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‘Project Shoebox’ goes to Mindanao

Now it’s the turn of schoolchildren in southern Mindanao to see what a shoebox has in store for them when classes open in June.

Lt. Col. Thomas Sedano Jr., head of 4th Light Armor Battalion (LAB) based in Camp Nakar, said more than 100,000 packs of assorted school supplies would soon be shipped to Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, and adjacent provinces which were devastated by Typhoon “Pablo” late last year, in time for the school opening.

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The military-initiated “Project Shoebox,” a brainchild of Sedano that is now on its second year, benefited schoolchildren in some of the remotest areas of Southern Tagalog and Bicol Region when it was started.

Sedano said this year’s target beneficiaries were upon the request of the Department of Education (DepEd).

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“It’s an honor to be tapped as partners by the government in its noble aim of providing free education to Filipino kids,” he said.

On Monday, during the launch of this year’s “Balik Eskwela” program by the DepEd, Sedano handed to Education Secretary Armin Luistro the ceremonial 292 shoeboxes filled with school supplies at the Philippine School for the Deaf and Blind in Pasay City.

Sedano said the bulk of the packs were donations from National Book Store Foundation (NBSF) and other project partner’s organizations.

From the original pledge of 50,000 packs, the NBSF has raised it to 100,000 on Tuesday morning.

“They (NBSF) contacted me by phone and informed me of the good news,” Sedano said over phone.

The cargo firm 2GO Express offered to ship the donations for free to beneficiaries, he said.

Capt. Julie Mirabueno, 4th LAB spokesperson, said aside from donations from the National Book Store and their other partners, they also received 1,300 shoeboxes, some of them filled with assorted school supplies from individual donors in Quezon.

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She urged more Good Samaritans to donate shoeboxes and school supplies for the school kids. Donors could bring their donations to the 4th LAB headquarters.

Project Shoebox was conceptualized in partnership with Sigma Alpha sorority from the University of the Philippines Los Baños after a college coed found it had collected enough school supplies to donate to poor children but didn’t have the means to distribute these.

Sedano, whose sister is a member of Sigma Alpha, picked up the project’s name from his own experience in the United States in 2007 where shoeboxes were collected during a religious service and filled with school supplies and medicines for shipping to children in Africa.

The soldiers and sorority project were also able to collect other personal care items such as slippers, toothbrush and toothpaste.

Soon after the Philippine Daily Inquirer first came out with the story, the 4th LAB headquarters started to be flooded with shoeboxes and school supplies.

With the outpouring of support from local government officials, public and private offices, nongovernment organizations and concerned individuals, the project was able to reach over 16,000 beneficiaries from 93 public schools in Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Bicol Regions.

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TAGS: Education, Mindanao, Project Shoebox, schoolchildren, Thomas Sedano Jr.
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