Two GEMS workers were thrilled with the donations.
“I’m really happy. Now we have nice large pots to cook in at the center,” said GEMS worker Amy Colata in her native language, Tagalog.
The large pots from Pearson Elementary will be used to prepare food for children and families at GEMS’ Children’s Activity Center. Colata was pleased to receive one pot of her choice from among the donations.
“We are blesssed. This is the first time I have had a nice pot to cook in since I got married 12 years ago. And it even comes from America!” Colata said gleefully.
GEMS worker Dianne Masmila also received an item from among the donations.
“I picked a container for serving food. Even though it will only hold a small amount of food, if the container is pretty, it will look filling and make people feel fuller,” she said in Tagalog with a chuckle.
Masmila added that the students who coordinated the collection drive are truly kind.
Buenasflores wanted to send a message to everyone who donated, especially the Eagle Creek students.
She said, “What you did is a really great deed. On behalf of all of our families and children, thank you very, very much.”