Flora Vasquez and Carl Stefan, her husband, went on a family visit in February of 2008. Flora is a native of Inarawan, Naujan. She was born there and spent much of her childhood there. They married in 1972 in Manila, and have returned off and on to Mindoro over the years. They still have many friends and family in Mindoro.
During the visit they wanted to go see family in Inarawan. They were told that there was severe flooding in Inarawan and that many roads were damaged or washed out. They waited for three weeks before they could go to Inarawan.
When they finally were able to go to Inarawan they saw devastation of the rice fields, washed out roads, and hundreds of people, mostly share-croppers, without any way to bring food to the table. Farmers were planting and the rains and rivers would wash the seedlings away.
There was a lot of talk about famine, and starvation. It wasn’t just talk, they observed it first hand. They saw children who were not attending school because they did not have any means to go. Food was scarce. They both vowed to people, when they left, to help them. It was just a matter of how they were going to do it.
In July of 2008 they kept getting reports that the food scarcity was getting worse. They contacted Prof. Consuelo Vasquez Cirujano, of Lalud, Flora’s sister, and told her they were going to send money to buy rice for the people of Inarawan. They suggested Connie go to the National Food Authority and try to purchase that rice. They had written a letter to the NFA that Connie presented to the director. The NFA sold her the rice and she had it transported to Inarawan. The NFA said they could do this because it was an “emergency situation” in Inarawan.
The criteria for receiving the rice were that people had to be landless, sharecroppers, and be in severe poverty. It was not going to be a dole out to people who already had some means. Connie and her brother would screen the recipients. The rice was to be given to anyone who met the criteria, without any regard to religious affiliation, or social status.
The rice fed over 100 families.
In August of 2008 Carl and Flora formed and incorporated a non-profit organization, in the USA, called Each One Feed One – Each One Teach One INC. (EOFO-EOTO). This organization was going to create the means to feed and educate those in need in Inarawan.
In September of 2008 Carl went to Inarawan and visited the elementary school, and asked a committee of teachers to find 19 students who had great potential, but were stymied in attending school because of poverty. They provided a list, and each student was to receive P400 per month to help them attend school. The family could use the money, but the requirement was that the student had to attend school.
Each One Feed One then donated school supplies, umbrellas, shoes etc. to every student attending Inarawan Elementary School. There were over 900 students served. The teachers provided one bag full of items for the students.
Carl then started gathering human resources for advice on how best to serve the community in regards to food and education. They went back to the states in early November, of 2008. While back in the USA EOFO-EOTO began fund raising campaigns, and creating a network for giving to the students and families of Inarawan. It continued due to money given by Americans, and Filipinos working abroad.
In September of 2009 Carl and Flora returned to Inarawan and did an audit of the all the students family situations, documented, and interviewed. It was decided that they could purchase rice directly from the farmers, have it milled, and then distribute it free to the families. The farmers liked the idea because their efforts are going directly to help the poor, in their village.
The Vasquez family donated one-fourth hectare of land to create a community garden. The families divided up in to groups and each group would have their own section to grow food for their families. None of them owned any land to cultivate food for their families. They often had to rely on handouts and give-aways for food, before EOFO-EOTO. EOFO-EOTO then purchased more rice, directly from farmers, and had that put in reserve from the coming year. It will be distributed, free, after the fruits of the last harvest are exhausted, and with one or two cavans of rice for their labor, that time comes fast, and they begin to do without, again. Carl and Flora returned to the USA on November 1 2009.
Future plans are to continue obtaining individual sponsorships for each family. EOFO-EOTO has expanded its donations to include all school age children in each family on a case by case basis. Creating a place for a pre-school where children can attend for free, based on need, and be taught a curriculum that fosters the building of good character, and attributes of a responsible person and citizen, along with the basic educational requirements to succeed in life.
What motivates the members of Each One Feed One – Each One Teach One? They get their inspiration from the writings of the Bahai Faith. In the Bahai Faith were asked to help those who are poor, educate those who don’t have the means, and help eliminate the extremes of wealth and poverty.
Education is one way to bring people out of extremes. We are encouraged to devote ourselves to a life where we do things that benefit the human race. This is a common thread among all the Faiths of the world, and we feel those that are doing good things are all on a parallel path of service. You can find out about it at http://www.bahai.org. The web site for EOFO-EOTO is: http://www.eofo-eoto.org
We would like to see the Filipino people in Mindoro take more of an interest in this kind of project. After all, these people we are serving are their immediate family, and part of the HUMAN family.
One thought on “How did Each One Feed One – Each One Teach One INC begin?”
Very laudable efforts, Carl and Flora. The people of Inarawan are fortunate to have you and may you not tire from extending assistance to the marginalized. While the project is not grand or encompassing, I believe that dedicated effort such as this shall redound to community development that would benefit not just the people of Naujan but the province of Oriental Mindoro as we shall reap in the future the valued investment in education. I hope the project would infect others to duplicate the feat that the State in paying lip service. Kudos and more power!