Arman Lauresta teaches 36 students from inside a small, bamboo shack on the hillside. He assigns his students homework, but they often arrive at school without it. “No light,” he said, is the most common reason kids don’t complete their assignments. Although Arman feels helpless to change this, he understands. He struggles to afford the kerosene he needs himself, to correct papers and develop lesson plans after a long school day.
In the Mangyan community of Villa Cervesa, families struggle to afford basic needs. Each classroom receives 500 pesos (approx $10US) for an entire year of school supplies.
When families run low on food, parents cannot afford to send kids to school. Children are forced to work in the home or in the fields to help generate income. As kerosene costs 15 pesos/day, many families cannot afford to light their homes. For a child that spends her days in the fields, the lack of light at night means missing her education altogether.
The history of the community is not uplifting either. The Mangyan tribes, native to Mindoro island, suffered at the hands of colonists and wealthier Filipino settlers in the 1900s. Forced away from their original settlements and pushed onto the hillsides, they now subsist on rats and worms when they are hungry, or short on protein. Because of their remote location, the Filipino department of energy has no plans to bring electricity to these marginalized communities.
Despite the obvious challenges, Arman moved to Villa Cervesa 13 years ago, to give Mangyan kids an education in a native school. “As a Mangyan, I am the one to help them develop their lives. There are no other people.”
After receiving his light Arman, he beamed with joy.