AUSTRALIAN FILIPINO AUGUSTINIAN SOLIDARITY
A partnership between the Augustinian community at Villanova College, Brisbane, Australia and the Augustinian communities at the Basilica Sto Nino in Cebu and at the Colegio San Agustin, Bacolod, in the Philippines.
THE FORMATION OF AFAS
In 1992 three Villanova College teachers attended an Augustinian conference in Manila. On the way back to Australia they discussed what it means to stand in solidarity with Augustinian communities in the Philippines. From this discussion AFAS – Villanova College was formed. AFAS stands for Australian Filipino Augustinian Solidarity. Thanks to the vision and support of Fr Eusebio Berdon osa, Provincial of the Augustinians in the Cebu Province in 1993, and Fr Peter Wieneke osa, Rector of Villanova College at the time, the spirit of solidarity between the two Augustinian communities was firmly established. The assistance of Judith Fe Pilongo from the Provincial Office, Bernadette Narvarro and more recently Desiree Deil from Colegio San Agustin – Bacolod is also acknowledged. Their expertise and assistance has made it possible for AFAS to continue to visit the Philippines.
AIMS OF AFAS
AFAS aims to provide an opportunity for friendship and solidarity between the students and staff of Augustinian schools and colleges in the Philippines and in Australia.Villanova College students and staff come to learn and to appreciate the Filipino culture and gain insight into what it means to live in a developing country.There is a strong sense of solidarity as AFAS strives to work with Augustinian communities to support struggling, talented students to gain an education.The aims of AFAS are realised in the biannual friendship exchanges of Villanova College staff and students to the Philippines.
In 1993, the first friendship exchange was inaugurated with students and teachers from Villanova College, Brisbane travelling to Augustinian communities in Cebu, Bacolod and Iloilo. This first exchange established the bonds of friendship and solidarity that have formed the basis of the nine subsequent exchanges to Filipino Augustinian communities. The exchanges have included staff and students, except in the years 2001 and 2003, when only teachers travelled to the Philippines. Political unrest at the time deemed it unwise take students.
At the end of the 1993 exchange a student commented that ‘ he was amazed by the similarity between the Augustinian communities in the Philippines and in Australia.’ Teachers noted that the Villanova College boys had become aware of the responsibility of first world students for their counterparts in the developing world’
In 1995, three Filipino lay Augustinians visited Villanova College and in 1998 AFAS supported Filipino students who attended the Augustinian Youth Festival in Sydney. In 1998 Villanova College hosted a group of students from Regina Carmeli, Augustinian College, who performed an historical play for the Villanova College community. In 2008, AFAS was able to sponsor a Filipino teacher from Murcia in the Negros Occidental, to attend World Youth Day in Sydney.
AFAS PARTNER SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES IN THE PHILIPPINES
Since 1993, AFAS has worked in solidarity with Augustinian communities at Divine Love School in Talisay in Cebu, St Tomas of Villanova School and College in Danao, Cebu, Colegio San Agustin in Bacolod. University of San Agustin and the Augustinian school, Iloilo and La Consolacion Academy and College in Murcia in the Negros Occidental.
AFAS ACTIVITIES IN THE PHILIPPINES
Education scholarships. Between 1995 and 2017 AFAS has funded over 150 full or part education scholarships for poor students at primary, high school and college level. The AFAS scholars are selected by the staff in the local communities.
AFAS has also funded resources for schools including library resources, computer resources, physical education equipment, musical instruments, science equipment, computers and art supplies.
AFAS has also undertaken projects such as painting classrooms, cementing and providing seating for an outdoor multipurpose court, resurfacing a basketball court and building an outdoor study kiosk. AFAS has supported outreach programs such as assisting in the construction of two community centres in poorer areas where families can come together to worship and where young children are able to learn basic numeracy and literacy skills and life skills such as health and hygiene practices. Villanova College staff and students were also involved in market garden projects and providing funding for feeding programs.
Emergency relief has also been provided to schools in the wake of the 2013 earthquake and typhoon which devastated many areas of Cebu and Leyte.
Other projects have included establishing cooperatives in poor areas in the hope that a reliable income would support families in their struggle to keep their children at school. This initiative has since been discontinued as it lacked a support structure to ensure the ongoing success of the program.