Students at a tribal school in Mindanao spend time outside their school building while waiting for classes to start. (Photo by Mark Saludes)
Members of an ecumenical church group in the Philippines are holding fasts and other Lenten activities to raise money to help build tribal schools in the southern region of Mindanao.
The group Dambana, an ecumenical disaster response network of faith-based organizations, has been convincing young people to join the project.
Miro Sabino, a 15-year-old son of a church worker, donated his savings during the Christmas break to the "Pray, Fast, Build" program, saying he is happy to be able to help.
Dambana was established in 2012 to "rebuild hope in tangible terms" after a strong typhoon devastated the southern Philippine region.
In 2013, the organization launched the Lenten program to help tribal communities.
Norma Dollaga, the organization's coordinator, said an individual can raise US$40 during the Lenten season if he or she skips a meal a day.
Last year, the network raised about US$16,000 for a school building.
"Fasting, as a spiritual expression, is intended to lead us more deeply into fellowship and kinship," said Dollaga.
Part of the money that will be collected from the activity this year will be given to the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development in Mindanao's Caraga region.
The learning center has become a target of military harassment due to suspicions that it teaches students subversive ideologies.
President Rodrigo Duterte even threatened to bomb the school, which was established in 2004 by Tandag Diocese.
Father Raymond Montero Ambray of the diocese's social action apostolate welcomed the Dambana initiative, saying that people should learn "to celebrate and give thanks by sharing."
There are at least 200 tribal community schools that provide formal and alternative education in hinterland communities across Mindanao.