For five young people from Bacolod in the Philippines, their long-held hopes of going to university to learn and to improve their job opportunities have been realised, thanks to a new tertiary scholarship program established by the Good Samaritan Sisters.
The scholarship recipients, all aged 18, are past pupils of the Good Samaritan Kinder School, which opened its doors in 2004 and continues to provide children from very poor areas of Bacolod with a pre-school education and access to a nutrition program and health clinic.
Good Samaritan Sister Leonie Duenas is the founding Principal of the Kinder School and knows the five scholars and their families well. She’s delighted that her former students – and potentially others in the future – will have the opportunity to study at tertiary level and gain professional skills to increase their chances of securing reliable employment.
“These students and their families are very happy and thankful for the support received. They feel very blessed,” said Leonie.
“I am very happy for the good fortune of these children. In spite of their poverty, they studied well and persevered in their high-school schooling… With the scholarship program, they have hope that they can finish their tertiary education with the course that they really want to pursue in life.”
The five scholars, who began their courses last month, are the first members of their families to go to university. The degrees they are studying include education, engineering, business management and psychology.
Leonie said the new tertiary scholarship program would not have been possible without a significant donation from the Schuh family of Gympie in Queensland, who has steadfastly supported the Good Samaritan Kinder School and its outreach activities for almost a decade.
Leonie said she was “struck with amazement” when the family told her earlier this year that they would fund the program’s first five scholars for the full term of their study, which for most of them is a four-year course.
Leonie first met the Schuhs during a visit to Australia a few years after the Kinder School opened. They were interested in the work of the school, including its outreach initiatives to nearby squatter settlements where many of the children live, and were keen to improve the children’s health through the establishment of a nutrition program.
As she looks back on that initial encounter and what has evolved since, Leonie is moved by the Schuh family’s deep commitment to the people of Bacolod and the Good Samaritan Sisters.
“I always feel very blessed and grateful that our paths have crossed,” she said.
“I can’t thank God enough for the blessing of this amazing family who is ever generous, faithful and committed [to being] in partnership with us in our ministry.
“I believe that their commitment is a manifestation of their lived faith experience. Like the Samaritan, moved with pity, this family opened their hands to create a beautiful life for God’s poor people in partnership with us. The charism of the Good Samaritan is in their bones, too. This is the strong bond and connection between us.
“May God bless and reward them abundantly.”
Such is the family’s commitment to the Bacolod community that some of the family have travelled there on a few occasions to experience first-hand the Kinder School and other projects of the Sisters.
It was during Dominique Schuh’s first visit earlier this year with her mother, Tricia, that they decided to support the tertiary scholarship program. Like the Good Samaritan Sisters, the family believes that education has the power to improve the lives of individuals and communities.
“I guess the theory was, if we can educate a few more people and do it in a way that they’ve got a better chance of getting good paid employment, then the flow-on effect from that will hopefully be quite significant in that community,” said Dominique.
“We realised that it might not be a case of curing the current poverty with some of the families, but preventing it for the next generation – and that’s the angle that we’ve kept in the back of our mind.”
For Dominique, what stood out during her visit to Bacolod was the resilience of the Good Samaritan Sisters and the level of respect they have in the community.
“They’re very tireless,” said Dominique. “And I just thought, ‘Wow, they are confronted with, in some instances, quite hopeless situations on a daily basis…
“What really struck me was just how resilient they are, and how they’re just able to keep going. I think I would probably throw my hands in the air and be like, ‘OK, I’m done now. I can’t really fix this. I’m out. Give me something easy!’ But they just keep providing this kind of energy, but it’s a quiet energy.”
She also noticed how “involved and respected” the Sisters are in the Bacolod community.
“They are really looked up to as guide-posts, and that’s really testament to how they’ve lived in the community there. They’re pretty special ladies.”
Dominique is very modest about her own family’s generosity and commitment to social justice.
“We have been fortunate – certainly compared to others around the world. So we do see it as though we have a bit of a responsibility to be generous as well,” she said.
“What we do from our end, that’s the easy bit; they [the Sisters] do the hard stuff.”
If you’d like to support the tertiary scholarship program for past pupils of the Good Samaritan Kinder School, please contact Catherine Cresswell at the Good Samaritan Foundation Ph: (02) 8752 5313 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org