Kinder School in Bacolod celebrates 20th anniversary

The Good Samaritan Kinder School in Bacolod, the Philippines, which was established to serve the poor families of the squatter district, has celebrated its 20th anniversary, with those involved, both now and in the past, saying they are thankful to God for all the blessings bestowed over the years.

The school’s current Principal, Marites Samillano-Lagrito, said the anniversary was celebrated on two important dates last year.

The first celebration, with the Kinder School’s past pupils who are now aged from first-year high school up to university students, was held on 11 July, the Feast of St Benedict and the Foundation Day of the school.

The celebration included the launch of the Good Samaritan Kinder School Alumni Association and Joffrey Gayaran, a teacher at the school for more than 10 years, said it was an emotional occasion.

“I felt so moved to witness this celebration and to see the growth of the children,” he said.

The second of the anniversary celebrations, with the current Kinder students and their parents, was held on 13 November, the Feast of All Benedictine Saints.

Image: Good Samaritan Kinder School.

“Due to the change in the school calendar after the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to move the celebration of our foundation anniversary to this date as the month of July is now a school holiday,” Marites said.

“We began the day with Mass, an expression of gratitude to the Lord for all the blessings we have received over the past 20 years. This was followed by a motorcade on the way back to school. Parents and children were very happy as they rode in their service vehicles, passing through the places where many of them reside.

“One by one, 20 balloons were released into the air as the important events and people who contributed to the growth and development of the Kinder School were remembered in prayer. The children joyfully performed in a field demonstration with dances and colourful props. It was a happy day for all of us.”

Marites said she has been part of the Kinder School since its opening and is grateful and proud of what has been achieved in the first 20 years.

“It was with great delight that I looked back and witnessed the growth of the Kinder School with Good Samaritan Sister Leonie Duenas, our Founding Principal,” she said.

Leonie was appointed as Principal in July 2003 when work started on the construction of the school and she remained in the role until March 2018.

The Sisters of the Good Samaritan from Japan had been ministering in Bacolod since 1990, with Australian Sisters joining them later, followed by Filipino Sisters who joined the Congregation.

In their pastoral work, the Sisters discerned a great need for a kinder school for the poor at City Heights, Bacolod.

Image: Good Samaritan Kinder School.

Leonie said the school started with four staff members catering for 120 children for morning and afternoon sessions.

“We were very dependent on our benefactors in Japan and Australia for the salary of our teachers and staff,” she said.

“One of the challenges I experienced personally was working as a full-time teacher in Kinder 2 at the same time as being Principal for three years.

“Thankfully, in our fourth year, because of the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to hire another teacher and teacher’s assistant to help us.”

Sister Eiko Mukae SGS, who taught at the Kinder School for 13 years said she was delighted to have been involved in its foundation and its evolution.

“It was my greatest joy that Leonie, Sister Germia Tocama SGS and I worked so hard and worked so well together for the Kinder School. I think we had a really good team,” she said.

Eiko said that while education was always a priority, pastoral care of the students and their families was also paramount.

She said that initially, some children complained of abdominal pain or headaches at school.

“But when feeding services at the Kinder started, there were no more of these complaints,” she said. “We noticed the reason for this was that most children did not have sufficient nutritional meals at home.”

Eiko said she also remembers the generous spirit of the children, even though they lived in poverty.

“Even though the children were small, they naturally had the spirit of sharing food and things with their friends who had none. I really saw the Good Samaritan in the children.

Image: Good Samaritan Kinder School.

She thanked the Congregation, all the Sisters involved in the Bacolod mission and benefactors who had supported the Kinder over the past 20 years.

“And I am deeply grateful to Marites and all our staff members for giving their all and continuing our mission with the spirit of the Good Samaritan congregation.”

Sister Eugennie Levinson SGS, now living in Brisbane, arrived in Bacolod in 2003, just as the school was getting underway, and was the only Australian Sister there at that time.

“It was a big job, getting it up and running, working with local architects and building plans,” she said.

Eugennie, Leonie and Sister Yoshi Suzukawa SGS were present at the groundbreaking ceremony and then at the Blessing and Opening that took place on 11 July, St Benedict’s feast day.

“The school was for the poor, for the people most in need, and it was amazing to see them turn up, immaculately dressed, despite their poverty. They valued the opportunity and they were very grateful,” she said.

As time went on, Eugennie noticed that the mothers of the students would wait outside the school all morning. Seeing a need, she began to hold Lectio Divina sessions for them and then some craft sessions in the afternoon.

“It was a really beautiful sharing, and I was blessed by the depth of their faith and I really enjoyed their company,” she said.

“Looking at how far the Kinder School has come over the years, I am amazed and full of gratitude for the way the Good Samaritan spirituality and charism has come to life very much in that school and I hope to return one day to visit.”

Yoshi, who was also present for the groundbreaking ceremony all those years ago, and is now living in retirement in Japan, sent her congratulations on the 20th anniversary.

“Time flies, but I can still remember the details of our first days very clearly,” she said. “Once the feeding program began, the number of sick children decreased. This was a wonderful situation. 

“The children who ran away to play on the slide or swing on the opening day have now finished high school and some have gone on to complete tertiary study.” 

Edjay Pomares. Image supplied.

Edjay Pomares is a former student of the Kinder School who graduated recently as a policewoman after four years of full-time study for a bachelor’s degree.

During her review period, Edjay faced the dilemma of needing to work to help support her family while completing her studies. “I had to make a choice, so I ended my job to focus on my review,” she said. “It was never easy. I was always isolating myself from everyone just to satisfy my need to study.

In the days leading up to the Criminologist Licensure Examination this year, Edjay’s father became very ill and needed to have surgery.

“I was torn between the need to be there with him at the hospital and being at home, and to focus on my upcoming examination,” she said.

“I prayed with all my heart that our Lord would lead me. During the darkest times, He was there waiting for me to connect with Him.”

One day before Edjay had to sit the exam, her father was discharged from hospital.

“I went to church and asked for God’s blessing, praying that He would guide me and help me to understand the questions.”

The gruelling exam took place over three days. “I was so happy that all the things I had studied over the past six months kept flowing. I am blessed that He never left me during this time,” she said.

Edjay waited anxiously until the results were published. “While I was looking for my name among those who had passed, my hands were cold and trembling, and my heart was pounding loudly. Finally, I saw my name! I prayed to God, thanking Him for everything.

“I feel very blessed to have had the support of so many people who lifted my spirits during this phase of my life. I am very thankful to the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and the Outreach Centre for helping me throughout my college years and during the time when my father was hospitalised.

“They are the ones that God sent and answered my prayer. Passing this examination is an honour, not just for me and my family but also for the Sisters who cared for and loved me regardless of the results.”

Looking back on the first 20 years of the Good Samaritan Kinder School, Leonie said that as founding principal she felt “happy, blessed and grateful to God, to our Sisters in the Congregation and to our benefactors for their ongoing support”.

“We are very blessed with very good partners in ministry as well,” she said. “Even though our Sisters are not directly hands-on at the kinder anymore, the ministry is going well. The people always say that the Good Samaritan Kinder School is a big blessing to the poor in our parish. Hopefully we can continue to be a blessing because we are blessed.”

The ministries of the Sisters are supported by the Good Samaritan Foundation. Donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia and can be made via the website.