September 2019

Young teacher rides high with compassion

Faith and a strong desire to help young children get the best possible start to life has led Joffrey Gayaran to become Good Samaritan Kinder School’s first male teacher, writes Debra Vermeer.

By Debra Vermeer

Whether Joffrey Gayaran is teaching at the Good Samaritan Kinder School in Bacolod, The Philippines, or riding with his motorcycle club, he has one purpose in mind – to care for the local young people and their families who are doing it tough in life.

At just 30 years of age, Joffrey has worked hard to educate himself and earn his teaching degree, overcoming significant financial hurdles in his own life to do so.

He says faith drives him in his work, and a desire to help his young students get the best possible start in life.

“If you don’t have faith in your life, you are nothing,” Joffrey says. “Faith hasn’t always been a part of my life, but when I entered life at the Kinder and met the sisters, it became more meaningful and deepened. They brought me closer to God by serving the Church and the community.”

Joffrey was born in 1989 and is the eldest of four siblings.

After finishing school, he began studying a degree in Marine Engineering at West Negros University in 2005, but because of his financial situation, decided to stop studying for a while and earn some money.

“I started work as a delivery helper in the small business which my father ran,” he says.

“Because of this experience in business, I took the entrance examination for four courses at the Bacolod City College – business administration, industrial technology, office administration, and teaching.

“I’m very thankful that God answered my prayers to gain entry to the College, but the only course I passed the exam for was teacher education, so that was how my teaching life started.

“At first I was sad because my heart wasn’t happy that I’d passed the teacher education exam and not passed the others, but then I told myself to think positively. I said maybe this is God’s plan for me.”

Following graduation, Joffrey worked in sales for almost a year-and-a-half before taking his Licensure Exam to become a teacher.

“After two months, a woman named Miss Agnes knocked on our door to share the good news – the Good Samaritan Kinder School was looking for an Assistant Teacher,” he says.

“The school was familiar to me because my younger brother was a graduate of the school. At first, I was hesitant to apply because I am male and there are not many male teachers here at kindergarten level.

“But in 2013, I applied and luckily I was accepted by Sister Veronica McDougall, Sister Hiro Kageyama and Sister Leonie Duenas and the other sisters.”

Joffrey became the Good Samaritan Kinder School’s first male teacher and says he is thankful for the opportunity to start his teaching career there and for the encouragement he’s received in developing his capacity to teach.

Joffrey with his Kinder class

“They gave me the chance to be part of the family,” he says.

“I started as a teacher’s assistant and then took the exam to become a teacher and with God’s grace I passed the exam.

“Then Sister Leonie gave me the task of handling one of the Kinder class’ afternoon sessions.”

Joffrey made a splash with the kids when he showed off some of his dance moves and sang in front of the class.

“They never knew I was struggling to make them happy and get their attention and find a teaching strategy that suited them,” he laughs.

“They also told me I was noisy when I sang for them. Maybe it’s because I have a masculine voice and they’re not used to hearing that at school.”

Leonie, former Principal of the Kinder School, which the Sisters of the Good Samaritan established in 2004 to help local children living in poverty to access early childhood education, says Joffrey has been a real asset to the life of the school.

“At first I was wondering how he would cope with our mostly women staff, but because of his friendly and gentle character everyone adjusted very quickly,” she says.

“He is so hospitable to the children. At break time the children, especially the boys, will run to Joffrey and play ball games with him. He is a friend and a brother to the little ones, but once inside the classroom he is their teacher.

“Joffrey is not only a very good teacher, but also good in giving his time and talent to the school and one of the greatest values he treasures at the school is faith.”

Joffrey says his time at the Kinder School has encouraged him to bring out the best in himself and others and to make a difference.

“It has strengthened my patience, commitment to God and the community and helped me to teach children and have compassion for other people. I make them happy and I rock the school through my creativity and talents. At least I think I do! Maybe they won’t agree with me!”

Part of the mission of the Good Samaritan Kinder School is to support students and their families who are struggling in the poor conditions of this part of Bacolod City on Negros Island.

Joffrey with teachers and students of Good Samaritan Kinder School

“I’m very thankful that the Sisters established a Catholic Kinder School that helps the poor and deserving families and their children in our community,” he says.

“Some families cannot afford to send their children to a private school because of high tuition and other fees. The kindergarten provides for the need of the children for learning and a holistic life, which they can apply to their daily activity.”

When he’s not in the classroom, Joffrey can often be found on the back of a motorbike, leading the Concerned Alliance of Riders Bacolod (CARB), founded in 2015.

“CARB is an independent group aiming to reach out to people in rural areas in Negros,” he says.

“It has been one of our goals to provide some fun and to eliminate malnutrition for the children. We also take part in tree planting activities and rubbish clean-up drives to help the local environment, as well as the feeding and outreach program.

“I joined the motorcycle club because of my passion for making children happy. We also want to inspire other groups, not only to ride but also to be God’s instrument in giving the blessing that comes from him.

“We’re not rich, but we work together in advocacy and we get the reward of the children’s smiles as we conduct these outreach programs with them.”

Joffrey says his time at the Kinder School has taught him much, but the main lesson can be summed up in a few key sentences: “Your success will come from trust and confidence in God. Be careful with decisions and do not rush; choose the people who can help you and show your ability to others. Success comes from one’s sacrifice.”

Debra Vermeer

Debra Vermeer is a freelance journalist working in both Catholic and mainstream media.

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