Brian senses responsibility to help provide for his family. So, like other boys in the community, he works in the evening preparing their boat for night sea fishing. Then, about midnight, he sails out with his dad in hopes of a good catch he can sell in town the next day. After fishing through the night, about 7:00 a.m. he finally falls into bed for five or six hours’ sleep. It’s then time at 1:00 p.m. to join other kids in the Alternative Learning Program for a couple of hours of focused literacy training. Learning to read is the highlight of Brian’s day. If he oversleeps and the group starts a session without him, this mild-mannered kid gets upset.
So, along with all her other challenging responsibilities, his teacher, Paz, makes sure someone stops by Brian’s stilt dwelling in the sea to wake him before they begin the afternoon’s learning exercises and activities.
Brian’s teacher says, “The children are eager to learn. They enjoy being within their own community and have great love for their unique culture. My hope, though, is that slowly, through education, the children will mingle with other children outside the Badjao community and will find acceptance, realizing that in commonality, they all are Filipino, and the communities will merge.”
Badjao Bridge provides four streams of education for the children of sea gypsies:
- Preschool for youngsters to prepare them to enter public elementary school
- Assistance for children to attend elementary and secondary public education by providing mandatory uniforms, school supplies, homework coaching, and lunch
- Alternative education for the unschooled older children so that they can master educational basics such as literacy while sustained by a chili-spiced, protein-fortified lunch
- A children’s Bible program and teenage discipleship training in partnership with the Badjao church on weekends
Occasionally, Badjao Bridge also provides a scholarship beyond high school for worthy students who dare to reach beyond what the community ever thought possible.