- Parkin Fellows
By Sanjna Narayan
Arriving in the Philippines allowed me to experience some of the most enriching, interesting, and busiest days of my life. I jumped into action the first day I arrived. There were three main aspects of my grant: to introduce a method of tutoring involving chatbots to the San Rafael Vocational and Technological High School, teach a separate class in the same school, and work the Project Pearls foundation to assist in the feeding, entertainment, and distributing of resources for young, underprivileged children in different areas around the Philippines.
I was accompanied by a robotics team for the first couple of days, which consisted of five high schoolers from Bellevue, Washington called Team Wasabi, who were passing down their skills in robotics to the students of San Rafael. I helped them out, and utilized that time to focus on working on the chatbot that we had all been a part of creating.
Here’s a little insight into the idea behind the chatbot: most Philippines data plans only consist of basic messaging, calls, and the use of Facebook. For this reason, we chose to connect our tutoring chatbot to Facebook using a program called Chatfuel, so that students who would otherwise be unable to receive any outside help for their educational needs would be able to access this.
The production of this chatbot was slow, but as we began to build on it and incorporate the curriculum into it (from the Big Brains Academy located in Washington state), we were soon able to introduce the idea to the students. As of now, the chatbot is not complete, but bringing awareness of it to the students who truly need it will be a strong benefit for schools in the Philippines as soon as it is done.
In addition to assisting the San Rafael robotics team, Team Wasabi and I also aided Project Pearls, a separate program in a nearby area, in the first few days by preparing and serving breakfast and handing out donated clothes to more than 150 children in Tondo, Manila. I will be working more with Project Pearls after Team Wasabi left the Philippines, so I’ll write about that later!
The third aspect of my grant was to teach a class in the San Rafael Vocational and Technological High School unrelated to robotics, and I accomplished this when I took on the task of preparing a few students in a fine arts and political issues class focusing on poster-making for current political controversies. What we chose to focus on was the acceptability of breastfeeding in public.
Finally, right before Team Wasabi left for another part of their journey, we took our last night to take a few of the San Rafael kids out to the parts of town they hadn’t seen before, so that they could get to know us in a more casual sense, since I’ll be helping them out for the rest of the week. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be operating alone, and I’m excited to continue teaching my class and keep helping Project Pearls to the best of my abilities!