Adopt a Scholar

Adopt a Scholar
Extract from a speech to the Lopez Group of Companies
15 November 2007

During the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1975, America supported the South Vietnamese against the Vietcongs from North Vietnam, which were in turn supported by Mao Zedong’s Red Army from China. America lost that war and in 1975, it had to pull out from Vietnam. When the US left Vietnam, the South Vietnamese who were suspected of being allies, friends and sympathizers of America were persecuted, tortured and killed by the Vietcongs. To avoid the persecution and torture from the North Vietnamese, many South Vietnamese chose to live in the seas as boat people. Many of these boat people died while at sea, while some reached our shores in Palawan.

America rescued hundreds of thousands of these Vietnamese boat people, and brought them to the US mainland. America built villages and communities for them. Today, these Vietnamese in America have become rich and prosperous. And they have a beautiful program – a program that encourages every Vietnamese family in America to adopt one poor Vietnamese child in Vietnam as a scholar. Clearly, there is a lot of love coming from overseas Vietnamese pouring into mainland Vietnam, helping its children go to school.

Why can’t we do the same for our 10 million poor children who are out of school? Let me cite, as an example, World Vision, an international foundation operating in more than 100 countries in the world, including the Philippines. Today, around 125,000 poor Filipino children are being sent to school as scholars by World Vision, through its donors. Under World Vision, a person or a family can adopt one scholar for only P450 a month, or for only P5,400 a year.

There are almost 22 million families in the Philippines. If we can convince 2 million families to adopt 1 scholar each, 2 million of our out-of-school youth will go back to school so they could be better prepared for the future. If we are able to convince 5 million Filipinos out of our 88 million Filipinos today, each one willing to adopt one scholar, 5 million of our out-of-school youth could go back to school tomorrow.

Poverty makes the poor children around us vulnerable to the diseases and malice of this world. Ignorance makes the poor children around us prey for the vultures in our society. Poverty and ignorance – these lead our poor children to prostitution, to drugs, to crime.

We are at war today. We are at war against poverty, against greed, against corruption. During wars, where there is actual combat with mortars and missiles, we help people along the way. We give them food, we give them water. We should do the same now. We should not leave behind our people to suffer in poverty. We should not leave our poor children in the streets. We should find a way to feed them. We should find a way to send them to school.

To adopt a child as a scholar is one simple but tangible way to help our poor children. Every family in our country who has the means, who can afford, must be encouraged to adopt one scholar. Adoption of poor children as scholars should become part of our culture as a people.