Allen C. Almero provided us this story and testimonial about her experience with TAP. It was her story that inspired the creation of this collection. I recommend you have some tissues nearby as you read this. Now in her words:
To all those who are able to help, This is Ma. Allen C. Almero, a young Filipino girl from Masbate, Philippines. I am a proud Tapper, alumna of ThinkActPeace’s Benson Peace Village (TAP-BPV) in the Philippines. TAP–BPV has molded me into who I am today.
I started frequenting TAP-BPV in 2018, just fresh from college. A friend of mine, the Vice President of Tappers Circle (TAP-BPV alumni association), invited me to serve as one of the tutors at the TAP-BPV Summer Literacy and Leadership Camp for high school students. Being young and full of enthusiasm, someone wanting to be useful to my family and community and also still without assurance of a future after college, I gladly accepted the invitation for personal experience. Sadly that was my only reason for accepting.
After twenty (20) days of being a tutor and a leader at TAP-BPV the experience turned out to be a blast in my life. It was scary but also beautiful. Scary because it placed me in a situation where I realized that my 14 years of schooling seemed to have been a waste. I realized I knew very little. The biggest slap was my knowledge of the English grammar. It was a chaotic yet also beautiful realization for it helped me develop different aspects of my life. The experience not only helped improve my knowledge of the English language; it also changed my attitude as a self-centered girl for I was what you might call a know-it-all person. My social skills improved as I was the silent type: if you don’t talk to me, why would I talk to you. I overcame my stage fright. Before, I could not talk in front of many people for it gave me chills. Many more changes in my attitude occurred, but if I tried to write them all here, I might bore you. Anyway, many negative characteristics I had in my life gradually changed.
ThinkActPeace–BPV is our safe haven. A little beach in an isolated village of Masbate, TAP-BPV is a place that gives you a feeling of tranquility. Small, but it gives us a world of knowledge and experiences more than what our country could offer us. TAP-BPV is a community and learning center. It has six beach cottages, where we conduct meetings and small group tutorials, and a dining place for our Summer Literacy & Leadership Camps. Moving up to a higher ground from the beach cottages you will find a library full of books that we could only dream of in our life. The library is also an assembly hall for larger groups. Small kids would usually sit on the floor to listen to Sis Elvi’s (the founder of TAP) stories and discussions and sometimes to watch late night educational videos. Adjacent to the library is an open court with tarp roofing where we do our dance and theatrical presentations. In the summer of 2019, Sis Elvi tried very hard to raise funds for the construction of a sleeping quarter even of light material to protect the campers from the rain. The place is surrounded by trees, mostly coconut, and flowering plants and herbs. In this environment where also the sea breeze relaxes, young learners can find no better site for their literacy activities. TAP-BPV offers not only literacy and leadership programs for young people; it also has livelihood projects especially for women, such as Arts and Crafts. It provides the materials to make handicrafts that women sell. We have a gardening project for the families of Tinaclipan, a cluster of three small villages, including Bato, where TAP-BPV is located. Each family is encouraged to tend a garden to beautify home and community, to enrich the environment, and as a source of income. An annual best gardens competition is held as an incentive to care for and maintain the family gardens all year round. Awards for garden winners are given at the “PASKO SA Nayon” event, a Christmas party celebration gathering Tappers from different TAP programs—Summer Leadership, Weekend Literacy, Livelihood. TAP-BPV becomes then a truly vibrant center for community members and learners. Or, better, it becomes a HOME reuniting current and past participants in different TAP programs—Tappers of all ages— to meet again and relive their TAP experience.
Now isn’t TAP-BPV a safe haven? It WAS really a safe haven. I make sure to highlight the WAS because this safe haven of ours became was. Our library and multi-purpose hall which housed the books we loved to read almost disappeared in a blink of an eye. The ravages of time and the extreme humidity of the seaside location have damaged roofs, walls, cabinets and electrical installations. Then the typhoons Tisoy and Ursula that visited our country last year annihilated all cottages but one. What remains is material we cannot even recognize. What is left of the open court, the hall where we enjoy our singing, dancing and acting, is only some bamboo pillars that withstood the onslaught of violent winds. Now our cottages are gone. Wait, there is more. I would really love to attach an emoji to add some humor but I think that would be bad. Aside from the humidity and typhoon attacks, we have our year-round enemy, the termites. Termites are our formidable enemy for they never stop, despite all the chemicals used to trick or to kill them. They just won’t stop coming. Since our bookshelves are made of wood they invite termites to also eat our books. How I wish we could have metal bookshelves and sturdy walls that keep our tiny intruders away!
This then is the main reason I muster up courage to write a letter to you, wherever and whoever you are. I write, not just for me but for all of us, the Tappers. We really love this small place of ours, the safe haven of the young people from different depressed villages and the center of community gathering for families of remote villages. Thus, I, rather we, would like to ask your kind heart to help us continue the activities we have here at TAP-BPV. Any amount you could share is precious. I really want to help ThinkActPeace but I have no financial means myself. That is why I pray that this letter would touch your heart to help us rebuild our safe haven. I pray that TAP-BPV could continue to help those kids who are knowledge-and skills-hunters but are deprived by unfortunate life situations, and that it could continue to help parents who are trying their best to become good providers and educators of their children. (Goal: $60,000 for the 2020-2025 plan)