Generation HOPE–Vita Coco: Building schools one classroom at a time
Vita Coco, one of the world’s leading coconut water brands, and Hope, the group behind the “Hope In A Bottle” brand finished building six new classrooms in a poor district in General Santos City, Mindanao, providing a modern school for hundreds of youths who otherwise would not have had a shot at a proper education.
The classrooms built by HOPE and Vita Coco, under the education department’s “Adopt A School” program, are now being used by 508 students in Grades 7 to 9.The original plan was to build just two classrooms, but upon seeing the scale of the problem they quickly decided to build four more.
“Vita Coco wouldn’t exist without the support of coconut farmers and their families, we are proud to partner with HOPE in creating a meaningful impact on the communities we source from”, said Vita Coco’s Global brand manager, Patrick Baskin.
The new classrooms sit on a property in Lagao district, one of General Santos City’s poorest. Lagao only has one public school, built two years ago: the General Santos City National Secondary School for the Arts and Trade (GSCNSSAT). The school currently has over 3,000 students packed in 41 classrooms and most of the students are children of farm hands and construction workers. Before HOPE and Vita Coco stepped in, classes were instructed beneath trees or in a shed. The six new classrooms currently serve as an extension unit of the main school.
Bienvenido Ruedas, the school’s principal, said the new classrooms will eventually be spun off into a new school, the Lagao Comprehensive National High School. “GSCNSSAT is primarily a technical-vocational school. The new school will accommodate students who are not technically inclined,” he said. Ruedas said Lagao would need at least four more classrooms to reach the ideal ratio of 45 to 60 students per classroom.
Ruedas also said there has been a bump in the number of enrollees since the classrooms were built. “We’ve had to turn away many late enrollees this year,” he said, adding that the situation is unlikely to improve, as students nowin Grade 9 move on to Grade 10.
“We expect nearly 200 more students next year, and 200 more every year as students progress to Grades 11 and 12,” he said. “We are very grateful we have groups like Hope and Vita Coco who are helping us augment our resources, as honestly the government does not have enough to build classrooms fast enough for youths coming to the public school system each year,” said Ruedas. He said the Hope-Vita Coco school project has become a model of private-public sector partnership towards addressing the nation’s pressing problems.
“Through our partnership with HOPE, we are committed to helping coconut farmers improve their yields and practices to make more money and invest in their communities to build schools and provide scholarships so their children can get a strong education,” said Baskin.
Students going to the new classrooms are now wearing uniforms in Hope’s blue and white hues as a show of gratitude for everything that Hope has done. Built at around P500,000 per unit, each classroom is 63 square meters wide and 4 meters high, each with its own toilet.