The One Candle Schoolhouse

May, 2004

Bill and Diane Pool (see photo #1, at left) built their sailboat, Pilar, in California and set off across the Pacific in 1991. They arrived in Port Bonbonon in 2000, and are still here. Like many others, they fell in love with this charming place and stayed.

The school started in April, 2002 when six-year old Nenio was trying to read an English language children's book called The Little Penguin's Adventure. Diane offered to help him read it if he would help her learn Visayan, the language of Negros Oriental. Immediately, other children joined the group, and the school was born. (The students range in age from 5 to 20.) Diane and the children translated the book into Visayan, and then began writing their own stories. Diane rented a small cottage for their school, then moved to a new location a year ago.

Although Diane's time and resources are limited, she is obviously making a difference in the lives of the children who attend her school. She operates on the principal that it is better to "light one candle ...", so she calls their school the "One Candle Schoolhouse". This translates into Visayan as Kusug sa Siga — the power of lighting a candle.

Today, Diane is expanding the schoolhouse to accomodate the increasing numbers of children who attend (see photo #2, at left). While the construction work continues, she has arranged to use an unoccupied house high on a hill overlooking Port Bonbonon (Tambobo Bay). It is a long way up a rather steep staircase, but the children run up the hill as if it were flat. Diane hopes to have the school expansion completed soon so that she can move back into her permanent quarters before the rainy season begins in June.

While we were in California last year, Jim and his sister Lois contacted MacNexus, the Macintosh Users Group in Sacramento, hoping to find some computers for Diane and her kids. They talked to John Fraser, who distributes used computers that are donated by MacNexus members. He was kind enough to find 2 fairly new iMacs for us. John checked them over, installed appropriate software, replaced batteries, etc. It then took several months for shipment to the Philippines, but the computers have arrived, and the kids are using them now. They (and Diane) are very thankful for the wonderful gift they received from the kind folks at MacNexus.

Some of the boys helped to carry the new computers up the hill to the temporary school where Jim set them up. Sandy was there to help out that morning, and they quickly had both computers in operation (photo #3). The children have begun exploring the many educational and creative programs that John (and Jim) installed on the computers. They started with Kidpix, a perennial favorite.

Diane and the kids wanted to say thank you to John Fraser and the others at MacNexus, so Jim made a short Quicktime video of them. Here is a small video file (512k) and an even smaller video file (156k). (Choose the one that suits your connection speed.)

Diane has created a wonderful learning environment for the kids. They have a great deal of freedom to be creative, with Diane's guidance and supervision. She also provides food for snacks and a lunch. Here are some of the girls preparing the morning snack of juice and cookies (photo #4). The kids also cook a hot lunch each day.

We have helped Diane at the school a few times, and had a wonderful time with the kids. They are very bright and are always enthusiastic about learning new things. They are also very good at Scrabble (in English) and love to play. They even let Jim win once!

— 2006 Update

Diane has come up with some really neat ways to keep the kids interested. They go on field trips (photo #5) into Dumaguete. And they create fun art projects. On the field trip in the photo, they are all wearing personal, one-of-a-kind, t-shirts that they each designed. And, they make greeting cards and jewelry that are sold in stores in Dumaguete. (Jim is also selling a few of the greeting cards in the US.)

The school construction was completed some time ago, and the finished school looks great. The kids have a lot more room to work, and enough separate spaces to allow for multiple activities to happen without interference. Yachties who pass through the harbor continue to contribute their time and skills to help out at the school. Some teach classes or help students with their projects. Others donate materials. Everyone goes away with a good feeling.

— return to the 2004 Journal Archive.