The partnership between HANBI ICT Center and Samsung Electronics seeks to alleviate poverty in Navotas by providing out-of-school youth the IT skills needed to compete in today’s modern world


MANILA, Philippines — When searing flames engulfed a densely populated section of Navotas City last August 2010, the family of Crisanto Flores was among the thousands left homeless by the tragedy. Then a factory worker, Flores was—still is—the sole breadwinner of his family.

“Disabled po kasi ang tatay ko kaya kailangan ko talaga magtrabaho,” explains the 29-year-old. “Kailangan ko suportahan ang mga kapatid ko kasi ang mga asawa nila walang trabaho at hindi ko naman po pwedeng pabayaan. Dahil dito, hindi ko na natuloy ang pag-aaral ko kasi kulang ang sahod at wala nang oras.”

Unfortunately, Flores’ story is nothing new. The fact is that millions of Filipinos in abject poverty have similar stories to tell. Gigantic fires like the one in Navotas doesn’t happen once in a blue moon—it happens at least a couple times a year, and the ones directly affected are almost always the urban poor with their clustered homes made of the cheapest construction materials.

Discouraging Dole-outs

In Navotas, poverty pervades majority of the population. It is one of the most socio-economically depressed areas in metropolitan Manila. As such, it has become a constant beneficiary of corporations with CSR (corporate social responsibility) programs. Most of these programs aim to raise funds to provide food, clothing, shelter and other goods that are meant to improve the lives of the people they want to help.

However, promoting a culture of dole-outs has an ugly side to it. “When we first met the community here in Navotas, the moment the kids saw us they told us to give them money and candy,” shares Reverend Park Sun Ho, a Korean missionary. “They see foreigners as Santa Claus. But I realized later that when foreigners come here to help out, Filipinos soon depend on them for their livelihood. I decided that the focus should be on educating the youth such that they will be able to stand on their own.”

With that in mind, Rev. Park put up the HANBI ICT (Information Communication Technology) Center in partnership with Samsung Electronics and UNESCO Korea. The Center serves the marginalized communities of Bagumbayan North and Navotas City by providing young individuals like Crisanto Flores with education opportunities in the field of information technology. “Globalization has created a big gap between the poor and the rich,” shares Rev. Park. “Without education, the poor do not have a chance to overcome their poverty. So we focus on educating the youth through the HANBI ICT Center.”

Empowering Through Education

In the two years that the center has been in operation, it has helped improve the lives of a number of out-of-school youth. “We have 170+ students at the Center, and we give them an allowance of P700 per month,” shares Rev. Park.

The meager amount is used for the food and transportation expenses of the children. “We meet with the parents every month to educate them on how to use the money—we always make sure to monitor them because we do not want the money to go to gambling and vices,” adds Choi Eun Young Park, program director of HANBI ICT. “The moment we find out the money is being used for drinking and gambling, we stop.”

Scholars are chosen with the help of community and barangay leaders. “We have requirements—pictures, barangay clearances and birth certificates. Students come to the office to fill an application form, and go through an interview process where we ask them what happened to their education, why they stopped, and what their family situation is like,” informs Rev. Park.

Former factory worker Crisanto Flores was among the scholars. He is now a graduate of the Center, and he works as a computer technician employed by the Center to maintain computer software and hardware. “Nung nakapag-aral ako sa HANBI, nakakapag-home service na rin po ako at nakakadagdag po yun sa sahod,” shares Flores.

HANBI’s involvement in the lives of its scholars extends beyond education. With the help of Samsung Electronics, who provides the Center’s state-of-the-art computer equipment and supplies, the Center offers students on-the-job (OJT) training opportunities. “In terms of the relationship between HANBI and Samsung, aside from the financial grant we give them, we encourage our employees to help teach the children about the new technology we’re using,” shares Odette Velarde, Samsung PR Manager. “We do not want to promote a dole out system. Instead of giving them money, we would rather give them jobs.”

Published in the April 4, 2011 issue of the Manila Bulletin’s Business Agenda Section