As a first-generation American, my parents stressed the importance of education and how great life is in America compared to life in the Philippines. Every year, I helped my mother pack “balikbayan” boxes comprised of our used clothes and toys to be sent to our relatives overseas. As I grew up, I began to understand how donations of tangible goods was not the answer to long-term problems of poverty, but rather how important education is in lifting up poor communities.
Last January, I co-started the California chapter of Bagong Kulturang Pilipino, Inc. (BKP-CA), a registered nonprofit geared to opening mini-libraries throughout impoverished areas of the Philippines. As the treasurer and director of Finance and Codifications of BKP-CA, I am responsible for implementing BKP-CA’s initiatives and maintaining BKP-CA’s finances, corporate filings, and fundraising.
This spring, I worked with various Filipino organizations throughout Southern California and collected over 5,000 books, which were shipped to my mother’s hometown in the province of Cagayan Valley, Philippines. In the summer, I traveled to the Philippines to supervise the opening of three libraries in Cagayan Valley: one in Bidduang Elementary School, Bidduang National High School and a public library in Pamplona City, Cagayan Valley. All of the schools in this area lacked a library on their campus, and almost each classroom shares a set of outdated textbooks for each class. The closest public library for the community was a six-hour drive away. Throughout my visit, I met with local government officials and school staff to ensure the library’s proper use and help implement programs to further develop a reading culture in the Philippine youth.
The success of this project helped stimulate BKP-CA’s growth. Since returning from my trip in August, BKP-CA received eight different library set-up requests from elementary schools in the Philippines. BKP-CA is growing each day with new members and volunteers who help collect books and monetary donations to support its cause.
Although I am not getting paid monetarily for my work with BKP, I continue to be paid by the overall satisfaction of helping others. I’ll never forget the look of excitement amongst the children when they saw the books being delivered to them. They were so memorized by the pictures and stories. By working with BKP, I hope to inspire the next generation of young Filipinos to utilize literature to work towards a better tomorrow. In addition, I hope to share stories from across the world, so that people who do not possess the means to travel may have the opportunity to travel through their imagination.
And lastly, I aspire to show my peers that we don’t have to wait until we’re older, richer, or established in our careers to be able to make a positive difference in the world.
— Darlene Rabena ‘13 JD, USD School of Law candidate
For more information on BKP-CA and ways to get involved, please visit www.bkpcalifornia.org or http://www.facebook.com/pages/BKP-California/106542936097935.
Darlene’s essay was submitted in response to the USD Torero Store’s National Student Day essay contest, which asked students to describe their social responsibility. Photos by Nick Abadilla