Community Spirit at SMDP

St. Martin de Porres, Bustos, Bulacan, Philippines, July 2009

MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK AND STRONG WALLS

Because the children of St. Martin de Porres (SMDP) are now living in a variety of settings—some in in dormitory-style accommodations, others in more intimate family-type lodgings—the JDVSF and St. Martin founders deemed it all the more important that all the children come together at mealtime. Hence, a new dining hall–recreation center is well underway to provide the opportunity for communal dining as well as a space large enough to accommodate gatherings of the entire SMDP community.

Community spirit is, in fact, one of the dining hall’s primary building materials. In keeping with the St. Martin’s founders aim to provide the children a uniquely Filipino environment, the dining hall is being constructed in traditional Ivatan style. Traditionally built with indigenous materials—grass, rocks, lime for mortar—and the labor of local residents, St. Martin’s first Ivatan structure recently drew workers from Unilever, which sent 20 of its employees to pitch in for one day as part of its corporate community service program. Although Ivatan construction proceeds more slowly than modern methods, the buildings’ thick walls, which were traditionally engineered to withstand the strongest typhoons, cost far less to maintain. “We know that in the long run we’ll save money not having to repaint and repair the walls of a more contemporary structure,” says Eunice Cheng-Chua, JDVSF Assistant Director, Development. “Just as important for the children is feeling at home in a more traditional setting and discovering that adults like the Unilever volunteers cared enough to help make their lives better.”

ESSENTIAL BUILDING BLOCKS: Unilever volunteers placing the adobe rocks that will form the walls of the new dining hall.

GOOD WORKS IN PROGRESS (Clockwise from top left): The beginnings of the dining hall entrance, recreation and function rooms, and kitchen.