US-Philippines Society Livelihood, Education and Health Programs for Displaced Communities
Marawi City, Philippines – Following the 2019 Annual Board of Directors Meeting in Manila, the US-Philippines Society delegation led by President Ambassador John F. Maisto and Director Henry B. Howard visited project sites in Marawi City on February 21. At the Lanao del Sur Provincial Capitol, TFBM Field Manager and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Assistant Secretary Felix Castro Jr. provided updates on the progress and challenges in the rehabilitation of the affected areas in the aftermath of the five-month siege by militant groups in 2017.
The group proceeded to view a showcase of various textile products hand-woven by women beneficiaries of the “Weaving Hope in Marawi” livelihood project. A joint project of US-Philippines Society and implementing partner PDRF in collaboration with USAID-SURGE (USAID Philippines), the program aims to revive the tradition of langkit weaving in affected communities. The project is made possible with support from USPHS members, the Philippine Nurses Association of America and the Philippine Humanitarian Coalition
At the Area 2 Barangay Sagonsongan Temporary Learning School, members of the delegation engaged students and heard testimonials from teachers about the benefits of the School-in-a-Bag in the classroom, a component of the “Children of Marawi” project that was turned over last September by the US-Philippines Society (USPHS), Project Handclasp Foundation (PHF) and the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) to local schools and learning centers. Created by Smart Communications, a School-in-a-Bag is designed to facilitate learning in remote areas without electric power. It utilizes mobile technology, innovative teaching practices, and accredited K to 12 curriculum.
The Project Handclasp Foundation was founded by members of the US Navy as a worldwide humanitarian mission led by retired Commander Charlie Tevelson for over 30 years. Current Chair retired Rear Admiral Daniel W. McKinnon Jr., a USPHS member, served in 1980-1982 as Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command, and 36th Chief of Supply Corps in Subic Bay, Philippines.
In the afternoon, the delegation witnessed the turnover ceremony of medical equipment and supplies for a newly-constructed soon-to-open rural health unit in Barangay Sagonsongan, the largest transitional shelter site in Marawi. Built by Makati Medical Center Foundation represented by Executive Director Marge Barro, with assistance from the local government led by Marawi City Mayor Majul U. Gandamra, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, represented by Major General and Chief Engineer Felipe B. Bejar, the rural health center is the first medical facility in the area. In addtion, PHF, USPHS and PDRF awarded training support for the medical professionals and staff personnel of the RHU. City Health Officer Dr. Ali G. Dalidig accepted the award on behalf of the Department of Health.
Mayor Gandamra issued a statement expressing “from the bottom of hearts and our very being, thank you, thank you so much. Your assistance will go a long way in the upkeep of this health center, and help serve the health needs of the multitudes who call this their temporary home.”