SMI Advances Brighter Future and Lifelong Learning Through Education

Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) is committed to the goal of Sustainable Development. Its Sustainable Development Policy is dedicated to managing its business in a way that balances social, environmental, and economic considerations. Recognizing its social responsibility, SMI aims to invest in skills, education, health, and social enterprise developments that will lead to economic benefits and sustainable communities, which will outlive its operations.
Although it is not yet operating, SMI has long been providing, through its Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects, access and aid to talented and deserving students and has already poured more than PhP1.2 billion in financing various projects and activities that are aimed at advancing the socio–economic, health and educational conditions of the communities where the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project is located.
Based on national and local government sources, the majority of the people living in these communities rely on traditional farming, mostly for subsistence. The average household income is low and falls below the national and provincial poverty lines; the residents have low educational attainment and low standards of living. 
This cycle of poverty among the communities had been their legacy for generations. 
With Responsible Mining and responsible mining companies, this cycle of poverty can be broken. 
A Brighter Future
Last year, SMI provided financial assistance for enrolment, miscellaneous fees, and/or monthly allowances to a total of 1,295 students; these included 552 college students, 144 senior and 519 junior high school students, and 80 elementary pupils. 
The company supported the education of 41 newly licensed professional degree holders in the field of Education, Nursing, Agriculture, Engineering, Business Administration, and Psychology, among others.
Further, SMI supported and augmented the needs of teachers in geographically isolated and distressed areas (GIDAS), by providing their monthly salaries/allowances, including their 13th month pay. At the moment, SMI supports 32 educators, including 17 locally employed elementary and high school teachers, 13 daycare instructors and 2 madrasah teachers.
For Mr. Jay Mark Canay, born to a farmer’s family in a mountainous village of Malabod, one of the remote barangays in the Municipality of Malungon in Sarangani province and second among four children, he was exposed to the difficulties of life at a young age and was determined to help his family get out of poverty. 
“Talagang mahirap ang buhay naming noon kasi nga wala pang mga subsidies galing sa government na tulad ng 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program). Kahit isang kilong bigas, mahirap kaming makabili. Kahit simpleng sangkap sa kusina - toyo, suka, mantika, asin - mahirap. Mayroon kaming lupa, pero wala kaming pera para makatanim,” Jay narrated. 
Striving as a working student, Jay graduated in the Top 4 of his class in Malandag National High School in 2012 and was accepted in a scholarship program directly managed by Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI). 
Through this Samahan ng Matatalinong Indibidwal Scholarship Program, SMI partnered with concerned government officials to support the educational and financial needs of talented and deserving students from local governments hosting the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project.  
“Talagang sobrang saya ang aking mga parents. Maliban kasi sa libre na ang tuition fee at ibang bayarin sa school, mayroon pang ibinibigay sa amin noon ang SMI na PhP 3,000 na cash allowance. Iyon pa ang wini-withdraw namin para magamit sa bahay. Malaking tulong talaga siya,” Jay happily recalls. 
But Jay was forced to sacrifice to give way and prioritize the education of his older brother and sister, who were both in college at that time. Jay stopped going to Mindanao State University in 2015. Fortunately, he was hired by SMI as a company researcher and used his monthly salary to help and sustain the education of his siblings. 
Jay’s hard work and sacrifice paid off – his older brother finished his degree in Agribusiness Management while his sister also received her diploma in AB English. They are both gainfully employed.
At present, Jay is still a working student. He now works as the barangay secretary in Barangay Malabod while studying to pursue a teaching career.   He also shares some of his free time mentoring young kids, especially from Indigenous Cultural Communities in their barangay on how to read and write, so that they too could become SMI scholars.  
 “Ang buhay ko ay parang roller coaster ride talaga. Maraming ups and downs, mga sacrifices. Pero sa lahat ng pinagdaanan ko, nandiyan ang SMI na tumulong sa akin. Hindi ako pinabayaan.  Kaya naman hanggat nandiyan ang SMI, hindi ako mawawalan ng pag-asa na aangat din ang buhay ko at ang buhay ng mga kabataan sa Malabod!” 
Lifelong Learning
Equally important for SMI is its desire to contribute to the country’s progress towards the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development, of which one goal focuses on education that aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” 
For the period 2018 to 2022 alone, SMI expended PhP57.6 million in providing access to quality education for elementary, high school and college students living within the Project area, both indigenous kids and non-IPs, male and female, regardless of religion or creed.
Just like Jay, Ms. Jenevel Intero-Ocampo of Columbio in the province of Sultan Kudarat also shared how SMI through its scholarship program changed her life.
At an early age and being the eldest of four children, Jenevel learned to become an independent and strong person.
“Namatay si Papa ko, kinder pa lang ako. Noong Grade 3 o Grade 4, kami na lang magkakapatid naiwan dito sa Columbio kasi si Mama nag-asawa uli at nanirahan na sa Isulan sa husband niya. Pagdating ko ng high school, kinuha na niya ang mga kapatid ko at ako na lang naiwan dito sa lola ko. Somehow, na-prepare ko ang sarili ko na maging independent,” Jen recalls.
Despite all the struggles growing up away from her family, Jen was determined to survive for the sake of her siblings and her future. She graduated Valedictorian of her batch in Columbio National High School in 2009. She wanted to continue her college education at University of Southern Mindanao but was still concerned about finances.
Jen saw a ray of light peering through the dark clouds when she became an SMI scholar. 
Receiving a cash allowance of PhP 3,500 from SMI, Jen was able to meet her basic educational needs, from school supplies to books and food. She even had the opportunity - from time to time - to send a share of her allowance to her mother and siblings in Isulan.
Jen was also able to finish her bachelors’ degree in Education and is now a licensed teacher at Columbio National High School.
“Isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit nakapagtapos ako ng college, dahil alam ko na nandiyan ang SMI na handang sumuporta. Malaking tulong talaga sa akin ang SMI!” 
Now a mother of two, Jen is paying it forward by teaching in her alma mater and is cited by her co-teachers and Principal as “humble and a diligent teacher”.
“So far, dito sa school namin, talagang maasahan ko si Jen. Binibigyan ko siya ng designation - lalo na sa aming School Improvement Plan (SIP), ngayon to be submitted na!”, said Ms. Norly Balin, the school’s Principal.
Jen made it a passion to share her life’s experiences to her children and students.
 “Whatever happens in life, kahit gaano kahirap ng buhay, huwag kang bumitaw. Huwag kang titigil. Hindi naging kumpleto ang pamilya ko, pero hindi iyon naging dahilan para mapariwara ako. Whatever trials na dumating sa buhay natin, tuloy lang, go on lang sa pag-aaral.” (###)


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