Take 3: My dream in a shoebox

Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on December 23, 2011

On December December 19, senior officials of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP), members of my team at TeamAsia, and volunteers from a wide range of BPAP member companies transitioned from collecting shoeboxes full of school supplies, surplus personal computers, and cash to distributing these donations to target beneficiaries. The gift giving will continue throughout the week and the month in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao.

2011 marks the third year “My Dream in a Shoebox” has taken place. It’s grown each year. And each year the generosity of the business community, especially the IT-BPO community, has enabled the project to exceed its goals. In 2009, our aim was to generate a few hundred shoeboxes filled with school supplies to support the work of Efren Peñaflorida, who had just been named CNN Hero of the Year for his efforts to educate street children in Cavite.

Despite a very short timeline that first year, the project met its rather modest goal. We found that although the initiative was intended to benefit children, those of us who helped organize the project and who participated in the distribution of gifts received a far greater reward, the delight that comes when children laugh and smile, their eyes dance with excitement, and their faces glow with hope and joy.

Last year we started earlier with the goal of 1,000 boxes, and we came closer to 4,000. Approximately P500,000 in cash was also  turned over to Mr. Peñaflorida’s Dynamic Teen Company for the construction of a learning facility meant to take children off the streets, give them a decent place to study, and teach them the social skills required to be responsible as well as productive people. The Dynamic Teen Company, however, was just one of the beneficiaries.

As a result of the generosity of our donors, the project expanded the scope of its outreach, distributing school supplies in Parañaque and Manila as well as Cavite to 14 institutional beneficiaries. This year, we took a collective deep breath and vowed to raise P600,000 to build one public school classroom and collect 3,000 shoeboxes and 200 personal computers for public schools identified by the Department of Education (DepEd).

And once again, the generosity of our donors has enabled us to break most of these goals. By December 19, we had collected close to 7,500 shoeboxes, over 120 personal computers, and close to P1,000,000 in cash (We haven’t given up on the personal computers, incidentally.). Three public schools in Lipa, Batangas were the first beneficiaries of this year’s project. Distribution of all 7,000+ shoeboxes has been fully scheduled.

The cash donation is set to go to rebuilding the F. Serrano Elementary School in Parañaque, which was heavily damaged when a light aircraft fell out of the sky Saturday, December 10 and hit the school. Approximately 30 personal computers will be distributed to each of the three elementary schools in Lipa, enabling them to set up computer labs and offer real hands-on training. Many schools in the Philippines teach children how to use computers with cardboard keyboards and monitors.

Organized this year with DepEd’s Bayanihang Pampaaralan and Children’s Hour, the Philippine Armed Forces will provide transport for the shoeboxes, which all contain basic school supplies—notebooks, pads, pencils, crayons, a ruler, and an eraser. While that might seem like a humble shoebox, teachers and educators tell us that these inexpensive items can mean the difference between a child attending school or not. Or going without a meal or not.

The list of sponsors is too lengthy to provide here, but JPMorgan Chase, TeleTech, Shell Shared Services, Chevron, Wells Fargo, Firstsource, and Stream Global Services deserve special mention. A complete list of sponsors is provided on the project website. In all, more than 50 corporate donors supported My Dream in a Shoebox this year.

BPAP’s executive director for industry affairs Raymond Lacdao has been a driving force for the project, visiting potential donors, coordinating with DepEd, and setting high goals for the initiative. He’s benefited from the critical support of BPAP senior executive director Gillian Virata, who has served as the association’s acting CEO for most of this year. TeamAsia marketing manager Janina Baybay has led the project on our side. She’s done a remarkable job.

Many other BPAP, TeamAsia, and Children’s Hour volunteers have helped coordinate collection of shoeboxes, identify beneficiaries, and arrange logistical support. The project would not be possible without their dedicated efforts. I should also thank Monette Hamlin, TeamAsia president, who originally conceptualized the project, and former BPAP executive director for industry affairs Jonathan de Luzuriaga who had the vision to implement it.

The joy in this season truly is in giving. Although My Dream in a Shoebox is ultimately a small contribution towards solving the enormous problem of properly educating children in the Philippines, we are warmed by the thought that every effort makes a difference in a child’s life.

(For an update on this year’s program, go here.)

(Michael Alan Hamlin is the managing director of TeamAsia and a Manila-based author. His latest book is High Visibility: Transforming Your Personal and Professional Brand. Write him at mahamlin@teamasia.com and follow him on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn. Copyright © 2011 Michael Alan Hamlin. All Rights Reserved.)

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