Friday, October 22, 2010

Pulling Filipino Expats Wives in Singapore (FEWS) for Charity

At last, Singapore, here we come!!!

We arrived in Singapore on February 2009. It was our first time and like any typical expat, we looked for interesting things to do and places to visit. Coming from England, we were more than pleased enjoying the warm weather, the food and the Asian culture.

In between my husband's assignment in Singapore, I and my then Three-year-old son travelled back and forth to England. As a self-confessed workaholic, I could not resist a job offer and took up a six month contract as a Social Worker in one of the Local Authority's Child Protection Team. Finally, we came back in December 2009 to chill out and enjoy the city life for as long as we can.

It is said that the first impression is last...

Being an Asian myself, i have quickly adapted to the lifestyle in cosmopolitan Singapore. A friend has invited me to a few lunches and consequently, I made friends with some expat wives.

I remember my first impression of FEWS were limited to hearsays around their parties, night life and imeldific lifestyle. Likewise, i have noticed that it is typical for its members to be seen wearing branded items or at times, brag about it and i thought, is this all there is to it? But oftentimes, looks can be deceiving.

Numbers, numbers, what will they be?

It was the month of August and nearly my Thirty something birthday. I have been thinking of the best way to celebrate it this year. I wanted something different. Perhaps i have reached that certain level in my life where i no longer aim material things solely for myself. Or maybe it comes with age. So i carefully hatched a plan of coming up with a birthday-cum-charity. I sent out an invitation via facebook, asking a few friends i have met to attend a birthday lunch. I have likewise indicated that i did not want presents, instead, i would rather want to receive used pencils, old children's storybooks, used crayons or any left over school supplies of their children.

Why story books?

We all have our passions in life depending on our experiences. Reading is top on my list. It brings back memories of my childhood in Borongan Eastern Samar, Philippines, when my father, who despite his meager salary as a Government employee would buy us books instead of toys. At the time, there were no television or computers and we relied on radios for news outside our small village in the countryside. In addition, i remember we did not have electricity and i have started reading my storybooks using oil and or kerosene lamps.

For some people like me, reading was a leisure activity and a escape from the grim reality of poverty. I would spend hours reading books and travelled to lands far-away in my mind. Looking back, my books gave me a glimpse into other cultures and places of the world. It took me to places i have never been to and in effect, it taught me to dream.

Years later, i found myself a volunteer for a Charity called Bagong Kulturang Pinoy (BKP), or New Filipino Culture. This group aims to help develop a reading culture among disadvantaged children in poor communities in the Philippines. They believe that the acquisition of good reading skills and English proficiency will improve the children's economic, social and civic lives. BKP was established in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, in 1998. BKP Philippines is headed by Alice Quilicot. She can be contacted via her email address: She is likewise on facebook.

Helping Filipino children read their way out of

BKP, Inc.
28 Carlisle Rd Acton, MA 01720

Surprise, surprise!!!

I did not expect the positive response of FEWS. Prior to my birthday party, I contacted Bernadette Albrech, FEWS incumbent President and we met up for some brainstorming about the event. She had told me that FEWS have long been supporting various charities in the Philippines. They also work in partnership with ABS CBN's Bantay Bata and the Filipino community in Singapore. Through FEWS fund raising events, they have contributed cash and in kind donations to the victims of typhoon Ondoy among others.

Upon learning about my birthday-cum-charity, Bernadette did not hesitate in expressing her personal support to the cause. She has added that she will invite other members to attend and bring used storybooks and school supplies.

The Big day....

I realised that, at whatever age, some, if not most of us still feel excited about birthdays. I woke up early and prepared myself for the event. It was school holiday so i took my son with me. He was doubly happy upon seeing expat moms who arrived with their children in tow. My son thought it was a great day to meeting new friends and playing with them.

Marilyn Tjalsma, FEWS founder also came together with Bernadette Albrech and other expat wives. It was lovely to seeing new friends and exchanging views about day to day lives. I felt ecstatic receiving a good number of storybooks, pencils, and other school supplies. Likewise, the day ended seeing ourselves signing up for FEWS membership.

Me and my lovely guests...

My birthday presents...


My son, as he helped in distributing school supplies...

Teaching Children to give ...

Tell Me and I will forget. Show Me and I will remember. Involve me and I will learn.

It was a lovely day. I met up with Mrs. Thelma Banal, Municipal Social Welfare Development Officer in Borongan, Eastern Samar. Her team accompanied us to our chosen village or Barangay, being the most active and organised.

At least Twenty-six pre-school children eagerly met us. They welcomed us with action songs led by their Day Care Teacher. I read a story book about Peter Pan. I must say, it was indeed a challenge as i had to read aloud in Waray dialect. I also tried my best introducing Peter Pan to the children, as they, understandably, did not have a single clue on who he is. I believe they were pleased when the story was finished and we handed over their school supplies and refreshments. As I watched my son helped me in distributing the school supplies, i thought, wow, i hope i am imparting the right values of sharing. I pray that he grows up to be a caring and self-less person, appreciative of his diverse background.

Barangay Hindang, Borongan E. Samar was the recipient of our school supplies. The Municipality of Borongan is the provincial capital of the Province of Eastern Samar, Philippines. The province itself comprises a part of the Eastern Visayas Region.

Barangay/Village vicinity

Courtesy call with Village leaders

Fulfilling a dream, one step at a time...

I am more than grateful of having fulfilled another dream. I believe that birthdays are defining moments and this one indeed has inspired me to continue encouraging likeminded people in helping disadvantaged children in the Philippines through partnerships with groups like FEWS and Bagong Kulturang Pinoy (BKP, Philippines).

FEWS, being true to its mission in making a difference in the lives of our disadvantaged kababayans, have once again proven that with great success there must also come great responsibility. Who says, they are only interested in partying and flashing their expensive clothes, bags and jewelries? We all have our preconceived ideas based on what we hear and see. In some cases, these preconceived notions are valid and on others they are entirely inappropriate. In my experience, i must say it pays to get to know FEWS better and i am pleased i did. I hope you will too.

Nah, looks indeed can be deceiving. ☺


  1. You did a very good job with this article . Looking forward to be reading more exciting and heart warming stories . Do count me in as a fan !

  2. Nice to know you found new friends who support the same cause :) I totally agree that looks can be deceiving. I had the same experience - usually what people perceive a person to be isn't exactly what the person is like when you get to know him/her. Kudos to you, my friend, for choosing to donate books and school supply instead of receiving birthday gifts. :) Can't wait to read another interesting blog post - this one rocks! :)

  3. Oh, thanks so much my friends. I've just seen the comments section. Gee, thanks for the kind words, mga idol: Len and Wella. Thanks to you, i've been encouraged to write. ☺☻♥.