Inquirer Reading Sessions Inspire NGO

By Carla Gomez
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 23:47:00 01/02/2009

BACOLOD CITY – Inspired by children’s response to Philippine Daily Inquirer’s (parent company of Read Along session in Talisay City, Negros Occidental, less than a month ago, volunteers of Suntown Camp Foundation, a Negros-based NGO for children with cancer and serious illnesses, mounted their own Read Along, to start-off their Christmas Party for children in Bacolod City on Dec. 13.

Dr Alvin Parreño, the foundation’s vice president, read “Pambihirang Buhok ni Raquel” by Dr. Luis Gatmaitan, a story about a leukemic patient who exhibits strength by means of her wide array of wigs. Parreño also read “Ang Madyik Silya ni Titoy” by Russel Molina about a boy without feet who goes on a magical journey using his wheelchair.

The storyteller and the stories, appropriate for the audience of children who have various forms of cancer, the most common of which is leukemia, and two children who have lost a limb each to cancer, kept the children both spellbound and introspective.

Suntown Camp Foundation was Philippine Daily Inquirer’s partner for the Read Along Visayas launch on Nov. 22 in Talisay City , Negros Occidental.

The Foundation brings together children from 9-18 years old who are either ill with cancer or in remission, children with serious illnesses, and children who have a parent diagnosed with cancer.

The foundation’s primary goal is to provide the children with holistic support that can help them be children again, which is sometimes hard because of their physical suffering and their families’ financial problems.

“The Suntown kids begged for another Read Along session after their experience with storytellers Peque Gallaga and Rich Rodriguez, and we requested Inquirer representatives who came to Bacolod for a possible training program for our volunteers,” Suntown Camp Foundation president Millie Kilayko said.

“We knew, however, that the training could not come in time for the Christmas Party, thus our volunteers tried to do their best using the Inquirer model.”

Suntown Camp Foundation intends to incorporate most of their sessions in the future with a Read Along since they have found it an excellent vehicle to deliver messages of faith, hope and love, she said.

They also hope to have an Inquirer-initiated training program in their province soon so that more readers can use this vehicle to bring joy to more sick children.

Among those who expressed their intention to attend the training program and become a volunteer reader to the Suntown kids after reading about the Inquirer Read Along was Dr. Cecilia Nava, a Bacolod-based Palanca awardee, herself a cancer survivor. Nava promised to harness more volunteers who have had bouts with cancer, to spread the love of reading to children with illness.