Table of Contents
- About BKP, Inc.
- How You Can Help
- Infomation for Volunteers
- Library Locations
- Media Coverage
About BKP and its programs - Quick Links:
Established in Massachusetts, USA in 1998, BKP is a registered non-profit organization that hopes to develop a reading culture among Filipino children in marginalized communities in the Philippines. BKP helps set up children's libraries and reading rooms and offer read aloud sessions to expose budding readers to the joy of reading.
Two points need to be emphasized in this brief account of how BKP started:
• First, that BKP began as a personal dream that snowballed into a vision shared by many people.
• Second, that BKP is an evolving organization, a characteristic that allows us the flexibility to weave in even more majestic dreams without compromising practicality and efficiency.
My dream was to start an anti-poverty program for the people of Barangka, Marikina (the low-income community that my own children and I settled in from April 1997 to Dec 1998). However, I did not know exactly what form it would take. I just knew that it had to focus on the children; it had to be something to supplement the education of those who attend the public schools there. I was involved with various social change efforts for many years while I was at the Ateneo de Manila University as a college student and as a staff member of its Office for Social Concern and Involvement (OSCI). My experiences convinced me that an effective way to assist the underprivileged was to help them obtain the quality education denied them by the substandard system of public schools there. The Philippine Educational System practically served as a tool to perpetuate poverty. An increasing number of public high school graduates would be barely literate – unable to fully comprehend what they read, or write even a simple paragraph expressing an opinion. The poor needed to know how to help themselves.
For our extended stay in the Philippines, I brought dozens of children's books for my children because I knew there would be no libraries for children in Marikina. Dan, Monica and Sarah, who all grew up with books, would surely be miserable. I stumbled upon an idea when I noticed how excited the neighborhood children were while looking over the books we shared with them. I thought, "I could get the children here interested in books and reading!" With that idea in mind, in September, 1997, I approached the principal of the nearest public school to let me read aloud to some students once a week. There was no place for me at the school and the children could participate only on weekends. I, therefore, set up a Saturday read-aloud program in my own living room. After a few months of reading together the books popularized by the Disney movies, some classics like Goodnight Moon, Frog and Toad Together, and the series published by Parents' Magazine, Inc., the 8-9 participants of my weekly sessions informed me that their teachers were noticing improvement in their respective reading abilities.
My friends in Massachusetts knew of the project and two in particular, Lilibeth Aristorenas and Judi Babcock, were interested in helping. Lilibeth even encouraged her daughter, Miki, to accept donations to "Tita Weng's project" in lieu of presents for her 7th birthday in Feb 1998. Then, during my visit to the US in May 1998, a donation of $20,000 led to the formation of a board for a nonprofit entity, and the project became a formal program of a 501 © 3 organization. Bagong Kulturang Pinoy, Inc was born. I chose the name "Bagong Kultura" to capture the essence of the mission that became more defined in the course of the read-aloud experiment of the previous months. I clearly saw the need to develop not only a reading culture among the children, but also a new set of beliefs and way of thinking that I hoped their immersion in books and reading would bring about. I knew then that we had to be careful in choosing the kinds of books that we would share with the children. The money allowed me to bring more books with me upon returning to the Philippines, and emboldened me to replicate the program in Daraga, Albay when an opportunity came up in 1999.
BKP gained momentum and within two years after the 2nd mini-library was established, a total of 25 mini-libraries were in place and thousands of children were becoming habitual readers. We have built a solid network of book donors in Massachusetts as well. Currently 28 public libraries (through the Friends), 8 parishes and several scout troops are listed as BKP regular book donors that help us send about 80,000 books yearly. High school students fulfill their community service hours requirement by helping sort and pack these books.
We currently support 136 mini-libraries across the country and BKP has learned to encourage each mini-library to find its own path. There is not one model that works for every community. The bottom line is that it is set up in an underserved community and every child there is encouraged to regularly take home books and attend the weekly read-aloud sessions. Several children's libraries were established in elementary schools and daycare centers; some were set up in rooms within church buildings; still others were housed in underused space in barangay centers. The libraries that work best are those that are managed by nonprofit organizations that BKP has formed partnership with over the years. These include Lingap sa Kalusugan ng Sambayanan (LIKAS of Irosin, Sorsogon), TEACH (group of concerned teachers, religious and other professionals in Calatrava, Romblon), Open-Heart Foundation, Rotary Club (of Vizcaya South), and the Jaycees (of Malimgas, Dagupan), among others.
More and more people became involved through the years, including Filipino-American organizations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California and elsewhere. We are especially thrilled about the BKP affiliation of a Southern California group of Filipino immigrants which also conduct local book drives and share the BKP literacy mission. In 2006, there was a group of Filipino-Americans in Southern CA that decided to partner with BKP, but the Charter died when the leaders faced personal problems later on. In 2007, a former BKP-Phil volunteer that migrated to BKP-UK initiated the establishment of a charter in Norwich, England. They hosted the BKP-US Reading Ambassador selected in 2008 - Scott Quinn, who, along with his family and Alice Quilicot, BKP-Philippine Director, made a presentation about the BKP literacy mission to the Filipino community in Norwich. BKP-Canada was started by a family member of another volunteer based in the Philippines. When the Director found employment in an online magazine, though, the group floundered. They did help to open a few libraries in conjunction with the Open- Heart Foundation. Currently there is a very active affiliate, BKP-NY, headed by Lorna Mesina-Husain, based in NYC, it was formed in 2009. There is also a small group, headed by Carolina Leap, based in San Diego, BKP-CA. It was formed in 2010.
