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Nun uses beads to teach tribal people

Learning to read and write in a 'fun and fulfilling' way

  • Rick R. Flores, Lake Sebu
  • Philippines
  • February 24, 2011
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A young nun in the southern Philippines has discovered that teaching literacy to tribal folks needs more than commitment. It needs creativity, too.

For Sister Delma Barrientos of the Congregation of Our Lady of Missions aid, living with the Manobo tribe in the hinterlands of South Cotabato is a "fun and fulfilling experience."

She teaches reading and writing the alphabet to mothers and young children through beadwork.

"Beads are inherent among Manobos because they use them in accentuating their costumes,” said Sister Barrientos. The colorful beads are also used as jewellery among Manobo women.

"It is difficult to teach the tribes because they are occupied with their daily needs, but through creative beadworks we were able to introduce the alphabet and taught them life-saving skills," Sister Barrientos said.

The congregation’s literacy development program was launched in January as part of their "presence ministry."

Some 25 women are taught about the artwork in the congregation’s House of Hospitality twice a month. "We provide the beads for free and pay them for every finished product," the nun said.

Kasin Niyas, father of one of the young Manobo women who benefited from the program, said the skills his daughter learned enabled them to meet with their daily needs.

In addition to teaching Manobo women how to read and write, the nuns also emphasize "cultural preservation" and the importance of appreciating their culture.

Sister Barrientos said it has been difficult for them to start with the program because of the perception among people that it is just another dole-out program.

The nuns, however, said that "long-term education" will help the indigenous people produce among themselves professionals who can serve as role models for their community.

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