A gift for the future

From 2013 to 2016, Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) supported prevention of blindness programs in the Philippines through a ‘Seeing is Believing’ (SiB) program for CBM’s partner Cataract Foundation Philippines (CFPI). Volunteers of the Standard Chartered Bank Philippines were actively involved, especially in assisting with school-screening programmes.

Standard Chartered Bank, through its “Seeing is Believing” (SiB) program, held the first “Alay sa Kinabukasan” project last March 15, 2017 at Pateros Elementary School. The activity was composed of eye screening, learning sessions on eye care, financial literacy, and HIV, and computer donation. A total of 60 students from Maria Concepcion High School, 60 from Sto. Rosario Elementary School, and 263 from Pateros Elementary School, together with some of their teachers, joined the event. 

Changing lives through clear vision

Joseph Habla, 13 years old, struggles in class. He squints his eyes during lectures to clearly see the writings on the board. During quizzes, he asks to be seated in front to get better view of the questions. While he tries to manage the situation, it still frustrates the 6th grade student. The same goes for nine year-old Jemima Pones who felt awkward whenever she moves closer to the blackboard to see the teacher’s notes.

Both Joseph and Jemima told their parents about their visual problems. Because of limited income, their parents told them to wait for another free screening and advised the children to join if there is one. So when their teachers asked who among the students had visual problems, the two students raised their hands right away.

After the eye screening, Joseph and Jemima will also be given free spectacles. “I will wear them so that I can see better and answer my quizzes correctly,” Joseph said. The two students shared that they won’t be shy in wearing their eye glasses since many of their classmates wear those as well.

For Irma San Pedro, teacher of Pateros Elementary School, the eye screening is a big help for students who mostly came from hard up families. Some teachers manage the situation by asking students with visual problems to sit in front or wherever they see clearly. During the event, teachers encouraged and accompanied their students to undergo eye screening.

According to Mai Sangalang, head of Corporate Affairs and Brand Marketing, SC felt the need to continue supporting the SiB program beyond the multiyear plan because of the high incidence of children performing poorly in school due to visual impairments and the limited capacity of their parents to pay for eye screening and intervention. “Eye screening is critical because it impacts their performance in school. Better vision gives them access to better opportunities,” Mai said. As the second poorest municipality in Metro Manila, Pateros was chosen during its first run of “Alay sa Kinabukasan”. 

Supporting the community through volunteerism

Standard Chartered (SC) encourages their employees to volunteer and learn about social and environmental issues. “We have a strong history of volunteerism,” Mai said. During the event, volunteers from various SC departments led and supported the eye screening and learning sessions. They received training and briefing prior the event.

While SC departments engage in various volunteer works, Mai encourages them to support the bank’s global initiatives such as SiB. “Our employees go out of their way to help. Sometimes, they shell out their own money and work beyond office hours,” she added.

“Alay sa Kinabukasan” was also done in partnership with Cataract Foundation Philippines, Inc. (CFPI) – CBM’s partner in inclusive eye health, municipality of Pateros, division of Taguig and Pateros, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), and Philippines Business for Social Progress (PBSP) – the implementing arm for this project.

Aside from the eye screening, learning sessions on financial literacy and HIV were included in the event to ensure that programs are integrated. The project aims to conduct two more missions in July and October and benefit 3, 000 students and adults.