FACES in the year of an eruption, a pandemic, and typhoons

“It was in one December of the school’s early years of operation when we invited children from neighboring communities to come to the FAITH campus for a simple program and snacks.  I believe that was the beginning of FAITH’s community extension program.  We have come a long way. “

– Dr. Maria Rosario B. Cesario, Senior Vice President

Such was the start of the community extension journey of FAITH Colleges.  The school’s first adopted community was Pamayanan in Darasa.  Since then, the school has expanded to take in the entire Brgy. Darasa as its adopted community, pushing farther to adopt communities in Sitio Maligaya and Graceville Sitio Sampalukan in Brgy. Malabanan in Balete, Batangas.  To date, all community extension activities and programs are undertaken by the FAITH Center for Extension Services or FACES.  

Aligned with the school’s vision and mission of transforming one’s self and the world, FACES promotes social awareness, community involvement, and sense of volunteerism.  

More than sense of volunteerism, the FAITH community displayed acts of compassion in the year 2020 when the country was ravished by one form of disaster after another.

Taal Volcano Eruption

On the morning of 13 January 2020, the day after Taal Volcano erupted, FACES was already on the ground setting up a donation center.  Donations in cash and in kind poured in especially after Rappler and local media WOWBatangas picked up the stories of the drive.  Donations came from the FAITH community of parents, students, and alumni; affiliate companies of Team First Asia; business organizations; private individuals and groups; and non-government organizations. After giving priority to its own employees and students who were affected by the eruption, the school managed to share collected donations to its adopted community in Balete and the general public. Aside from relief goods, the school’s Guidance and Counseling Office was also able to conduct psychological first aid to evacuees.

More than a story of natural disaster and generosity, the Taal Volcano eruption was a showcase of the spirit of volunteerism among the members of the FAITH Colleges community.  All the help that FACES needed in terms of manpower never became an issue because everyone was willing to help—from repacking of the relief goods down to the delivery and distribution to the various evacuation centers.

COVID-19 and the Imposed Luzon-Wide Lockdown

The Batangueños were barely recovering from the Taal Volcano eruption when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the ensuing local lockdowns that began on 16 March 2020, community extension services stood still, but only for a short while.

On 24 April, FACES assisted in the distribution of vegetable packs to 100 residents of Balete who went through the double whammy experience of a volcanic eruption and the pandemic.  The activity, dubbed as Magulay ang Buhay sa Balete, is a CSR project initiated by Team First Asia Executive Chairman Saturnino G. Belen.  Prepared packs of vegetables were physically distributed at the Batangas Lakelands in Balete.  The packs consisted of vegetables for a family of five good for five to seven days.  Procured from the Paraiso Farm of Tony Meloto, the program also helped local farmers generate income during the lockdown.

Cognizant of the impact of the lockdown, FACES extended the Magulay ang Buhay program to FAITH Colleges employees. In June, FACES and the Human Resources Management Department delivered vegetable packs to the homes of employee-recipients.  

Pivoting the Implementation of Community
Extension Programs in the New Normal

Community extension services rely heavily on face-to-face interaction.  The birth of digital outreach as one of the purposes of FACES is a product of adjustment to the new normal.  

FACES head Edna Gutierrez has served as resource person to various seminars that revolved around wellness and mental health.  Mental health has been declared by WHO as the third wave of the pandemic after the physical (COVID-19) and economic crises waves.  

The first invitation came on 13 August 2020 from the Our Lady of Perpetual Succor College in Marikina where Gutierrez talked about “Faculty Empowerment in the New Normal:  Strengthening Preparedness and Readiness towards Learning Continuity.” With faculty and top administrations as audience, Gutierrez centered on the importance of wellness as part of carrying out their job in the new normal.  

Then came the invitation from the Sangguniang Kabataan of Darasa, FAITH Colleges’ adopted community.  The need to include the talk about mental health during the celebration of Linggo ng Kabataan in September came about because of the two recent cases of suicide in Darasa.  The 45-minute talk which was telecast via FB Live has since become a sustainable program.  SK Darasa has partnered with FAITH Colleges in the “Akbay Alalay” program—an initiative that aims to promote information about mental health in order to instill awareness in the over-all wellness among the youth.  Aside from social media postings about the topic, it is hoped that referrals may be made and support groups will be formed in order to further reach out to those who are experiencing challenges with their mental health.

Senior Helping Seniors. A project with Tony Maleto, FACES has recently brought
the community pantry to the homes of the senior citizens of Balete.

DILG Multi-Sectoral Advisory Council

The strong partnership between the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) IV-A and FAITH Colleges as a member of the agency’s Multi-Sectoral Advisory Council (MSAC) paved the way for bringing the same mental health program to another barangay, this time in Brgy. Dila in Bay, Laguna.  Entitled “Hignaw,” the program was rolled out in February 2021 to select members of the youth of Brgy. Dila.  

DILG IV-A invited FAITH Colleges for a seminar on wellness.  In 28–30 September, Gutierrez co-facilitated a seminar entitled “Understanding and Managing Stress during the Pandemic” with the Philippine Mental Health Association Lipa-Batangas Chapter. The seminar was well-received by DILG IV-A employees so it  was developed into a series of psychosocial processing activities.

RollyPH and #UlyssesPH

The spirit of generosity and volunteerism was again put to the test when Rolly and Ulysses hit country in the last quarter of 2020.  FACES partnered with the various student organizations in the call for another round of donations.  The FAITH Alumni Organization, through the initiative of Atty. Raegan Capuno, led the donation drive with the support of the student organization bodies of the Tertiary Schools and the FAITH Catholic School.  Collected donations were sent to the Office of the Vice President of the Philippines and directly to the recipients in Marikina, and the provinces of Quezon, Bicol, and Isabela.

Schools as providers of knowledge seem to make them the ivory towers of the community.  This should not be the case.  It may be true that educational institutions are revered because the education of the populace depend on them, but formal learning goes beyond the walls of the classroom.  Lifelong lessons are learned when students go out to the community.  In the case of FAITH Colleges, not only do its community extension programs become an avenue for formation and transformation.  They have become the living testimonies of the heart and soul of the FAITH community.

FACES needs friends and supporters. To find out more, you may send a direct message through https://www.facebook.com/FAITHCollegesFACES

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