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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

AFP, JSOTF-P partner with community to build new classrooms

Petty Officer 1st Class Fletcher Gibson
Joint Special Operations

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines -- Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines were on hand July 14 to help open the doors of a new elementary school building in Sitio Sarmiento, Alamada in North Cotabato.

Using construction materials supplied provided by JSOTF-P, the citizens of Sarmiento working alongside members of the AFP’s 68th Infantry Battalion performed all the labor to complete the new two-classroom building.

“The local community really came together,” said U.S. Army Capt. Janette Kautzman, the team leader for JSOTF-P’s Civil Affairs Team 735. “Working with the AFP, they took ownership of it and as a result, the students and teachers of Sitio Sarmiento will benefit.”

The fact that the local residents stepped up to help with the project kept overall costs down, which ultimately enables the AFP and JSOTF-P to spread resources around and help more people in the area.

“The cost of labor can be up to one-third of the price, including transportation of materials,” said U.S. Army Capt. Isaac Hubbard, JSOTF-P’s lead engineer in central Mindanao.

It took the volunteers three weeks to complete construction, building the new school house next to the previous one which will remain in use. Together, the new building doubles the classroom space for the school, providing a more comfortable learning environment for the more than 150 first through fourth graders who attend the school.

With the construction complete, school supervisors have plans to give back even more to the local community. The school’s teacher-in-charge, Rogelio Orejudos, is planning a series of adult education courses for the parents of the students, many of whom never had an opportunity for formal education when they were young.

Kautzman said she hopes to see more community involvement like this in other locations. Previous community-built construction projects, such as the new high school in Ginatlan, Pikit which opened last month, have proven successful at creating a stronger sense of ownership between the community and the completed project.

The day prior to the turnover ceremony, the 68th IB and JSOTF-P, in cooperation with the Alamada Municipal Health Office, conducted a Medical Civic Action program for local residents, treating a total of 278 patients

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