The Sisters of Mary are no strangers to the idea of implanting a “bubble” to combat the pandemic brought about by COVID-19.
In fact, they are among the first ones to implement it in an area now covered by the National Capital Region Plus bubble, which the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) created during an onslaught of fresh cases of infection attributed to a more potent variant.
The Sisters of Mary School (SMS) implemented it as early as November of 2020 with a strict “no entry, no exit” policy.
Sister Mylene Arambulo told INQUIRER.net that their “bubble” resulted in zero-COVID in their community in Alfonso, Cavite.
This boarding school in Cavite has been living in the bubble since the first enhanced community quarantine, or ECQ, in 2020.
“We are proudly COVID free!” Sister Mylene declared.
The SMS in Cavite is home to 1,635 boys and 2,268 girls plus faculty and auxiliary staff. Sister Mylene is head of the Sisters of Mary Boy’s Town and a member of its board of directors.
“That is actually our target goal and we were able to achieve it by strictly remaining in the bubble,” she said.
Going in a bubble early on allowed the SMS to eventually transition and conduct face-to-face classes.
The face-to-face classes were allowed in coordination with the Department of Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), according to Sister Mylene.
“We submitted a learning contingency plan and that included all aspects in our daily operation. Primordial is the readiness of our faculty,” Sister Mylene explained, adding that what they did at the beginning was to contact all the faculty members who were single and willing to work and live inside the compound.
The same is true with their support staff. Even the support group outside the SMS bubble cooperated, Sister Mylene said.
“The food supply for our kitchen was delivered regularly and up to the main gate only,” she said.
The mental health of the students was among the main considerations in implementing the bubble.
“They need the normalcy of a classroom interaction. The students feel bored and really needed activity performance tasks like gardening,” Sister Mylene said.
At the height of the pandemic, the students were able to sew 1,000 sets of non-medical grade personal protective equipment as part of their activity performance tasks.
“The boys and girls were trained by TESDA on sewing the PPEs in partnership with local designers,” she said.
This shows that, while inside the bubble, the students and sisters alike did not forget the pandemic outside their doorstep.
The SMS was established in 1985 and offers quality free high school education to poor but deserving boys and girls. The boarding school also provides free food, clothing, shelter, and medical and dental services.
SMS also offers free vocational courses to their students like automotive servicing, shielded metal arc welding, bookkeeping, dressmaking, bread and pastry production, and technical drafting, to name a few.
The SMS in Cavite belongs to a multinational institution dedicated to uplifting underprivileged but bright children.
The SMS is supported by the Fr. Al’s Children Foundation Inc. or FACFI.
Charlie Rufino, chairman of the FACFI, told INQUIRER.net that their regular fundraising activities were halted because of the pandemic, but they were able to mobilize donations from the private sector to sustain the bubble imposed in the compound in Alfonso, Cavite.
“Our work is really to gather funds for the children of SMS. It was a challenge to do so at the time of the pandemic, but we were able to continue doing our part with the help of some donor companies like Birch Tree, UNILEVER, and SM Foundation,” Rufino said.
FACFI accepts donations for the children of SMS. Details on how to donate are found on their website, www.facfi.org.ph.
The two-week NCR Plus bubble under ECQ a continuation as far as the SMS in Cavite is concerned.
The Silang campus was practically snd perfectly predisposed as a model bubble.
“The bubble is a success. We are still COVID-free,” Sister Mylene affirms with certainty.
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