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The Marshall Foundation is a proud supporter of Stairways Foundation – a child care organisation which was established in 1990 as an alternative programme for the most marginalised and endangered street children in the Philippines. Since then, Stairways has evolved into an inspiring Learning & Resource Centre which addresses various social problems, including environmental protection.
With its Environmental Awareness for Children and Youth (EACY) programme, Stairways helps children from the local and indigenous communities to appreciate Mother Nature and to understand how it can be safeguarded. Taking a “child-to-child” approach, the programme is led by an EACY club formed by 170 Stairways scholars of all age groups, which serve as EACY ambassadors in promoting environmental awareness to their peers. The EACY club participants thereby follow a six-step approach: Understand the issue; Find out more; Discuss an action plan; Take action; Evaluate; What can we do better.
In 2014, Berge Bulk’s Marshall Foundation supported Stairways with the construction of a boat named “Berge Apo SAS”. Serving as a Sea Adventure School (SAS), the Berge Apo SAS takes children to different sites around the beautiful Puerto Galera Bay, where they learn first-hand about the sensitivity of mangroves, sea grasses, and coral reefs. The children go snorkelling and also collect specimens which they later on examine under microscopes in Stairways’ EACY lab. The learning experience is enhanced with the documentary screening on the Philippine’s environmental challenge and a theatre performance of the environmental conservation tale ‘The Lorax,’ by Dr. Seuss. The children’s feedback of these excursions and learning experiences is always fantastic, and they truly understand the importance of protecting Mother Nature.
Over the past year, the EACY programme has managed to anchor itself among the local community. The province division of the Department of Education officially endorsed the SAS as a mandatory component of the science curriculum for local high schools in the Puerta Galera province. Stairways also established a strong collaboration with the science department of the National High School. In February 2015, a group of science teachers, high school principals and counsellors took an excursion on the Berge Apo SAS to learn more about the EACY programme and expand its outreach and methodologies. Thereafter, several teachers volunteered to take on an active role as instructors on the Berge Apo SAS. In the long run, all local teachers are encouraged to facilitate the Seas Adventure School once the EACY programme is completely integrated into the school’s science curriculum.
Meanwhile, many of the students who had enjoyed an enriching experience on board Berge Apo SAS joined the EACY club. With their help, Stairways organised clean-up activities along the coasts of Puerto Galera Bay and within villages in the area. The EACY programme has also adopted a cove in Puerto Galera as part of a long term project to heal, recover and protect the area as a marine sanctuary.
Besides this environmental engagement, Stairways runs a temporary family home programme for former street children, offering them a unique and creative rehabilitation experience. The children receive general education, health care, and therapeutic treatment through activities involving art, theatre, and music. They also learn handicrafts such as carpeting or baking in Stairways new Wood and Metal Workshops and bakery respectively – both of which were constructed with the support of the Marshall Foundation. In addition, Stairway is heavily involved in the fight against sexual, physical or mental exploitation of children and a strong advocate for children’s rights with influence far across the borders of the Philippines. The organisation further empowers the discriminated indigenous community by enhancing their education, training them on organic farming techniques, and providing health services.