By Michelle Dayrit Soliven

The inimitable Annie Lim Kawpeng of AC HS 1979! She lets nothing get in the way of pursuing her many advocacies!

Her advocacies have taken her on many a wild adventure – building mountain classrooms in Camarines Norte, delivering much needed school supplies to students in Quezon, Aurora, Leyte, and Samar, giving education seminars to teachers in Cavite, Batangas, La Union, Sorsogon – her brave adventurous spirit continues to soar! When calamities strike, she is always at the forefront collecting and distributing relief goods lovingly to the victims.

Annie Lim Kawpeng is always willing to listen and lend a helping hand. She responds to any crisis with compassion and enthusiasm. Conversing with her about her charity work is an animated avalanche of miracle stories! Such is the life of Annie who embodies the words of St. Marie Eugenie’s “ Love never says I’ve done enough.”

Through the years, her batchmates of HS ‘79 have witnessed how well she loves.  Despite experiencing long-term health challenges involving her spine and nerves, she is never one to dwell on her pain. Rather, she joyfully focuses on her mission of helping those in need.

During the lockdown, she fought off pandemic anxieties by baking bread, making frozen yoghurt, raising funds to purchase PPEs, shields, masks, mattresses, feeding hungry soldiers and frontliners, cooking for her family, and praying the rosary every night with her husband Tommy.

The daunting pandemic didn’t stop Annie from successfully pursuing another project, which she says is now closest to her heart: ALPABASA

ALPABASA, which Annie calls her “godchild”, is a highly effective game-based reading program for Filipino kids. Its aim is to make every Filipino child a reader. “We help them learn to read so they can read more to learn,” exclaims Annie.

 Annie’s relationship with ALPABASA started in 2018. She shares how it all began: “Upon meeting the founder and program director Tisha Gonzales Cruz of HS ‘87 who presented the entire program to me, I fell in love with it immediately. I was sold. It was fun, not boring for both teacher and students.

When I was teaching ages ago, we had to think of our own games and techniques on how to teach kids how to read, how to open their mouth properly, and I saw some of the things I used to do in the ALPABASA program,” recalls Annie. But this time, it came with a daily manual, and was scientifically and systematically put together, which included songs, games, writing, etc. from the beginning of the class until the end of the class. This saves time for the teachers to think, prepare and present it in the classroom in the most engaging way,” she says.

She candidly reveals that, “If only there was ALPABASA when I was teaching, I would have had an easier time as a teacher and tutor. At the same time, if there were ALPABASA when I was younger, I wouldn’t have failed my Filipino subject. If ALPABASA can help even children with special needs learn how to read, what more with the others? It brought me to tears to see them read, even just short sentences.”

Since 2018, Annie has worked with fervor on promoting ALPABASA through raising funds to train teachers to teach the ALPABASA way and providing the whole classroom packages of teaching materials. She created a grand scheme to spread it to different schools all over the country. What made her decide to commit to working with ALPABASA? Annie recalls, “A big problem that my group of teacher friends and I observed in the countryside is the inability of students to be fluent readers thus affecting their performance in school. Many children in public or parochial schools drop out by Grade 5 because they do not know how to read properly and cannot understand. So much opportunity is wasted. This affects the families and the community as a whole. There is no progress.” She realized that education is the key for each family to have a better life and become better people for their communities. This reality pushed Annie to work with ALPABASA.

“I continue to raise funds everyday through the support of my generous benefactors, a group called ‘AK and Friends.’ We have successfully sponsored different schools in Manila, Quezon City, and Pasig.”

“For every disaster, a blessing comes,” prayerful Annie shares. “When the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020, we were training nuns and teachers in the Good Shepherd convent. We had to stop. I asked God, ‘How can school stop and kids not learn?’ Immediately, Tisha and her team started digitizing the program. I saw it as a blessing. I was confident that the outcome would be great because the founder and her team did it themselves. Indeed it was.”

Upon Annie’s discernment, when they introduced ALPABASA to San Fernando, Pampanga, it was widely supported by the Department of Education (DepEd) and school heads. It took Annie one year to raise the funds, but she surpassed her goal of 1,000 students and adopted 1,600 students, who gratefully call her ALPABASA Ninang Annie. ALPABASA is now being used in every DepEd public school in San Fernando.

Our loving Father has gifted us with skills and talents to multiply good in the world. Annie prays that more will support ALPABASA to teach children how to read so they can achieve their dreams for a better life.

St. Marie Eugenie said, “Each of us has a mission on earth. Each of us possesses a special grace, a talent to bear fruit in the service of others.” Annie, who firmly believes that “to educate is to transform the world,” has joyfully found her calling as the Godmother of ALPABASA.

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