AS A grandmother of 16 kids, Aracilla Ramirez is thankful that a day care was established at the Carreta Cemetery amid the tombstones and mausoleums.
It was through the initiative of the nongovernment organization Society of Divine Word Action for Nurturing Children and Environment (ANCE) in 2012.
Catering to 15 kids from the Carreta cemetery and 69 others from the Chinese cemetery, the children’s education are sponsored for free under the roof of a mausoleum in Cebu’s oldest cemetery by the ANCE.
Their families live in the cemeteries where they sell flowers and candles.
Freebies for students
Rosemarie Dizon, ANCE deputy director, said they found the poorest of the poor in the cemeteries.
“In the first place, they are not supposed to live in the cemetery but they were forced by poverty to do so. This is started by a group of professionals who wanted to share their blessings to others,” Dizon told Sun.Star Cebu.
In 2005, the organization was spearheaded by Fr. Max Abalos through the help of MISSIO Germany and other international Catholic organizations for its funding.
Dizon said the ANCE has educated 288 scholars from Carreta and 600 from the Chinese cemetery over the years.
ANCE is registered with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The children are provided with uniforms, notebooks, pencils, bags and even rice because some of them arrive in the day care hungry.
“We decided to give the students three kilos of rice per week so they will be encouraged to go to classes regularly,” Dizon said.
Teacher Jane Uy said working at the day care is fulfilling. “This is my service to the less fortunate and their parents’ appreciation to what I’m doing is somewhat a reward for me, especially when I see them applying the values I taught them in their homes,” she said.
At first, Uy found it hard to teach the children as she was not accustomed to the environment.
“It just hit me. I was working in a cemetery. I was teaching inside a mausoleum,” she said.
But when she saw the grave situation the children were in, Uy was empowered to educate them.
She said her fondest memory of her students is when they share their food during snacks to those without.
“Some attend class with an empty stomach and they approach me that they’re hungry. So I encourage the others to share their biscuits and I, too, will buy some for them,” she said in Cebuano.
To celebrate Halloween, Uy made the kids dress up as saints instead of the usual ghost and monster.
“I didn’t think it was appropriate for them to dress up as ghosts inside the cemetery. I let them dress up as saints so that they will get to know them as good examples in their holiness,” she said.
Uy advised aspiring teachers to offer their services to the poor.
“No matter what you receive, that doesn’t matter as long as you have the heart to serve the children and give them education,” she said.