USED to make educational games and toys out of recycled
materials for my pre-school students,” Myra Espidido,
teacher at Guardian Angels Day care center in San Roque, Camarines
Myra’s class is one of 22 day care centers and pre-schools
throughout the Philippines to benefit from the Starbucks and
UNICEF early childhood development project “SparkHope.”
The project aims to bring universal early childhood development
(ECD) to poor communities in the Philippines.
In July 2005, Guardian Angels was one of three day care centers
in San Roque targeted for assistance by the SparkHope project.
The previously barren classroom constructed with unadorned
concrete blocks and nipa leaf roof is now bristling with colorful
toys, musical instruments, blocks, puzzles, sturdy mono-block
chairs and tables.
Teacher Myra Espidido said: “The teaching materials
that I made myself from old cardboard, paper and plastic used
to wear out in a matter of months. Our furniture was falling
apart. Now I have proper tools for teaching. It’s very
helpful for my work.”
Outside the classroom, a brightly painted playground set
with slide, see-saw and swings explodes with life as 25 uniformed
pre-schoolers swarm over the equipment. Three or four tiny
giggling girls balance on either end of the new see-saw. Rugged
little boys swing hand over hand across the jungle gym.
A community endeavor
A few steps away barangay (community) officials survey a new
roof project which has just been approved in the barangay
budget. Along with the newly planted flowers, sturdy fencing
and soon-to-be-installed grass under the playground equipment,
the new roof will complete a full rehabilitation of Guardian
Angels day care.
“This day care center was almost unusable before UNICEF
equipment started to arrive through the SparkHope project,”
said barangay official Ramil Apolinario, “Now it is
more conducive to learning. Before, we had to make due with
improvised tables and chairs.”
“Most parents nearby did not bother to send their children
here. They now take pride in the school and enrolment is overflowing.
This has been a big help for the kids, a big help for the
Not far away, through the narrow lanes and paths which make
up this congested barangay on a spit of land jutting into
the sea, the Little Angels day care center presents a colorful
scene. Boys dribble new balls in the dusty play area and pint-sized
acrobats swirl multi-colored hula-hoops around their torsos
with amazing skill.
These are some of the new toys and games delivered through
the SparkHope project. One by one, three day care centers
and the pre-school based in the local elementary school will
be rehabilitated with a combination of early learning supplies,
training and home based ECD support.
Equipment and technical support is donated by UNICEF’s
Child Friendly Movement in partnership with the Provincial
Government of Camarines Norte and Starbucks.
The San Roque community contributes teachers’ salaries
and the facilities. Soon Little Angel’s leaking roof
will be a memory when the class moves across the road to the
newly expanded facility in the barangay hall.
Rise in pre-school enrolment
Since the SparkHope project began in November 2004 ECD enrolment
of 3-5 year olds in San Roque has more than tripled from 11%
“Before most parents didn’t bother to send their
kids to pre-school,” explained barangay official Apolinario,
“They preferred to wait until their children were old
enough to enroll in elementary school. Now things are different.”
San Roque Elementary school, principal Gloria Lovete explains
the value of early childhood care: “We see a big difference
in the children who enter grade one after completing an early
childhood development programme in day care or pre-school.
They arrive ready to learn, confident, accustomed to the social
demands of school. Those without pre-school are shy and often
slow to adjust. Many take a whole year to settle and their
parents have to accompany them to school for a long time.”
Starbucks adopts communities
The SparkHope project, linking individual Starbucks stores
and their regular clientele in Metro Manila, Baguio and Cebu
with recipient communities throughout the country, is a unique
partnership between UNICEF, Starbucks and the nine participating
local government units throughout the Philippines.
Each Starbucks store maintains a SparkHope information center
with up-dates on each recipient community, snapshots of new
developments, brochures about early childhood development
and contribution envelopes. Starbucks customers appreciate
the detailed information about the project they are contributing
“In addition to the funds raised for communities attempting
to better the educational preparation of their young children,
the SparkHope project helps educate Starbucks customers about
the unique learning opportunities of the first few years of
life”, said Dr. Nicholas`Alipui, UNICEF Representative.
Starbucks supports 16 day care centers and six pre-schools
in nine barangays all over the Philippines. Aside from Barangay
San Roque in Camarines Norte, Starbucks helps improve early
learning programs in the UNICEF-assisted provinces of Aurora,
Eastern Samar, Isabela, Maguindanao, Masbate, Negros Oriental,
Northern Samar, and Sarangani.
In San Roque, life is extremely hard. The coastal barangay
exposed to the Pacific Ocean on two sides is regularly decimated
by typhoons. Makeshift homes are tightly crowded along the
sandy beach line. More fortunate residents live in similar
shelters on solid ground further inland.
Since pre-school and day care enrolment has increased by
300% barangay officials have noticed a different attitude
in the residents. Poverty is still rampant but with the combined
efforts of SparkHope and the energy and commitment of local
parents and teachers anything seems possible.
# # #
For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
UNICEF Manila, 901 0177 or 0917 866 4969, firstname.lastname@example.org
UNICEF Manila, 901 0173 or 0917 858 9447, email@example.com