SMEC recently visited the Talomo District in Davao, Philippines, for two days as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitment. Represented by Ferdinand Lucero (SEA & Pacific CSR Secretariat), SMEC’s visit aimed to assess the progress of three CSR projects carried out in partnership with the Australian Foundation for Fostering Learning in the Philippines (AFFLIP), focusing on education and nutrition improvement in the local community.

SMEC has been collaborating with AFFLIP since 2016, with additional support in 2021 and 2023. These efforts primarily focus on aiding AFFLIP’s Health and Nutrition, and Outdoor Learning programs, benefiting over 21,000 children across 15 schools in Talomo District. SMEC and AFFLIP jointly toured six of these schools during the visit, witnessing firsthand the results of their collaborative efforts.


Engaging directly with school leaders, teachers and students, SMEC gained a clear understanding of the impact of the joint initiatives. Accompanying SMEC during the visit were AFFLIP Founder Alastair Douglas and new Chair Dr. Yvonne Zeegers, along with other foundation members Bruce White, Max Greenwood, and Jeanette Emery who joined to discuss project enhancements, including the Digital Learning initiative, Research and Evaluation Focus and the major Guided Reading Project.


One significant outcome of the partnership witnessed was the establishment of mushroom production units in seven Talomo schools, which have provided additional income while supporting the school-based feeding program and promoting nutritious, locally grown food among children. Led by the parent-teacher associations, the feeding program has significantly reduced absences and boosted nutrition among students. The visit also allowed for a review of the progress of other areas of the health and nutrition program, which have seen improvements in food production and first aid capabilities.


Another crucial aspect reviewed was the Multipurpose Outdoor Learning Domain (MOLD) initiative, which has created versatile outdoor spaces that serve as hubs for various educational and recreational activities.


“Our partnership with SMEC signifies a powerful alliance for positive change, rooted in our shared commitment to community empowerment,” noted Alastair. “Together with SMEC, we’re not just improving schools but we’re also nurturing futures.”


“I’m inspired by the progress we’ve made and excited to explore new avenues for enhancing educational opportunities,” Yvonne added. “Digital learning will be a key focus, and with potential funding support from corporate partners, we aim to develop robust initiatives that empower our students with the tools they need to succeed in today’s digital age.”


Reflecting on the progress achieved through this partnership with AFFLIP, Ferdinand remarked, “SMEC is impressed with the progress of these initiatives. Witnessing firsthand their positive impact to the students and schools reaffirms our dedication to making a difference in communities. Engaging with local stakeholders underscores the importance of meaningful partnerships in driving sustainable change.”


The collaboration between SMEC, AFFLIP and local stakeholders demonstrates a shared commitment to holistic community development, despite challenges posed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking ahead, the partnership between SMEC and AFFLIP holds immense potential for advancing educational opportunities and sustainable practices in the Philippines.