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Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007

READERS' FUND

Donations aiding Asian kids in need


Staff writer

Last in a series

News photo
An elementary school built by AMATAK House of Cambodia in the village of Damrei Krom holds a completion ceremony in 2000. PHOTO COURTESY OF AMATAK HOUSE OF CAMBODIA

The organizations AMATAK House of Cambodia and PAG-ASA Group Japan have dedicated themselves to providing education to children and youths in Asia.

AMATAK House of Cambodia is led by the Rev. Fumio Goto of Tokyo's Catholic Kichijoji Church and has been building schools in poor villages in Cambodia since 1995 to spread education across the nation.

It has created 13 schools so far and another one will open in January in Pingpong village in Battambang province.

AMATAK, which gained governmental recognition as a nonprofit organization in 2005, received ¥228,000 from The Japan Times Readers' Fund in June. The money has been used to build schools in Pingpong.

The group's activities are rooted in Goto's experience as a foster parent for 14 Cambodian refugees. He started school-building in 1995 after one of his foster kids, Meas Bunra, who returned to Cambodia a year before, received a request from a Buddhist monk to build elementary schools. Goto joined the project with his group Cambodian House, AMATAK's predecessor.

Goto said that while a busy city like Phnom Penh has undergone development because it is receiving much help and attention, the rural situation is still tragic. He said his organization builds schools in areas where the reach of helping hands is limited by poor infrastructure.

"Without education, there is no reconstruction of the nation," Goto said of his motive for building schools. "I think education is the beginning of everything."

In the Philippines, meanwhile, PAG-ASA Group Japan has been raising funds to help educate street children and youths in poor areas since its foundation in 1989.

The group received ¥228,000 from The Japan Times Readers' Fund in June and sent it to the Manila-based Educational Research and Development Assistance Foundation, which supports underprivileged kids in the Philippines, many of whom are dropouts. The money has been used to support 65 impoverished elementary school children in Muntinlupa, south of Manila.

According to the group, it costs about ¥3,500 to ¥4,000 a year to support a student's education. This money goes to preparing school uniforms, bags and writing materials.

News photo
Schoolchildren who have received help from PAG-ASA Group Japan smile for a photo here. EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE FOUNDATION PHOTO

Masako Sumiya, a representative of the group, said the situation with public education in the Philippines is being made difficult by population growth, which is straining its supply of educational materials, schools and teachers.

"There are not enough textbooks for every student," said Sumiya, who added that books usually have to be shared by several students in many public schools.

Sumiya lived in Manila between 1985 and 1988 while her husband was posted at the Japanese Embassy there. Seeing the plight of underprivileged children made her want to do something to help.

"Children would come up to me on the street offering to sell something, and I was thinking what would happen to them in the future," she said.

According to the PAG-ASA Web site, it has helped 21,752 young people get educations ranging from elementary school to college so far.



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