A school’s wellspring of advice
Merinisa Olvido is not a social worker, but she spends more than eight hours a day talking to young people who are either drug addicts or prostitutes and enrolled in Mayor A.S. Fortuna Memorial Elementary School in Mandaue City.
“They talk to me about everything. These young people don’t need people to pity them. They just need someone to talk to,” Olvido, 50, the school’s guidance coordinator, said.
She makes sure that she has time to talk to them because they have no one else to turn to.
Olvido said the students, aged 7 to 16 years, didn’t have parents or siblings who would care for them. They come from dysfunctional families, she said.
One student has a prostituted sister. Another lives in a house with her mother who constantly changes partners. A 16-year-old girl got pregnant when she graduated from the elementary.
“I am very sensitive in dealing with them. I am very careful with my words and my actions,” Olvido said.
She said she would look for them when they run away from home, or counsel them when they decide to quit school.
“It is very challenging and it can take away my energy, but I am happy to do this for them,” she said.
Olvido has a supportive husband, Alfredo, and two children—Michelle Mae, 23, and Alfred Bryan, 21. Michelle said she felt lucky to have her as her mother every time she would tell them stories about troubled teenagers.
“When I graduated from high school in 2005, there was pressure for me to take up nursing. Mama was also enticed. But when I told her that my decision is to take up education, she supported me wholeheartedly,” said Michelle, a teacher of Cebu Normal University.
On Mother’s Day last week, Michelle and her mother served as storytellers during the Inquirer Read-Along session attended by 20 children from Barangay Ward 3 in Minglanilla town, 15.4 kilometers south of Cebu City.
They read “Mahal kita, Inay (I love you, Mother),” written by Segundo D. Matias Jr. and illustrated by Ghani Madueño.
The session was followed by a card-making activity led by Hendrix Gil Lato and Binky Ceniza of Ate Kuya Children’s Welfare.
The Olvidos had earlier coordinated the read-along session on Nov. 20, 2011, in Mayor A.S. Fortuna Memorial Elementary School. Some 100 pupils attended.
The Industrial Engineering Council of Cebu Institute of Technology-University, Ate Kuya Children’s Welfare and The Outstanding Students of the Philippines (TOSP) Alumni Community in Central Visayas were the sponsors. Michelle is a TOSP alumna.
“This is the best gift I received on Mother’s Day—to be invited to serve as storyteller for a read-along session and then help children make greeting cards for their mothers,” Olvido said.
The barangay chief, Annabelle Simene, said the read-along was another attraction for children to come to the barangay hall and participate in the summer program.
This is the fifth year for Ward 3 to roll out summer activities for the children and youth. These include remedial classes on reading, science and math, arts and crafts, and ballroom dancing and cooking for parents.
The barangay spends P28,000 for the two-month program with about 60 children as participants. They also solicited donations from individuals and groups.
“We are delivering the message that barangay improvement is not only about infrastructure but also involves improving and boosting the skills and talents of the people. Reading is one of them. We would like to replicate the read-along model to encourage children to read,” said Simene, a marine biologist by profession.