Most teenagers would hang out by malls with their friends, go to arcades and play computer games, or watch movies during their spare time – not Dara Mae Tuazon.
She spends her free time teaching kids in Manila, and leads a foundation which aims to educate the underprivileged and out-of-school youth.
A post where the young lady is seen teaching a bunch of kids in the streets of Gastambide near the University of the East (UE) went viral. The stark difference between the neatly-pressed uniform of the teenager compared with the grimy street clothes of her students is very apparent.
This exposure led Dara to become an inspiration to many, as she did this not to achieve fame on social media, but to pursue a love for teaching that she has had since she was little.
Starting early – dreaming big
A question ran through Dara’s mind when she encountered kids playing along the streets one school day – why weren’t they in classrooms, learning and growing? It was then that she knew what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
At 11 years old, Dara decided to become a teacher one day. Her mother was also a teacher, and she was her greatest inspirations. Despite judgments from people, giving her reality checks on how difficult it is to pursue education as a career, she was sure of it.
One day, in a vacant lot in her hometown in San Fernando, Pampanga, she gathered street kids, and taught them about art. Her teaching materials? All were recycled from her own – photocopied pages of coloring books, and her old pens and crayons. It wasn’t much, but this aspiring educator was off to a great start.
The Angel of Gastambide Street
Dara took up Bachelor of Elementary Education in the University of the East, driven by her excitement to share her knowledge.
On Gastambide, a street near her campus, she allots 2 hours of her day to educate street children, teaching them about things that they want to learn.
Through this, Dara not only nurtures the minds of the children and improves their behaviors – she also learns about their stories as well. This awakened a sense of urgency from the teenager, and pushed her to take action.
After noticing Dara Mae’s dedication, her alma mater decided to create Bangketa UEskwela, a program that enables volunteers to join Dara and allot their free time to teach the street children near their campus.
The Journey to a Foundation
Dara was the first recipient of the The One Philippines Humanitarian Award, in recognition of her hard work. She used the exposure and the prize grant to continue her mission, leading to the creation of the Bangketa Eskwela Foundation, Inc.
What was once a small gathering of students in Gastambide’s streets is now a full blown foundation, teaching close to a hundred students from different barangays in Manila. Bangketa Eskwela’s volunteer teachers are now equipped with laptops and projectors. Classrooms are also being made available to accommodate more children.
The foundation still accepts volunteer teachers, and is engaged in different programs regarding educations, such as book drives and initiatives to formally get the kids to school.
Currently, Dara is in the last months of her collegiate education. She is finishing her thesis while juggling her responsibilities as the leader of Bangketa Eskwela.
Taking small steps that make a huge impact
Dara Mae Tuazon serves as an inspiration to the educator in all of us.
She didn’t wait for her graduation to pursue her passion. She took small steps that make a huge impact on the lives of the children she has chosen to teach.
It takes a village to raise a child. But it doesn’t take a village to teach and share knowledge to the world. All it takes is one person with a vision, and overflowing love for children – the hope of our future.