May 7, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
The HRM Children’s Foundation was incorporated in 2009 with the intent of assisting poor and underprivileged children in the Philippines. The Foundation helps house, clothe and feed dozens of needy children while arranging for their schooling. These efforts have already borne fruit with numerous young people finding a way to continue their education rather than starting on menial poor paying jobs at a young age, a common occurrence in the Philippines.
On Thursday, April 19, the HRM Children’s Foundation held its second annual fundraising breakfast, the proceeds of which go towards the foundation’s efforts. The cost of the breakfast was sponsored by the Foundation’s Chairman, Mark Lerner, to ensure that all funds raised would be dedicated to the activities of the Foundation.
Helen Mutchler, Executive VP/CFO and VP for Human Resources at MedReview, which hosted the breakfast, is the President and Founder of the Foundation. Helen grew up in a village in Cebu, Philippines, and noted that she was one of the lucky able to come to the U.S. to receive a quality education and pursue a productive career. The Foundation gave her the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream to help others who did not have the opportunities she had. “The foundation is dear to my heart. While I’ve been lucky in terms of educational and job opportunities, there are so many children in Cebu who have no chance whatsoever,” said Mutchler.
Although Cebu City is the largest city and economic hub in the province, she noted that in the deep interior and remote areas of the province villagers live in dire poverty. “Some of the world’s best known outreach organizations such as the United Nations’ World Health Organization and faith-based health programs have a difficult time reaching these remote areas where villagers don’t even have enough food to eat.”
Mutchler explained that the foundation started its educational program with four enrolled students. She is proud to note that today, the students residing at the HRM House number 26 and there are two dormitories, one for male students and the other for female students. “With the funding the foundation receives, we are able to provide three meals a day and pay for the students’ school tuition and supplies.”
The reality of the hardships the villagers endure from an endless cycle of poverty were brought to life for the attendees when Helen also noted that while the students have the option to go back to their villages to be with their families on weekends, the students’ parents often encourage the students to stay at the foundation’s facilities because the families can’t provide food for them.
“Many families are earning only 40 to 60 pesos a day, which equals less than five U.S. dollars. Rather than encouraging their children to stay and complete school, the parents want their children to work in order to help the whole family survive.”
Mutchler just returned from a trip to Cebu a month ago where she reminded the students in the program that poverty is not a hindrance to success. “We recognize that not every student that graduates will become a doctor or a lawyer. But even students with an average educational performance can still learn skills to become welders or auto mechanics, which is preferable than living in poverty without any skills. There’s one student whose father earns a living by making charcoal, which is not an easy livelihood as he has to enter the forest to gather wood to make the charcoal and then go door to door to try to sell the fruits of his labor. He’s lucky he earns 20 pesos a day, which is about 4 sacks’ worth of charcoal, and which allows him only to buy one pound of rice,” Mutchler said.
The highlight of the event was an address by William Thompson, former NYC Comptroller and 2009 mayoral candidate, and a longtime friend of MedReview. Thompson told the audience that Mutchler didn’t have to pay attention to the plight of the people who still remain in the Philippines, but she did.
“Why should we care about children in the Philippines when there are children in need right here in the U.S.,” Thompson posed to the audience. “We’re here to improve children’s lives whether they’re in California or in the Philippines. We no longer live in isolation. Economic problems that afflict markets in Asia and Europe, threatens economic stability here at home and abroad.”
The breakfast was a huge success and the funds raised will help the Foundation expand its activities and help additional needy children break out of their cycle of poverty. Helen thanked Mr. Thompson, Mark Lerner and Joe Stamm, the Foundation’s Chief Fundraiser and President of MedReview for their efforts in making the breakfast a success and is already planning other activities which will help the Foundation continue its wonderful work.
For details regarding the HRM Children’s Foundation, please visit: www.hrmchildrensfoundation.org