Bringing music and medicine to the kids of Botongon (Estancia), Philippines

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music man project coming to Estancia, Philippines

Imagine how thrilled I was 6 months ago when a friend in the UK contacted me about coming back to the Philippines and bringing a FULLY FUNDED music program and medical mission.

Imagine how thrilled I was on Friday when the first of the music and medical team arrived here in Iloilo City.

Typhoon relief volunteers: Cathy (left) and Mel (right) in the work truck on our way to Tanza Elementary School in 2014.

I had met Cathy Greenwood (a nurse from the UK) in early 2014 when we were both volunteering after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit the Philippines. After our projects finished Cathy returned to her work in the UK as a Head Nurse in community health, and I remained in the Philippines to take care of Jerry — a (now 12 year-old) boy who had lost both his parents and his home). But we were both determined to stay in contact and one day run an aid program together.

And now after months of phone calls, text messages, fundraising, co-ordinating and organising on both sides of the world I am thrilled to announce that next Tuesday (11th Feb), Cathy and her team of UK volunteers (aided on the ground by myself and some local crew) will arrive in Botongon Estancia.

Collectively we’ll be delivering The Music Man Project to the Botongon Elementary School (Jerry’s original village school and the Alma Mater of all my sponsored kids), plus a free medical mission in the nearby town of Batad.

For the next 2 weeks I’ll be sharing live updates of the programs here on my blog and in today’s post I’m briefly outlining the programs and introducing each of the volunteers — though please check back in a few days as I don’t yet have photos of the local volunteers. I’ll update their info on Tuesday afternoon.

PLEASE NOTE: I am delighted that these programs are being offered to the people of Botongon, Estancia — and my sponsored children and families (including Jerry) will directly benefit. But please understand these programs have been funded primarily by Cathy Greenwood, David Stanley, Paul Cudby, and Daunton Todd from the UK. I am so grateful they were willing to bring the programs here to the Philippines.

Campaign video

Fundraising for the projects has finished now, but this video is a great introduction to what we are doing.

The Music Man Project

The Music Man Project is a music education program for children and adults with learning disabilities. The project was founded by David Stanley, an award winning campaigner, teacher, composer, pianist, percussionist, and theatre organist.

For almost 20 years David has been teaching disabled and marginalised people to become valued musicians in society — plus he composes original music for them to perform.

David and his team of professional musicians have run Music Man Programs all over the world so it is thrilling to have him here delivering a one-week program (and concert) to the fishing community of Botongon (Estancia), Philippines.

Though not strictly special needs, the kids of Botongon experience so much hardship every day just getting to school, David and his team were willing to include the whole school of 572 kids and 18 teachers. David and the team will also be helping another 40 disabled and special needs students at the Estancia Central school in the afternoons.

We are incredibly privileged to have a musician and teacher of David’s calibre to run this music program, and share his expertise with kids, students, teachers, parents and other volunteers.

Free Medical Mission

The medical mission in Batad will involve a team of medical consultants, community doctors, nurses, local health care workers, a qualified dentist, plus our paid driver.

While the David, Paul, Daunton and Mel will be delivering the Music Man Project, Cathy will be spending the week co-ordinating the medical mission and then working on the ground delivering consultations to patients.

Free medical services will include:

  • Check-ups – pulse, blood pressure, temperature, blood glucose.
  • Preliminary diagnosis.
  • Critical medication – antibiotics, painkillers, anti-inflammatories.
  • Vaccinations.
  • Other medicines – multi-vitamins, ointments, tropical lotions.
  • Dental checkups and treatment.

Because the medical mission will be run in the next town to Estancia, Botongon residents will be offered free transport so they can take advantage of the free consultations and medical supplies.

Volunteers in their own words

Catherine Greenwood, UK Nurse and Humanitarian Volunteer
Catherine Greenwood, UK Nurse and Program Co-ordinator

Catherine Greenwood, International Nurse and Program Organiser

I started nursing when I was 18 and have been passionate about health care ever since. In my early career I was working within the acute sector, however my real passion for the last 25 years has been in community nursing. During my career I reached the position of Community Modern Matron and was a representative in specialist care both nationally and Internationally .

Completing post-graduate training in Life coaching has been a great influence to every facet of my life and I’m presently working across the UK as a specialist advisor for the Care Quality Commission 

Another of my lifelong passions is music in every genre. During my work I’ve seen very clearly how music affects the body and mind in powerful and positive ways. I’m involved in the music scene locally — that’s how I originally met David Stanley — and I help to run a weekly music club. I’m never happier than when I’m listening to live music, and if I get a chance to dance I will.

Following typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Yolanda) I worked in Estancia, Philippines as a volunteer — both nursing and part of a rebuilding team. This gave me a real insight to how medicine is provided across nations and I was determined to come back at some point and fund a medical mission.

Meeting David Stanley gave me the idea that combined both my passions — music and medicine. For the last 6 months I’ve been fundraising (along with these other amazing people) to bring music, joy, health education, and medical treatment to the people of Estancia.

But no matter what I am doing in my life, I always consider myself primarily as a mum and feel the blessings and joy every day of my four grandchildren.

David Stanley, Founder Music Man Project
David Stanley, Founder and CEO Music Man Project

David Stanley, Founder and CEO Music Man Project

I am a classically trained musician, teacher and composer — and the founder of The Music Man Project. The Music Man Project is an award-winning music education and performance service for people with learning disabilities.

