Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Letter from Lorena Gutierrez


Dearest friends,

I am writing this letter to all of you from my kitchen nook, across from me my second daughter Sabrina is quietly drawing. Behind her is the hallway that leads to the bedrooms of my oldest daughter Camille and my baby son Luca. We are in Vitoria, Espirito Santo Brazil. Suddenly it hits me, how much time has passed since I've seen many of you, since we started this project together, and since my older brother, Love, died. It's been almost 7 years since I've left the Bay Area and 12 years in January since my brother passed. And yet, after all this time and distance, you have stayed dedicated to this cause. 

I really am quite speechless. Awestruck at what you have done for The Books for Love Project and how much you've helped the children in Palindan,Ibaan Batangas and even the children of Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Many of these children are now adults and I'd like to think that our contributions have somehow influenced their lives in one way or another. And that they are now also helping others around them. This is what I'd like to believe.

On behalf of my growing family and my brother's memory, thank you for your kindness and for continually supporting Books for Love. 

Happy Holidays to all!

Lorena Ortega Gutierrez   #104


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thank You, Beta Phi Sisters -


First of all I would like to  thank the Beta Phi Sister who have continuously raised funds and supported the Books for Love Project over the years. Thanks also goes to Leilani Reis Kane and Augusto Tagaro for their untiring effort in coordinating the project from San Francisco.

2011 was a milestone for Palindan Elementary School (Ibaan, Batangas, Philippines). The then Principal Mario Andal wanted to encourage the kids to be science buffs and the Books for Love helped and provided the equipment and books they would need to set up their Science Corner.

Thru the help of the Beta Phi Sisters in San Francisco State University, we were able to send the microscope, and balance that was needed. San Francisco Library contributed elementary science books and Mon Cargo, sponsored the shipment of all the above to Palindan Elementary School.

Here are the photos of the Science Corner at Palindan Elementary School.



E-mail from Mario Andal, Principal of Palindan Elementary School


Dear Emma, Lorena and Leilani,

We would like to thank you for all your help to our school and especially to our pupils.  the microscope and the weighing balance were very much of big help to our pupils. In addition, the books and the educational cd/dvd really help the pupils to learn because of its animation. its been a big help... thank you very much. in behalf of the pupils, teachers and parents of palindan elem. school... we thank you...
please extend our thanks also to all the members of Beta Phi Sorority especially to  Lorena and Leilani...thank you and God Bless...



2012 is the 11th year of the Books for Love. I could not help but imagine the children who received the first books we distributed at the school in 2001.They are now grown ups. The 6th grade students then were 12 years old who by now are already 23.  

There have been  4 different principals whom we have worked with in the span of 11 years.  Dolly, Ely, Mario and now Jo. We are all connected to the project because of our desire to enthuse the school children of Palindan Elementary School in their quest for knowledge.

From setting up the school's  library, the computer lab, the astronomy project complete with telescope, dvd's and books, the science laboratory corner with microscope, balance. science books and dvd's, now we go high tech.  

The present  Principal, of Palindan Elementary School, Josephine Berana told us that the children gets excited when they watch their lessons on an LCD screen.  So the wish list  is computer, LCD screen ,
internet connection and educational CD's.




From Emiliana Roxas, Ex Principal of Palindan Elementary School

LOVE's memories will always shine to the hearts of our schoolchildren in Palindan Elem. School...Books For LOVE truly made a difference to the intellectual development of our schoolchildren when I was still a Principal there in Palindan, Ibaan District, Division of Batangas, Philippines...Palindan Elementary School became one of the Top Performing Schools in the whole Region. THANKS TO THE BOOKS FOR LOVE!


Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Project's First Year

We started to collect used English children’s books here in San Francisco. In 2001, we shipped 2700 books and 15 boxes to Palindan thru the help and support of 78 caring human beings who were family members, friends, and co-workers, and the libraries. Lorena, Arniel, and Gil gave the books directly to 245 school children of Palindan Elementary School on November 2, 2001. Lorena, Arniel, and Gil are Books for Love volunteers who traveled to Palindan, Ibaan, Batangas, Philippines.

Books for Love 2002, 1500 books in 10 boxes were shipped that was used to start the first library of the school and the mini libraries in each classrooms. Myself, Leilani and Arniel were there August 6-9, 2002 and saw how the main library and the mini libraries were set up.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Brave Children of Brazil

by: Lorena Gutierrez

Interlagos Youth Center

I spent only one month in Brazil, but the memories and friends I made in that brief time, will always remain with me for the rest of my life. These musings are not the romantic point of view of one Filipina-American but that of someone who saw the harsh reality of life through the eyes of the soulful, passionate, and charismatic people of Brazil.

