IT WAS a privilege to witness a meeting of minds from different worlds but with one objective: to be of help especially to the least fortunate among Filipinos, the Lumads of the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples.

Ms Monica Baumann, director of Theresa Ladeli was beaming as she looked on the presentation of the small children who has been recipient of the generosity of the elderly women from Switzerland.

“I am so happy and grateful to see you all here who had to travel from distant land just to welcome me and my companion,” said Monica who looked ecstatic in her recent visit to Mindanao.

Spanning 25 years of partnership with the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) that has been working for the education of the children among different Indigenous communities in Mindanao since 1983, Ms. Monica said that she has witnessed through the years the continuing commitment of MISFI and its community teachers and staff.

She was simply amazed at the thought of young community educators sharing their time and effort in teaching the Lumad children in areas where signals are nil and the use of mobile phones are practically zero, not to mention the difficulty of traversing these IP communities that could only be reached on foot for hours.

These realities have made it easy to understand why the elderly women of Theresa Ladeli, a group of 20 home-based women tirelessly sends help, both financial and in kind, to the Lumads kids through the years, said Ms. Percinita Sanchez, the current Executive Director of MISFI who has led the organization for over a decade already.

About a year ago, Ms. Sanchez personally saw how the women of Theresa Ladeli raised funds for their laudable project when she was invited by Ms. Baumann to Switzerland and experience how to sell used clothing and stuff at the Theresa Ladeli shop, even during winter time.

“The funds did not come from the sky,” Ms. Baumann said, explaining that all of the women of Theresa Ladeli are not only selling their unused stuff at home but also encourages their neighbors and friends to buy from their shop second hand but usable items ranging from kitchen wares, jewelries, furniture and other stuff that they are not using at home anymore to sell to their shop.

Then part of the proceeds of their sales have been continuously sent to the Philippines, specifically to help the Lumad children in Mindanao be educated.

Touching renditions from IP children singing at the top of their voice are the little Mandaya children from Mantapay, Baganga Davao Oriental who were accompanied by their teacher Mr. Roger -- who came from their hinterland community to welcome their donor.

In a meeting with Ms. Monica, Mr. Roger expressed his gratitude to the women of Theresa Ladeli and said all the difficulties that he has encountered in doing his job are nothing in comparison to the inspiration he gets from teaching the Lumad kids.

Unable to hold back his tears, another Lumad teacher, Sir Ricky Balili, who is also a K’lagan by birth, related numerous times when he was considering to give up teaching the children.

He related to Ms. Monica how he had received death threats from the paramilitary ‘Alamara’ all because he has been teaching the IP community which was reached by MISFI Academy in Muling, Talaingod where he had been teaching for over seven years.

“But when I hear the children singing about their aspiration for a free education, I simply lose all thoughts of leaving,” he said in tears.

Sir Ricky has been teaching the children evacuees at Haran compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), together with other community teachers of MISFI.

What we are seeing here is not the kind of aid poured in millions of pesos but in painstakingly slow and hard-earned process.

This makes it all the more enduring, thus, for years, the women of Theresa Ladeli has nurtured the IP children in a motherly fashion, one that is not done in haste, but with compassionate fostering.

What can be more enduring and sustainable than a mother’s love for her children.