Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) recently turned over 38 fiberglass boats to families living in five island barangays of Sierra Islands, which are among the most remote communities in Catbalogan City in Samar province.
SCB donated the boats to support the community’s need to transport the children to school and augment their family’s income. Under the program, dubbed “Banca ng Buhay”, school children will be able to travel to and from their schools for free.
Transportation has always been a problem for students living in the Sierra Islands.
To attend their classes, children had to walk and swim for 40 minutes, or pay for a round-trip boat fare amounting to P10 every day, a huge amount for families with limited income opportunities.
This contributed to a high drop out rate among the children here, according to Cristito Eco, schools division superintendent of the zdepartment of Education (DepEd).
The boats donated by SCB can be used as fishing boats, particularly on weekends when not in use by the students.
SCB also gave fishing equipment to the beneficiaries.
“You see through the eyes of the beneficiary boatmen, their wives and the schoolchildren, the renewed hope and optimism about their future. That alone is priceless to us,” said Mai Sangalang, SCB head of corporate affairs.
Catbalogan City Mayor Stephanie Uy-Tan said the project empowers the communities as it addresses major challenges faced by the island communities: educating the youth and providing livelihood to their families.
DepEd’s Eco lauded the project, saying it is “a comprehensive approach of addressing critical issues in the locality such as poverty, improved learner participation and enrolment, zero out dropouts and improved quality learning outcomes.”
Banca ng Buhay is part of the bank’s emergency response to the areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda, the strongest tropical cyclone that damaged billion pesos worth of properties and claimed thousands of lives.
The project was done in partnership with Philippine Business for Social Progress, Department of Education, and the City Government of Catbalogan, Samar.