For three weeks I lived in an impoverished area called Interlagos in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I also spent one week in a middle class suburbs called Meir in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I did not do the usual tourist activities; I actually did not even get to visit the beaches during the day. I spent all my time connecting with and living the life of the locals. It was because of this that I was able to observe and register what the Brazilians lives were like. Their lives were at times challenging, but always filled with joy.

I stayed with a Humanist movement member named Paula; she lives with her parents and sister in what resembles American tenement housing. But she and her family are the previledged ones, most families live in the surrounding slums called the favelas. Even with all the hardships of life, everyone I met seemed to have an infectious
smile and a welcoming heart.

Paula and I decided that we needed to do something to improve the quality of life of the children and families in her neighborhood. I wanted to be involved in this Humanist project because I truly fell in love with the people around me. I wanted to do something positive for the children as my brother LOVE would have done. We began the Friends of the Favelas project. Hoping to establish the first youth center in Interlagos.

Most children from the favelas of Brazil are left on their own during the day while their parents are at work. They have nowhere to go before and after school. The majority of the favela children end up in the streets and because of this there are gangs, widespread drug use, and teenage pregnancies. The gangs and drug dealers in the favelas cause much of the existing violence. The children face these struggles day in and day out. They need a safe place to go, an environment which allows them to enjoy their childhood and to be involved in extracurricular activities. Thus, the idea for a youth center was born.

Education is of the utmost importance and since I am a teacher, the children and I will be involved in learning. I will teach them English and Art. They will in turn teach me how it is to learn without limits and to register the human within me.
I will spend the whole summer 2003 with them and I am inviting those interested to join me in Brazil.

The Reading Experience

Written By: Leilani Reis-Kane
Edited By: James Carrigan

There is a tremendously great feeling when people share their knowledge, skills, talents, and worth with each other. Being able to help impact and influence an educational system can result in a positive change for the future. The students at Palindan Elementary School in Ibaan, Batangas, in August 2002, were able to experience storytelling brought to them by The New Humanist Movement. Various Tagalog and English stories were read to the students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Then a brief discussion followed, which was lead by principal Dolly Malata. The very attentive and eager-to-learn students were impressive with their correct answers and open ears. As an American I was amazed at this Filipino public school; many American public schools cannot compete with the students’ kind appreciation for foreign visitors and respectful attitudes towards their elders and each other. These students are taught to have conservative and structured behavior patterns that are exemplified by their positive attitudes.

I read two different stories in English to the fifth and sixth grade classes that incorporated various values such as, education, poverty, social and living conditions, and survival skills. Since I do not speak Tagalog it was best that I share with the older children. At first I was very nervous, as I was not sure about their English comprehension level and I was afraid that they would not understand my accent. I had also noticed that when I made eye contact with the students while I was reading many of their faces were lit up and highly attentive. This reaction gave me a charmed feeling towards

the students and my participation in the school event. I feel that this reading experience was not only beneficial for the students, but for myself as well.

I later discovered that many of the students understood the stories and had few questions. The students left me with a positive everlasting impression, because they were interested in what I had to share with them. This was a truly rewarding experience for both of us. I found myself asking how bright, intelligent, and kind-hearted students at such a young age could be exposed to English when, at their age, I did not know half of what they know. I also began to ponder the fact that they are not racially mixed, and I am of mixed origins: Where does that put their racial and cultural exposure? Were they even aware of this before I stepped into the room? But putting these little nuances aside, I found myself enchanted by a different culture and educational training level that allows students to progress and mature quickly. Being able to share stories in English to these students was a blessing in itself and reminded me how important reading can be to students.

Why Love Love It Here

By: Arniel Brown

A 14-hour plane ride. Transfer to a 4-hour bus ride. Hitch a 10-minute ride in a tricycle. Jump off and on to another 30-minute jeepney ride, all southbound. You step off your jeepney and lush green non-illuminated dirt roads and yes, even out of place Mormons greet you. Welcome to Palindan, Ibaan, a province of Batangas, Philippines.

A place where you are always steps away from the fields, chickens, goats, pigs and other critters that made a meal of Leilani and my body (namely mosquitoes and giant flying roaches). A place where electricity is scarce, and water is pumped from deep wells. A place where the weather is warm, and the people are warmer.

A place not without its problems. Shotty facilities that barely keep the insects and rain away from the place where children learn. A place where electrical currents are a rarity, along with the juice needed to run electrical appliances. A place that our friend Love loved, and a place where he passed on. A place that we decided to help – all in the name of LOVE.

