In 2012, I began raising funds to build a much-needed evacuation centre which doubles up as a school for 150 children. This building is for a community of typhoon survivors at the Fountain of Love village in Bani, Philippines. What first seemed a daunting and ambitious task, has been made possible through other people's kindness and generosity.
It is my plan to build more school shelters around the Philippines and to establish a School Typhoon Shelter Programme for communities that need it most. The "Peaceful Fountains School" in Bani will be the model project and the first of its kind.
100% of all payments collected from this website's photo fundraiser is donated to this Padua Charitable Fund school building project, also doubling up as a life-saving typhoon shelter for some 600 villagers. I'm very happy to say that 1 million pesos ( $24,000 USD / £15,500 GBP ) has been raised to complete the project and any further donations will go towards school supplies and furniture. The land has been generously donated and the school is set to open this 2016!
The Fountain of Love Tale
I'd like to share the Fountain of Love villagers incredible story which I sent to friends when I first started fundraising for the project:
"We hear very tragic tales after a typhoon has devastated a region. However, there are always inspiring and miraculous stories of heroism, compassion and determination that go unheard. The "Fountain of Love" story is one of those.
It was on a beautiful beach in Bani, Philippines, where lived 600 "informal settlers". Happy in their thriving fishing community, they refused to leave their seaside homes as a tropical storm approached. One hour before the storm, the local authorities learned they were in the projected path of what was now the eye of a typhoon. The local Mayor left his family home and went down to the beach in one last attempt to convince them to leave. No one would budge. Finally, the mayor pointed to the strongest man in the village and said, "when the big storm comes who will you save? Your mother, your children or wife?" Finally, one family stepped forward and into the truck, then another and another. Soon everyone was accounted for and on their way.
As they were on the road heading to safety, the typhoon made landfall. Windows were blown through their vehicles and trees went down blocking their path. Everyone huddled together and lay low as rooftops and debris flew past. Eerily, once inside the eye of the storm, all was calm and quiet; they could see bright blue sky and the sun was shining. It gave them hope.
The region was devastated by the typhoon but every single person from the fishing village miraculously survived. Over 100 families of babies, children, adults and elderly lived through the eye of the storm. As for their homes on the beach? They had all been washed away.
The survivors lived in tents donated by a British organisation for one year before moving into new brick houses on a pretty hillside in Bani. They called their village Fountain of Love - because it was built on just that.
I recently discovered the Fountain of Love and spent time with some 150 children living so very happily there. We brought them a box of toys, books, plenty of sweets and Insta-Snow for their first white Christmas experience. Taken by the humble community, their story, gratitude and generosity, I promised to help raise funds to build them a much-needed school and evacuation centre in times of typhoons.
I believe every unfortunate situation in life can be turned around and made into something beautiful. With time, patience and understanding, there is a way forward by realising a bigger picture with greater benefits than ever imagined.
And remember - if there are storms in your path, they're simply clearing the way for a bigger and brighter tomorrow."
I'd like to thank everyone who has helped support this Padua Charitable Fund project particularly Josefina Eugenio, Warren Leighton and my mother Isabel Grant. It seemed a daunting and ambitious task at the start, but through your kindness and generosity, it has been made possible. THANK YOU!
The Padua Charitable Fund
The Padua Charitable Fund is a British-registered charity co-founded in London in 2007 by my mother Isabel Padua-Grant and our very large Filipino family with members living in England, the Philippines as well as the USA and Canada.
My mother Isabel (above) was born and raised in Manila and studied at St. Scholastica's college and at the University of the Philippines where she earned a degree in English and Comparative Literature (cum laude). Isabel, is mother to three girls and now lives in the United Kingdom. She is often asked to work for local UK councils, social services and the NHS to help with Philippine language translation and interpretation.
I enjoy volunteering for The Padua Charitable fund, travelling for various projects and helping raise funds for very worthy projects. The experience is worth more than you can imagine.
To learn more visit: www.paduacharity.com