'We don't want children to study among debris'

Last year, The Straits Times Causes Week featured 14 groups and individuals who made a difference in their own ways. Janice Tai and Priscilla Goy catch up with some of them to find out how they have progressed since.

Hoping to bring some Christmas cheer to the survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan, Singaporean Julian Tan travelled to the Philippines last year, taking with him 1,000 food bags.

But he ended up leaving a deeper footprint: He helped build a new school in Albuera in Leyte province, one of the worst-hit areas.

Two weeks ago, the former Singapore Armed Forces commando witnessed the opening of Calingatnan Elementary School, which he helped raise funds for.

The school building has 15 classrooms which can accommodate 300 children.

It can also serve as an evacuation and relief centre as it is equipped with solar panels and built with materials strong enough to withstand typhoons and earthquakes.

"It is a joy to see the children happier, healthier and a little more carefree than before," said the 41-year-old, who is now a security consultant.

In November last year, Haiyan swept through the central Philippines, almost wiping out the provinces of Samar and Leyte. More than 6,000 people were killed in the country.

In Albuera, many children could not go back to school because the few schools that the community had were destroyed.

Mr Tan had planned to help the survivors rebuild their homes but later decided that a school would benefit more children.

After his efforts were reported in The Straits Times Causes Week last December, offers of help poured in.

The Singapore Red Cross and skincare company Nu Skin Enterprises donated $300,000 to build the school. Others donated books and shoes for the children. Singapore-based developer Wynasean provided expertise and materials to build the school pro bono.

Mr Tan is now trying to raise money to rebuild a school in Albuera that has not been repaired.

"We don't want the children to be studying among debris," he said.

A Filipino who read about his efforts intends to donate $150,000 to this second project.

Mr Tan, who has made about 10 trips to the Philippines in the past year, said: "It is the hope that the orphans, the children have a proper education so that they know how to fend for themselves in future."


For more information, e-mail jl2910@hotmail.com

This article was first published on Nov 18, 2014.
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