Alternative Schoolies heading back to Philippines

HARD WORK: The 2017 Alternative to Schoolies group (back) Natasha O’Keeffe, Ayesha Carson, Lori Carlin, Xave Gibbins, Phoebe Cody, (front) Lettesha Kearney, and Shelby Jenkins.
HARD WORK: The 2017 Alternative to Schoolies group (back) Natasha O’Keeffe, Ayesha Carson, Lori Carlin, Xave Gibbins, Phoebe Cody, (front) Lettesha Kearney, and Shelby Jenkins.

NOTCHING up a century is on the horizon for Geraldine Edar’s Alternative to Schoolies group.

WELL READ: The 2017 Alternative Schoolies group with children from the school. They are standing in front of the school library the Alternative Schoolies helped to build.

WELL READ: The 2017 Alternative Schoolies group with children from the school. They are standing in front of the school library the Alternative Schoolies helped to build.

Since bringing the concept to life in 2010, Ms Edar has journeyed to the Philippines annually with a group of year 12 students from across the region. In total, 91 young adults have participated in the initiative and Ms Edar is confident that number will go into triple figures.

“We are having a recruitment day on Monday, July 16 at 7pm at the Archie Graham Centre in Warrnambool,” Ms Edar said.

“It is a chance for the year 12 students and their parents to come and find out what we are all about.

“The trip is also opened to other adults who may wish to come along and help out.”

A strong number of students from Port Fairy, Koroit and Hawkesdale have taken part in the project over the years and Ms Edar is confident that will again be the case this year.

The group will depart Australia on November 25 and return home on December 16. 

The group will head to the Teofilo V. Fernandez Elementary School, which is located in a village on the outskirts of Davao City.

Helping build infrastructure at the primary section of the school has been the task of the Alternative to Schoolies group.

Since 2010, the group has helped to build nine classrooms, a library, a drainage system and an orphanage. 

It has also set up a program where it sponsors children from the school, paying the cost of their education.

Each year the group offers 20 of these scholarships with 300 applications received in 2018. These scholarships are made possible by contributions from the group and also from businesses and community members in south-west Victoria.

When the group heads back to the school in November, it will display skills of a different kind to what it has in the past.

“Having built everything we set out to, we are now looking forward to getting in the classroom and helping to teach the children,” Ms Edar said.

“It was always an aim of the project to be able to do this and it will be a great experience for our young adults to pass on their knowledge.

“Building the infrastructure has been hard work so it will be nice to have some time to spend with the students in their classrooms.”

Ms Edar said the benefits of the Alternative to Schoolies program can be seen in many different ways.

She said the biggest impact was teaching the students who take part in the program how lucky they are.

“The school we go to has 2412 students from kinder to grade six and over 7000 students when you include the secondary section of the school,” she said.

“That is a lot of students, considering the footprint of the school itself is half the size of Brauer College.

“Each class has 60-70 students and some of the children walk seven kilometres one way to get to school. Then there is the poverty, which is a real eye-opener. Our students that go over to the Philippines may have seen poverty on the television or even in big cities they may have visited, but nothing prepares them for the poverty they see in smaller villages.

“It certainly gives them perspective and makes them realise they are very fortunate.”