I said ‘No’ to the Ati

left, Ati school with barbed wire fence; right, Emma at the school

Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen

I said ‘No’ to the Ati.

It doesn’t happen often.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, with the help of our generous overseas contributors, we’ve agreed to sponsor a whole host of community betterment projects for the impoverished, indigenous, Ati tribe. They are our neighbors here in Malay, Aklan, Philippines where we have paused our early-retired wandering while awaiting a global ‘reopening’.

I’m proud to say our efforts have generally been successful in helping to stabilize and improve the lot of the Ati as they struggle with the economic fallout of the continuing coronavirus crisis.

This time, however, I honestly could not see any positive benefit to the request for help that was made — so I said ‘No’.

God bless the sweet Ati woman who wanted our assistance. Auntie Emma is a kind, caring, mother, teacher, Ati council member, and head administrator of the small Ati early-learning center shown in the photo at the top.

Emma rightfully takes great pride in ‘her’ school facility and the role it plays in the lives of the youngest Ati children.

But Emma was asking for barbed-wire, fencing, a concrete wall — a blockade — and the Earth Vagabonds are NOT about building walls. Sorry Emma.

The photo collage below shows Emma and the school and surrounds as we toured the ‘problem’ area.

Theo said no to the Ati request for a better fence around the tribe's Malay school.

Immediately next to the early-learning center building is a public pathway. The poorly-maintained, uneven, dirt path provides access to dozens of Ati (and Visayan/Filipino) homes which are located in off-road areas beyond the school.

The learning center property is ‘fenced off’ with bamboo stakes, tree stumps, and some strands of barbed wire. It is not a formidable barrier, but enough to discourage ‘short cuts’ through the school grounds.

Unfortunately, Emma reports that a number of ‘young people’ continually dislodge the flimsy fencing and traverse the school property. Even repeated requests for them to cease have not altered their course. Obviously, it irritates and aggravates Emma, the conscientious schoolmarm.

I can understand. It doesn’t feel like that long ago when I myself was a teenager who would ignore any adult’s demands if possible. Now I’m the grown up saying sensible stuff like: ‘turn that music down’, ‘do not litter’, and ‘say no to drugs’. The circle of life.

Anyway, Emma was now requesting that we fund an improved fence; stronger, taller, with more barbed wire on top. When I pointed out that kids might still defeat that construction, she suggested a high, concrete, hollow-block wall – a massive undertaking!

Good grief! A handful of kids are ‘short cutting’ across a Philippine school yard and we’re being asked to spend hundreds of dollars to build a wall that ‘might’ deter them?

As stated above, these Earth Vagabonds do not favor barriers. In fact, we try to promote openness and cooperation and human harmony any way we can.

We prefer to tear down the world’s walls.

I respectfully declined to fund any kind of upgraded blockade.

Instead, I suggested involving more Ati community members; the Chieftain, the Pastor, other council members, the shop-keeper with a view of the short cut. Such a group could likely identify the teen scofflaws and approach them and their parents to gain compliance and end the annoying trespass.

Additionally, the larger community group could oversee some strengthening of the existing fence if truly desired, maybe direct the placement of signage – – better yet, make repairs to the treacherous dirt footpath which would make the short cut far less desirable.

Options. Communication. Community. Compromise.

Not walls or dangerous wire.

Bottom line, while I understand and appreciate Auntie Emma’s passion for her school and children, the Earth Vagabonds will NOT be spending our – or our donors’ – dollars on barriers anywhere.

We will, however, certainly continue to support Ati causes that are a benefit to all.

As always, be thankful and generous (like our overseas sponsors), happy trails & more beer. Life is NOW!

Visit our special Ati page. It features reports from every Ati project Earth Vagabonds has worked on.

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