BKP-Philippines started with people whom I trained and volunteered with while I was there, like Swedish Manjares, and were later joined by Alice Quilicot as Director. Those who make up the volunteer base here in Massachusetts are Filipino immigrants who believe that books and reading may indeed empower the Filipino poor. A few among the most devoted have been Van del Castillo, past Associate Director in Finance and Program Development/Rotary Club Liaison Officer, Emilie Rivera, past Associate Director of Volunteer Program), Lea Sison, past Executive Director, presently Director of Library Operations, Ning Zuelke, Chairperson Fundraising Committee, Ana F. Mullin and Cecile Mercado, Co-Treasurers, Madge Kho, past BKP writer/editor, Myra Robinson, Benny Sison and Rita Thorne. The program speaks for itself and has attracted the support of many non-Filipinos as well, such as Ralph Hammond (Recording Secretary and Rotary International Liaison Officer), Roxie Warniers (e-group moderator), Judi Babcock (current Executive Director), former Peace Corps volunteers Karl Zuelke and Liz Freeman (Publicity and Book Donor Liaison), Naoko Dingle of (NY), Lisa House (PA) and Maxine Reloj (Nebraska).
These volunteers are with BKP for the same reason that I started it – they want to help make a difference in the lives of indigent Filipino children. Over the years, a small group of dedicated volunteers grew into a community whose members are bound as well by the camaraderie that naturally develops between and among people working side by side to pursue a common goal. I now count many friends among the BKP volunteers in the US and in the Philippines.
The BKP history continues to unfold as we plan for the years to come. The BKP Read-Aloud Workshops in April 2004, spearheaded by Ralph Hammond and several trained BKP volunteers, facilitated the launching of the second phase of the BKP read-aloud program which was implemented in all 44 BKP sites. The children are now being lead to tell their own stories and write their own books! The partnerships with Rotary International and the Open Heart Foundation allowed BKP to spread its wings further and reach greater heights. We have a clearer direction now, but we remain open to many possibilities, and we can't help but be excited about what the future may hold.
1997 The BKP seed is planted in September of this year. Rowena Jimenez begins reading aloud to a group of eight underprivileged children in her living room in Barangka, Marikina.
1998 BKP incorporates in Massachusetts as a 501(c)3 organization. The first set of board members include Ralph Hammond, Judi Babcock, and Lilibeth Aristorenas, who all remain steadfast in their support of the BKP vision.
1999 The idea of replicating the mini-library and read-aloud model germinates. Daraga, Albay, opens its first modest community library ever.
2000 Establishment of BKP-Philippines. Alice Quilicot holds position as Director and is tasked to monitor the progress of each library and to oversee the training of read-aloud volunteers. BKP also collaborates with an umbrella NGO (non-government organization) in simultaneously setting up three mini-libraries in Irosin, Sorsogon.
2001 BKP-sponsored reading centers sprout in Romblon with the help of a local mayor, Alice Fetalvero, who belongs to TEACH (a group of professionals who hail from the Romblon region).
2002 BKP opens its 40th mini-library, enabling it to expose about 100,000 Filipino children to the joy of reading each day.
2003 BKP marks its 5th anniversary as a nonprofit institution by acknowledging several hundred supporters, partner-organizations, book donors, and volunteers in the Philippines and in the United States.
2004 Rotary International funds the first major regional BKP Read-Aloud workshop using the Rotary Literacy method called Concentrated Language Encounter (CLE).
2005 Regional Workshops training hundreds of teachers and volunteers are held in Tuguegarao Cagayan, Odiongan Romblon, and Quezon City in the greater Manila area.
2006 BKP receives the Presidential Award for a non-profit organization from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself, in a ceremony held at Malacanang Palace in the Philippines, BKP-Canada and BKP-UK are created.
2007 BKP establishes its 100th modest library; BKP initiates formal links with the Peace Corps and Gawad-Kalinga.
2008 BKP marks its 10th anniversary by entreating its hundreds of supporters and its book and monetary donors to a Cultural Presentation staged by various Filipino-American organizations based in Massachusetts.
2009 BKP sent aid to victims of the catastrophic flooding .We shipped 6 boxes of goods and wired $2,000 to the BKP Philippines. With the help of BKP. Phils. ,Open Heart Foundation and Adamson University, a total of 500 families were given a family pack as itemized below.
2010 In July 2010 BKP Philippines signed a Memo of Agreement to collaborate with NGOs Bato Balani, Synergeia, 7 Degrees of Change and publisher children's book publisher Adarna House in setting up more libraries. The goal is to set up hundred more libraries, at least one in each province, together in ten years. The plan is to work closely with local governments and to utilize a combination of contributions from governments and private donors. BKP will train read-aloud volunteers for the libraries.