Accessing education might be easy for some youths, but not for jessamae asain of lamitan, basilan province. Four years ago, she was unsure of making it to high school because of her family’s financial condition. Third among five siblings, she contends herself with whatever meager income her parents could generate in stitching and selling nipa shingles in lamitan.

Her anxiety did not go unrewarded, though. On Monday, March 18, she marched together with 67 other scholars assisted by Aid for Basilan Children (ABC) Project at Lamitan National High School (LNHS). Four challenging years helped strengthen her character and personality. Jessamae graduated salutatorian of her batch composed of 413 students.

“Maintaining my grades while helping my parents gather nipa palm leaves for a living on weekends was a big challenge to me,” Jessamae says in local dialect. “Whatever my parents earn goes mainly for food necessity. If not because of the financial assistance from the ABC Project, I would not be able to submit projects on time,” she disclosed.

Jessamae had been an ABC scholar since first year high school. Children in difficult situations like her were given the chance to pursue education through project’s package of assistance. This included enrolment fees, school uniforms and assorted school supplies among others.

The hardships that she and the rest of ABC beneficiaries have gone through imprinted a lasting experience on them. “If given the chance to serve poor students like me, it is my desire that they too will be provided with scholarship.,” Jessamae said. She hopes to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering or Education when she enrols in college come school opening in June.

Five other ABC scholars landed in the top five of their batch at LNHS. They were Edmil Democrito- 1st Honorable Mention, Charisse Macaso- 2nd Honorable Mention, Nadia Gumbay and Jayne Paculdo- both 3rd Honorable Mention and Agnes Abalos- 5th Honorable Mention.

Now on its eleventh year, Aid for Basilan Children Project aims to assist poor children affected by conflict in the aftermath of the Abu Sayyaf’s infamous siege of Lamitan in June 2001. Many were killed while several others were taken hostage by the Abu Sayyaf Group as they wreaked havoc in Lamitan town during the incident. Classes were suspended for several weeks as school children were afraid to go to school due to the ensuing conflict.

Supported by PhilAm Foundation and Children’s Hour, Aid for Basilan Children Project is being implemented by the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) in partnership with the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Rosary in Lamitan. Todate, ABC Project has been able to assist a total of 535 school children in Lamitan, Basilan.

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