Our most ambitious project is to help to make an entire village economically sustainable and to achieve 100% literacy for every child who lives there. Unless you've ever been to an impoverished village in an undeveloped country, it's hard to imagine what all the challenges are. The problems begin the day a woman gets pregnant because her poor nutrition can cost her child 10 to 15 IQ points, so this is where sustainability starts. You can't just say, "eat a proper diet", because a proper diet is usually not even close to being affordable. If they're fortunate, maybe they will be able to eat a piece of chicken once a month. Then there is the problem of illiteracy. It's not unusual for 30% of the villagers to not have finished second grade. This project begins with educating pregnant women, making sure that they have proper nutrition, and that their child has reasonable nutrition at least up to age 2 or a little beyond.
Many small children live in very poor environments consisting of dirt floors, homes whose roofs blow away in the wind and parents who are not capable of teaching them. Fourteen typhoons a year is the average in Samar. Every time a typhoon comes there is damage everywhere. It can be very distressing to see. The people are very resilient perhaps simply because they need to be. They are a happy and grateful people and families are interdependent and closely connected with each other. When a family member gets help with education, you can be certain that they will help their siblings and other family members.
We're building some early-learning schools and equipping them with color, learning tools and other things that all small children need. We have many student volunteers who participate to make this work. We are coordinating our efforts with the Department of Education, village officials, pastors, students, and a local NGO. We educate parents too and help them to improve their circumstances.
Our goal is to achieve 100% literacy by creating the best environment that we can for all children from conception through grade six. For literacy to be sustainable, we need to educate adults and parents and help them to become self-sufficient. We expect most of them will succeed through agriculture, and some with starting and managing a small business. Because it's hard to identify all of the specific costs inherent in this project, we fund it with our general funds.
We work in the poorest part of The Philippines. Even if this project fails to achieve all of our goals, we know that no matter how small the change might have been to us, we will have made a positive contribution to someone else's life.