YMCA Volunteers Build Fundraising Fish Pond in Philippines
A School of Fish for those at Risk
A greenhouse, a plot of land with crops, and even a fish pond; As one passes by these sights in Pangasinan, Philippines, they may not realise that these are in fact, parts of schools. As funding is not always sufficient for the education system in the Philippines, many schools look for their own ways to generate funds to support their students in need, including activities such as agricultural or fish farming.
Under a YMCA International Service Programme (ISP), four teams of volunteers from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have made back-to-back trips to the Philippines to render assistance to Pugaro Integrated School. Their first team started the project in May, and the final team completed their work there in July this year.
The school hosts its own fish pond, where they rear fish that are eventually sold to provide funds in support of less privileged students. The funds help students afford school fees, food and other necessities required for their schooling journey. The volunteers seek to expand the pond, allowing for an additional 500 new fishlings.
The volunteers working hard to expand the fish farm.
The school also owns a plot of agricultural land that was going unused due to its low fertility. Under the guidance of Terence Kam, a YMCA of Singapore volunteer and aquaponics enthusiast, the student volunteers were able to set up an aquaponics system for the school, which redirects water from the fish pond through pipes that also function as a place for crops to be grown. Water from the pond contains high levels of minerals that serve as natural fertilisers for these plants and help them to grow, allowing the school to grow its own vegetables more successfully in a way that is environmentally-friendly and reuses water.
Water from the fish pond is redirected through these pipes, which serve as “pots” for the crops to grow in.
“The students were excited to learn about something relatively new for Singaporeans that they did not know of. It was also enriching for us to work in the production of our own food and with the earth,” said Chloe Tan, YMCA of Singapore ISP Executive.
To ensure the sustainability of this project, volunteers of YMCA Pangasinan and the teachers of Pugaro Integrated School were trained on how to manage the aquaponics system to ensure the school can maintain and utilise the system independently. Students from the school will eventually be involved in growing their own food alongside these teachers.
Apart from improvements to the fish farm, the volunteers also participated in a range of other engaging activities with the students, such as conducting lessons, entertaining them through fun and games, and even conducting some of their daily Zumba sessions.
“I believe what I received was much more than what I had to offer. I had many unexpected experiences that were very rewarding, such as the connections made between us and the Philippines team members. I have grown so much as a person and this is definitely an unforgettable experience for me,” said Sherneese Tan, a student volunteer.
YMCA of Singapore’s International Service Programmes work closely with regional Social Service Organisations to reach out to less privileged populations outside of Singapore. Volunteers not only get to have meaningful interactions with locals, but also learn new skills, explore new places and experience different cultures! Follow their Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org to join in on upcoming trips!
Contributed by Sim Yu Xiang.