Revered Korean Dharma Master and Buddhist activist Venerable Pomnyun Sunim (법륜스님) accompanied a team of volunteers from Buddhist relief organization JTS Korea to the Philippines from December 15 to 19 to officially open newly established schools by JTS over the past year in Mindanao. , and to bring essential school supplies to the children.
Joined by local activists, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and JTS volunteers, led by JTS Korea Secretary General Park Young Sook and JTS Korea Representative Park Ji-na, attended the official completion and opening ceremonies of four new schools attended by of local officials from Mindanao, the second-largest island in the Philippines.
The first closing ceremony of the visit – for San Miguel National High School in Talagak Village – marked a new chapter in the remarkable ongoing work of JTS in Mindanao:
“Over the past 20 years, JTS has built elementary schools in Mindanao to eradicate illiteracy and provide basic education in underprivileged areas,” explained Lee Won Joo, general manager of JTS Philippines, during the ceremony. 'opening. “However, this project is a special case since it concerns a high school. Many children were unable to continue their studies because they did not have access to a secondary school. There is also the problem of girls becoming pregnant at a young age due to lack of educational opportunities and marrying early. As such, JTS decided to build a high school. Through our cooperative relationship with the County Office and the Philippine Army Corps of Engineers, JTS provided the construction materials, the Army Corps of Engineers took responsibility for the actual construction and the office The county covered basic expenses, including food. After 20 years of humanitarian work, this is the 60th school built by JTS in Mindanao, Philippines.
Fri. Pomnyun Sunim created the humanitarian aid organization Join Together Society (JTS) as an expression of the compassion of committed Buddhism and based on the principle that helping others is the best way to enrich one's own life. Charged with bringing hope, empowerment and self-reliance to disadvantaged communities in developing countries, JTS is led and operated by unpaid volunteers, who ensure that all donations benefit marginalized communities. JTS carries out relief operations in countries suffering from humanitarian disasters and has engaged in humanitarian projects in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The humanitarian organization has also been granted special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
JTS Philippines, established in 2002, manages 51 project areas in 19 cities and municipalities in six provinces. It is engaged in various humanitarian initiatives, including building schools, providing school supplies to disadvantaged students (such as uniforms, stationery, bags and umbrellas), teacher training programs and training to community leadership.
“I sincerely congratulate you on the completion ceremony of San Miguel National High School today,” said Ven. Pomnyun Sunim observed during the ceremony. “. . . This school was built not through the efforts of one or two people or one or two groups, but through the efforts of many people, that is, when we meet. We would like to once again thank and applaud all the individuals and organizations who participated in this endeavor.
“However, education does not mean that there are only classrooms in schools. For education to take place, students must be present, teachers must be present, and parents must support the students. So first, students should come to school and study hard. Do you want to study this way?
" YES! » » the children responded loudly.
“Parents should send their children to school every day instead of pushing them to stay at home doing agricultural work. And we must provide ongoing support for our students to study. Do you promise? »
" YES! » the parents returned.
“The most important thing in education is the teachers. The education bureau should send good teachers, and teachers should teach children well. Will the office send good teachers?
" YES! »
“The school was built safely, we have good teachers, there are children attending the school and the parents are ready to support the students. All the conditions for a good education are met. If your students do well in their studies, JTS will continue to support you in the future.
The villagers applauded loudly.
The State Superintendent of Education thanked Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and JTS volunteers for their work, noting, “This school is not just a physical building. Education is our parents’ dream, our community’s dream, and our country’s dream. One day, these children sitting before us will become adults, leaders and servants of their communities.
“This school is living proof that our students can learn the values of generosity, kindness, cooperation and gratitude. Education will help our children choose the right path and discern bad temptations when they become adults. Bukidnon province now needs around 3 additional classrooms. There are still many children who cannot study because there are no classrooms. This community can be considered extremely lucky. Thanks again to JTS. Thank you so much. »
Fri. Pomnyun Sunim, the JTS volunteer team continued the next day by opening the expansion of a primary school in Catablaran; then to celebrate the completion of Cabanglasan Central Primary School, a school specially designed for children with disabilities; and the Damilag special primary school for students with disabilities.
“Every child born into this world has the right to receive an education. Whether disabled or not, children must receive timely education,” said Ven. »Emphasized Pomnyun Sunim. “Therefore, JTS supported the construction of schools and provided school supplies to ensure educational opportunities for children living in remote mountainous areas. However, many children living in urban areas do not have access to education due to physical disabilities. . . .
Having a disability does not mean that you are inferior; it just makes life a little more inconvenient. It takes a long time for the educational achievements of children with disabilities to be revealed. So you will have to wait a little. You should teach them in more detail than you usually would other children, and the number of students per class should be as small as possible. Importantly, unlike general teachers, teachers who teach children with disabilities must have received special education and special teaching materials must be prepared. This cannot be done by one or two people or by parents alone, nor can teachers do it alone. We all need to join forces and achieve this together.
Fri. Pomnyun Sunim is a revered Korean teacher, author, and social activist. He has founded numerous organizations, initiatives and projects around the world, including: JTS Korea, an international humanitarian aid organization working to eradicate poverty and hunger; Jungto Society, a voluntary community based on the teachings of the Buddha and dedicated to solving modern social problems that lead to suffering; Ecobuddha, an organization focused on environmental ethics and sustainable living based on the teachings of the Buddha; and Good Friends, which promotes reconciliation and cooperation between North and South Korea and provides humanitarian aid to North Koreans. Fri. Pomnyun Sunim also works closely with the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB).
In October 2020, the Niwano Peace Foundation in Japan presented the 37th Niwano Peace Prize to Ven. Pomnyun Sunim in recognition of his international humanitarian work, his intensive environmental and social activism, and his tireless efforts to build trust and goodwill between communities of different faiths and cultures, towards the goal of world peace .*
* Buddhist monk Ven. Pomnyun Sunim receives the 37th Niwano Peace Prize (BDG)