Pedro Walpole SJ
The biggest advance is another year of peace in the area and where community grows in stability and strength. We have not been affected adversely by typhoons while drought is still a possibility this year in the coming months.
As students graduate from grade school in‐creasing numbers are entering especially from neighbouring villages where we have assisted education up to third grade so we had to enlarge some classrooms.
Events of the year have been the curriculum development in the early part and the teacher training program during the summer.
There was also and the community’s interaction with the University for Peace students where the Bendum youth showed their aspirations and were encouraged by the visitors. The students from the University for Peace Program that focuses on leadership is a good experience for all as these very different groups of youth and young professionals have many experiences to exchange while together working on the land. While these activities give a new impetus to culture based education the holding of a mee;ng on “Transformative Land and Water Management” brought us clearly back to our cultural rela;ons with the land. This meeting raised in broad discussion with neighbouring communi;es the impact of the expanding production of hybrid and roundup‐ready corn for animal feeds. More research is needed to investigate the impact on food security, land rights and market practices.
Quietly moving along has been the Hulas program. During the year we have had 4 groups of youth learning different technical and psychosocial skills. This youth training and growth in capacity is developing an increasing number of youth who can engage in local government projects and in youth leadership roles.
The plan is to upgrade the program and extent of youth engagement in the coming year. This begins with further training in English language on the one hand and resource management on the other.
Bendum continues to be host to broader learning programs and ecological services studies. The Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific supports a program of Flight for Forest and this is thereby use employ the youth in role of forest management last year mounting over 2000 indigenous tree seedlings.
While much can be written about the advances made, they do not come easily.
The children have to struggle with many challenges and there are some unable to continue each year. The teachers have continued with great commitment and continue to hold up the ideals of community education showing the regional and nation offices of the Department of Education as to their dedication and capacity.
New teachers are past pupils in some cases, which is a very encouraging sign giving depth to the understanding that education is for the community and not simply self advancement.
Staff management has continued in sustaining ongoing work while at the same time taking up the strain of new initiatives like the curriculum development that have demanded much diligence in consolidating before coming to fruition. The youth themselves have also shown much commitment and initiative especially in the areas of water system management, reforestation and agro‐forestry.
The year ahead holds the opportunity for realizing the planning and design of further educational efforts for the Bendum community and communities in the Upper Pulangi that were laid out in 2014.