I’m leaving for Cebu in 4 days’ time, flying direct from Singapore to the island of Mactan.

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The reason why I’m flying to this beautiful island in the Philippines is not solely for a vacation, although it would be a rather nice break from my crazy month of work.

I would actually be a heart-stopping week away from the deadline of my mega project with the National Heritage Board in Singapore, where I’m researching and curating for two exhibitions for their Singapore Heritage Festival 2013. The worst time to leave.

But there are many reasons I travel. This badly-timed Cebu trip was prompted by a fund-raising event organised by Project Happy Feet (PHF) called the PHF Slipper Race.

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I chanced upon this on PHF’s Facebook page earlier this month, around my twin boys’ birthday. I reckoned it would be a nice birthday present for them, a long weekend away after their mid-year exams, and for a good cause as well.

The PHF Slipper Race isn’t new to me. I interviewed its founders Terence Quek and Deborah Chew back in 2011 when I was still a radio DJ, hosting a daily talk show on MediaCorp news station, 938LIVE.

My good friend Corrinne May also donated the proceeds of her concert at Gardens by the Bay to their cause.

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Terence (L) and Deborah (R) with me and Corrinne at dinner after her concert to raise funds for PHF.

Terence (L) and Deborah (R) with me and Corrinne at dinner after her concert to raise funds for PHF.

Terence and Deb explained to me that there are children in Third World countries around us who have to walk an average of 3 to 4km to school every day – IF there is even a school nearby – and many of them walk barefooted or in slippers (aka flip flops). The Slipper Race was created to walk a mile in their shoes (slippers!), to experience what they go through on a daily basis.

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What I love about their work is that 100% of the proceeds go to the beneficiaries. They have organised the PHF Slipper Race in Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, but this is the first time they are going to the Philippines.

It’s also the first time they are working with a resort anywhere in the world to organise this race. Usually the PHF Slipper Race is held on a nationwide level, involving participants of a whole city or country.

logoBut recently, Crimson Resort & Spa in Mactan found out about the race and approached Project Happy Feet, asking if they could organise a PHF Slipper Race for their hotel guests, to raise funds for a charity called Bantay Bata 163 in the Philippines.

This has never been done before. But after researching on the work of Bantay Bata 163 (1-6-3 is their helpline number!), Terence felt that their mission to support and empower underprivileged children through education was in line with PHF’s mission, in particular, their Bantay Edukasyon Scholarship Program.

As such, Project Happy Feet created their first-ever “Resort Edition” in the hope that there will be future partnerships of this sort. It is always heartwarming when the locals help their own: Filipinos helping the children in their local communities by shouldering the full cost of organising such a race, then giving 100% of the proceeds from registration fees to a local beneficiary. That’s how it should work!

“Bantay Bata 163 is a child welfare program launched in 1997 to protect disadvantaged and at-risk children through a nationwide network of social services. It includes the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and abused children, training and advocacy on child abuse prevention, rehabilitation of families in crisis, educational scholarships, livelihood, community outreach and medical and dental missions.

Bantay Edukasyon Scholarship Program was established in June 1998 as a long-term solution to help alleviate poverty, which was found to be one of the main causes of child abuse. The program’s objective is to bring back hope in a child who has lost it. Thus, aside from education-related fees given to a scholar, below are the integral components of the program that monitor overall well-being of the child and his or her family: Counselling and Family therapy, Monthly Values and Formation meetings, Tutorials and group activities for scholars, Refresher courses in parenting, family relations and communication skills of parents/ guardians, Regular home and school visits, Referrals to agencies for liveliness and medical assistance, etc.” 

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I am excited to be bringing the boys along with me on this trip. We will be walking 5km in our flip flops to experience what the local kids do, and it will be eye-opening for them to understand that not all children their age are as lucky as them.

There is also a chance that we will get to meet two of the kids. They are part of the 11 children identified to be sponsored by the Bantay Edukasyon Scholarship ProgramOn Saturday morning – which is race day – they will be coming down with Ms. Tina Monzon-Palma, Programme Director of Bantay Bata 163. I am eager to chat with her and find out more about their programmes.

I love traveling for a variety of reasons, and this is one of them. Project Happy Feet and The Chain Reaction Project (whom I traveled with to Timor-Leste in 2010) are just two of the non-profit organisations I support.

I don’t know if I am the sort to initiate such large-scale events, or the sort to roll up my sleeves and build schools, or even the sort to take part in races to raise funds… But as a travel writer and journalist, I can play my part in creating awareness through my writing. And as a mother, I can play a part in educating my children beyond the classroom.

And I think that’s a first baby step.

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