As a Teach for the Philippines (TFP) intern under the Business Development team, my responsibilities required a lot of time holed up in headquarters encoding data, tinkering with Excel, and researching about different ways we could expand our reach as a non-profit organization.
Since I worked mostly behind-the-scenes, it became a bit difficult to imagine the impact TFP caused on a bigger, grander scale. This impact I’m referring to is the vision of TFP – that is, by 2050, all Filipino children can easily attain a high-quality education – which lures idealistic high school students like me to shun the summer bum life and do something meaningful. However, when days are spent sitting in an office chair and dealing with data, our students’ faces start to blur and we become detached from the gritty reality we yearn to change.
Fortunately though, the CEP (Civic Engagement Program) also includes a number of on-site activities to bring everything we do back to perspective. On the day of Brigada Eskwela 2015, I was able to visit two TFP partner schools and was again reeled in by the vision of the organization. We visited Highway Hills Integrated School (HHIS) in Mandaluyong City. To give a bit of context surrounding HHIS, it has almost three times the population of my high school, and I’d wager they have a third the resources to fund their curriculum and program.
While I was in the campus, I happened to see a book lying around. It was donated by a batchmate of mine (when I messaged her about it, she confirmed that it indeed belonged to her). I don’t know how exactly her textbook reached a public school two cities away, but one thing became clear to me at that moment – someone’s actions, someone’s ten seconds of thought and compassion, benefited a generation of Filipino youth who deserve much more than what they’ve been given. We all want to make a difference, but we often think we’re too young or experienced to do something even slightly meaningful. During my first few days as a CEP intern, I used to think this way too.
Is my work really helping someone? Does accumulating all this data make a difference in a young Filipino’s life? Can I really say I’m doing my part when I’m sitting in an air-conditioned room tapping at keys with chocolate-smothered fingers?
Well, yes. I know my work matters. All these numbers I’m crunching can help improve the way TFP runs its Fellowship program. The research I’ve collected can pave the way for partnerships that can broaden our reach and educational impact on far-flung communities. Whenever I doubted about making a difference, I guess I already was, and I didn’t even know it.
With every age-appropriate book you donate, and with every hour you spend teaching kids during your school’s outreach activities, you’re already making a difference and you don’t even know it.
Erika graduated from high school this past April 2015 and interned with Teach for the Philippines between High School and her first semester of University.