A group of friends who call themselves “Unlifriends” opened this library in Tacloban City last week. It’s a private initiative, funded mostly out of their own pockets plus donations from friends from Singapore.
It won’t be the last — they want to open more reading and study centers across the province, which bore the brunt of super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) when it hit almost two years ago in November 2013. Around 6,300 died and many more lost their homes, families and livelihoods.
“My friends and I want to give back, kasi naghirap rin kami,” says one of the Unlifriends, who studied in UP Tacloban for two years before moving to the Diliman campus. The rest of his friends were born in Tacloban.
“Latak ng mga efforts namin immediately after Yolanda. That disaster opened my eyes to the many things that need to be done post-Yolanda. Nakaka-guilty to think that the cost of a dinner or drinking session with friends is enough to feed 80 kids,” he explains.
Called Learning LAB (Laro, Aral, Basa) @ Old Kawayan, it is located on the fringes of Tacloban, on the grounds of a convent run by two nuns. The hut has two levels — toys and the teaching area are on the ground floor, while books and the study area on the second level.
There are academic and young fiction books (new and used) and toys for different age groups, from toddlers to high school students.
Numbering around a thousand, they were donated by supporters in Manila and employees of The Straits Times in Singapore. More titles are expected to be added, as soon as shipments from Singapore go through Customs.
The Unlifriends and their supporters raised PHP40,000 to extend the structure where the library now stands. On opening day last week, they held a soup kitchen and a small party for the community.
Running the convent itself costs at least PHP14,000 a month, and there are additional expenses for the students who are mostly on scholarship. Though the nuns try to work on a fixed monthly budget, their cash on hand depends on what one of the sisters call “providence”.
The library is open 24/7. The nuns have scholars and other kids who prefer to study and review at the convent, and sometimes they stay overnight.
The first LAB, opened in April this year, is at the Redemptorist Church compound in Tacloban City proper, across a community of informal settlers. That one was meant for streetchildren who live in the area.
Would you like to donate to Learning LAB? Send us a message on Facebook.com/coconutsmanila.