On day 1, we arrived at Palindan Day Care Center. We had several goals in mind: interact and play with the kids, read a story to them in Tagalog (I read and I barely speak Tagalog!) and to distribute some toys to the children. Our plan was successful yet, I also can say it did not go as well as we planned. Language and cultural barriers can be very challenging when playing with kids. Yet it was still fun to try and pull it off. Not surprisingly everyone laughed at my butchering the Tagalog language.

On day 2, Leilani and I read more stories to selected classrooms at Palindan Elementary School. We decided to read stories that had certain themes that affected the children. Such story themes were: gaining new skills and sharing them with others (exactly what we are doing). Dealing with poverty and the problems of being under-resourced and finally stories based on identity and change.

We left Palindan upon the notion of "Give the people the skills of how to fish, and not the fish itself". I can certainly say we have given the people of Palindan new skills and a new way of thinking. We have shown them a new path. I am thrilled to returning to Palindan, even though I’ll have to endure a 14 hour plane ride, 4 hour bus ride, 10 minute tricycle ride and 30 minutes jeepney ride. For Palindan is also a town I love now and I’m beginning to see why LOVE loved it here.

Ways to Participate

There are many ways to help and encourage these children to continue studying and we hope that you will continue to support us in this endeavor:

• Give your used English reading books, dictionaries, or reference books
• Sponsor the shipping cost of a box
• Adopt a classroom and supply them with papers, notebooks, pencils, pens. For a class of 48 students $100.00 will help cover the cost for a whole year. The class you will sponsor will acknowledge your help.
• Used cotton dresses, shirts, pants and short pants; used shoes or slippers (4" to 6"in size); old backpacks or school bags
• Used educational board games: chess, scrabble, word power, games of the general, Risk, etc., that will challenge their minds
Tennis racquets, table tennis, badminton, basketball, volleyball, etc. that will keep them active in a positive way and away from bad influence
• 5 sets of First Aid Kits
• Adopt the class for out-of-school children who dropped out of elementary and cannot go back to the formal ambit of a classroom. Some of these children dropped out of 1st grade and are now 11 years old. Classes are held at Palindan Elementary School, Monday to Friday, 2 hours everyday for grades 1-4. Grades 5-6 every Saturday for 6 hours. The children in the Saturday class will be prepared to pass a placement test that will enable them to go to the next grade level or to high school. $1,000.00 will support this program for 10 months.

Books for Love

By: Emma S. Ortega

We finally arrived at Palindan on August 6, 2002. A farm town for growing chickens, pigs and coffee. A town of 5000 people. A town that my son LOVE always returned to whenever he went to the Philippines for vacation from San Francisco. The town where on January 4, 2001 he said goodbye to us and to this world to go to the next stage of his life and that was the start of BOOKS FOR LOVE.

We started to collect used English children’s books here in San Francisco. In 2001, we shipped 2700 books and 15 boxes to Palindan thru the help and support of 78 caring human beings who were family members, friends, and co-workers, and the libraries. Lorena, Arniel, and Gil gave the books directly to 245 school children of Palindan Elementary School on November 2, 2001. Lorena, Arniel, and Gil are Books for Love volunteers who traveled to Palindan, Ibaan, Batangas, Philippines.

Books for Love 2002, 1500 books in 10 boxes were shipped that was used to start the first library of the school and the mini libraries in each classrooms. Myself, Leilani and Arniel were there August 6-9, 2002 and saw how the main library and the mini libraries were set up.

While in Palindan, we discovered during the "getting to know you" town meeting at the school the many problems that they have. Lack of livelihood and education are two of the predominanting ones, aside from the need for medicine (the children had skin and lungs illnesses), safe drinking water, cleanliness of the surroundings, and activities for the school children.

The people want to do something specially for their children. More than 20% of the elementary school children drop out of school and forego studying to take care of their siblings while their parents go to work. There is no sports program for the children who are left to roam around after their task is done at home. Going to school is made difficult because they do not have the needed school supplies. School hours are from 7AM to 5PM and during the two recess periods and lunch, some children have to stand and stare at others eat because they do not have the means to buy their food for that day.

The school does not have any kind of playground. The school property is triangular in shape and is bordered by roads on both sides. The heat is unbearable inside the classrooms. There is an electric fan in each classroom but they do not use it in order to save electricity. The windows are left wide open to allow the air to come in but together with the air come the noise of the passing vehicles, the battalion of flies, and the foul smell from the chicken and pig farms. In this condition, the children, 245 of them, study. It was amazing to see their attention and interest in studying.