This year's Christmas celebration for a Filipino domestic help's family will be extra special thanks to a Dubai-based Filipino group.
Jaymar Santillan, son of a Filipino domestic help in the Philippines, has just been selected for a scholarship grant from the University of the Philippines Alumni Association chapter based in the UAE (UPAA-UAE).
"I'm very happy that I have been chosen as their new scholar," Santillan, 16, a freshman accountancy student at the University of the Philippines (UP) Visayas campus, told Gulf News in a phone interview from the Philippines.
I consider this as an early Christmas gift, a once-in-a-lifetime chance that I have to grab. And so I am very thankful [to the UPAA-UAE]," the new scholar added. Santillan's father died when he was 11 years old. His mother, who works part-time as a helper, is the family's sole breadwinner with an annual gross income of 18,000 pesos (Dh1,500).
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"I plan to tell my mother about the scholarship grant on Christmas Eve. It's going to be a big surprise gift for her and for the family as well," Santillan, who was also a scholar in his high school years, said.
Only UP students whose family's annual income is 250,000 pesos (Dh21,000) and below may be considered to receive the scholarship grant. It is the alumni group's way of giving back to their alma mater and to the community.
"UPAA-UAE's scholarship grant, known within our association as the ‘Adopt-A-Scholar' programme, aims to benefit economically-underprivileged students," Lucy Suerte, UPAA-UAE's education committee chairperson, said.
A state-run university, UP implements a "socialised" tuition fee scheme. The Philippine government subsidises tuition fees for all UP students in varying amounts depending on the student's family/household income, hence the monicker Iskolar ng Bayan (The Country's Scholars). Students whose family belongs to the lowest income bracket enjoy full subsidy and school fees are waived.
And since Santillan's schools fees had already been waived, UPAA-UAE's "grant amount is then provided to the scholar in the form of book subsidy and monthly cost-of-living allowance or stipend".
To make the programme sustainable, UPAA-UAE also signed a Memorandum of Agreement with UP for the establishment of an Endowment Fund that will serve as a permanent source of funds for the alumni group's succeeding scholars. The organisation turned over the first tranche of 500,000 pesos (Dh42,545) to the UP Foundation which represents the initial installment towards the build-up of the Endowment Fund.