My journey began at a mainstream school when one of my students inspired me to teach music for its own sake to disabled people — rather than as corrective music therapy. I made a promise that one day he would perform at the Royal Albert Hall.

To make his dream a reality I set up a weekly music school for disabled children and adults, devising new teaching strategies and writing songs specifically for my growing number of students to perform. Many years later, I discovered that my teaching was having a life-changing impact on my students so I left my job as a Deputy Head Teacher in a mainstream secondary school to establish ‘The Music Man Project’ as a unique, full-time provision.

Following a letter of encouragement from the UK Prime Minister, I now share my experience and expertise to help other people duplicate my service around the UK — and the rest of the world — for free.

The Music Man Project has reached countries all over the world and I am thrilled to now be sharing the program with the kids from Botongon, Estancia in the Philippines.

Paul Daunton, UK Police Officer and Music Man Volunteer
Paul Cudby, UK Police Officer and regular Music Man Project Volunteer

Paul Cudby, Police Officer and regular Music Man Project Volunteer

I’ve been a police officer since 1993, a detective since 2006 and have been training detective and suspect/witness interviewing courses since 2017. When I stopped working shifts it enabled me to commit to volunteering on a Saturday morning with the Music Man Project, something that my parents had been involved with since 2012.

I quickly discovered a passion to assist those with learning/physical disabilities to enjoy participation in music. I have always been musical – I played keyboards in bands for many years and more recently I’ve been learning guitar. Being able to share my passion for music while assisting the students is a wonderful opportunity, and I was honoured to assist in the planning stages and to be on stage with them at the Albert Hall in April 2019.

My work with the Music Man students also improves my training as I try to take every opportunity to explain some of the idiosyncrasies and communication issues of Autism to my police students.

I’m thrilled and excited to be a part of the Music Man Project trip to the Philippines, and to bring our passion for music to the students of Botongon. I hope to leave a legacy by providing some training and instruments kindly funded by charitable donations, and I sincerely hope that it will uplift those that have experienced such difficulties in their lives.

Daunton Todd, UK Sound Engineer and Humanitarian Volunteer
Daunton Todd, UK Sound Engineer and Humanitarian Volunteer

Daunton Todd, Sound Engineer and Humanitarian Volunteer

I grew up in London in the 60s — an exciting place even then. Our home was almost a media commune as all my family had worked on the stage or in film. I played the violin and like many kids of the time was in a band that enjoyed a modicum of local notoriety.

I was obsessed with modern music as well as classical, blues and jazz. It was my life and obsession really, so it was inevitable that I ended up working in the TV industry.

After a period at the British Council TV training facility on London I moved on to ITN where I spent 20 years as a vision engineer and lighting director at the forefront of national and international news.

At ITN I saw many of the big stories around the world unfold and was able to view footage of world events that was never shown to the public. Being so close to the reality of human and environmental crises I was always thinking of ways to give something back somehow — just giving to charity never seemed quite enough.

I left ITN and became a freelance broadcast engineer and now semi-retired — but in a position to fulfil that dream to give back to the global community. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Music Man Project — initially helping Cathy with the fundraising and now travelling to the Philippines to work alongside David, Paul and Cathy as they deliver music and medicine to the kids of Estancia.

Melinda J. Irvine (and Jerry), Professional Writer and Humanitarian Volunteer

My readers here on the blog know me as a professional writer, blogger and adopted mum to Jerry — the boy I met in 2015 in Botongon, Estancia (Philippines).

Meeting Jerry is without doubt the most significant moment in my life and has completely transformed my lifestyle, career, and entire sense of self.

Because of Jerry I began a freelance writing business in late 2016 — as a way of legally earning money while staying in the Philippines and taking care of him. At the same time he inspired me to support and sponsor other members of his family and the kids living in his village. I’ve been doing this for more than 5 years now.

Now in 2020 I’ve let go of many of the external projects and concentrating on Jerry’s recovery from trauma and legally adopting him. Rather than delivering face-to-face programs (which take me away from Jerry) I’ve built instead an Learning Management System (LMS) into the backend of this website.

The LMS will host a range of online courses (business, writing, and literacy) which I will sell on the website — but all of this content will be available 100% free to the kids, teachers, and parents of Botongon, Estanica. In time, maybe to disadvantaged kids all over the world.

If you are new to my blog you might like to read my post: Donations: where does the money go exactly? which introduces the different projects and sponsorships I’ve run over the last 6 years. Don’t be scared by the word ‘donation’ — the post is definitely NOT  hard-sell or hassle, it just updates my readers on what I am working on.

© 2020 Melinda J. Irvine


2 responses to “Bringing music and medicine to the kids of Botongon (Estancia), Philippines”

  1. Zanita Glenda A. Plaga Avatar
    Zanita Glenda A. Plaga

    Mel (Tita Mel to the kids of Botogon, Estancia, Iloilo, Philippines), you are a real inspiration to many. I am glad to have met you yesterday during the Medical-Optical Mission.

    1. Melinda J. Irvine Avatar

      Lovely to meet you too, when I get back from Australia I will bring Jerry to the clinic. Thanks for reaching out here on the blog. Mel xx