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Press Release  
GRASSROOTS SOLIDARITY from Concerned Custodians of  North Van School District 44 

By E. Maestro (Migrante-BC)
Photos: Joven Ferma

North Vancouver-Canada
July 28, 2012

North Vancouver— The custodians of North Vancouver School District 44 showed that they were not only good  in what they did during their day jobs, but they were also great in hosting a fundraising event that  was fun, certainly relevant and undoubtedly will make a difference for public schools in the Philippines. The dinner dance last July 7th at the St. Pius X hall in North Vancouver, billed as the “Making a Difference” Dinner Dance, is the second project of the school custodians, the proceeds of which will be donated to benefit the community outreach projects of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in the Philippines.
Organising committee

In 2009, the custodians of District 44 organized themselves into the Association of Concerned School Custodians (ACSC) after meeting with Antonio Tinio, then the Chair of ACT-Philippines, who was in Vancouver as part of the Global Justice Project of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). This meeting also resulted in the wonderful initiative called “Books to Go” where with the approval of their schools, the custodians collected the discarded, but still usable, school textbooks, packed them into cardboard boxes, and loaded them onto a shipping container destined for the Philippines. The custodians raised the shipment money for the “Books to Go” from a similar fundraising dinner-dance.  
Maita Santiago speaking for MLA Mable Elmore

At least 145 boxes of 6,744 books were systematically distributed by ACT-Philippines to 54 public elementary, high school and vocational schools in the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Pangasinan, Quezon, and Antipolo. As the largest non-traditional, progressive organization of Filipino teachers and education workers, ACT made sure that the books directly went to these public schools.  Not all these schools have school libraries; for the most part, the schools would have “book corners” which are small collections of books inside the classrooms. For ACT-Phils., the books that were distributed “symbolized the unity across the globe of workers in the education sector who cares about the future of our children.” 
Wives and custodians

In 2011, the ACSC met up with France Castro, Secretary General of ACT-Philippines during the second phase of the CUPE’s Global Justice Project, and gave a first-hand account of  how the book distribution went in the Philippines. The commitment to support ACT’s community outreach projects was firmed up and the relationship between the two groups was further strengthened and solidified.

Leo Alejandria of ACSC  in his opening speech at the dinner dance  described the community outreach of ACT: “What they do is go to poor farming and fishing communities to better understand the lives of the families of the school children and distribute books, clothing, school bags and supplies. “ He had also arranged a PowerPoint report back of ACT on the book distribution during the dinner.
 Smiles !!

Kathy McMahon, First Vice President of CUPE Local 389, was the special speaker at the dinner dance. She praised the “excellent execution of a very meaningful and valuable event with the spirit of the very principles CUPE members strive for in international solidarity and in keeping strong communities worldwide.” She continued that local 389 was very proud that the Association of School Custodians all came from CUPE local 389, acknowledged the good work they did with much generosity of time and effort. There is strong support from the local 389 for the work of the ACSC and McMahon promised to “continue to dialogue with Leo Alejandria and his committee to expand with the coalitions of unions on the North Shore in future.”
Kathy McMahon

Constituency Assistant Maita Santiago spoke on behalf of Mable Elmore, MLA for Vancouver Kensington and congratulated the school custodians on their good work. Craig Keating, Council Member of the City of North Vancouver and NDP candidate for MLA in Lonsdale also came to give his solidarity message and  meet the custodians and their families.
Craig Keating,North Van City Council

The dinner-dance was very well attended with custodians and their families, friends and supporters. The Filipino buffet dinner was great. Entertainment was provided by dances fromKulturang Pilipino, songs from the children of the custodians: Christian Cabanting, Marcelyn Bacomo, and Aubrem Galura.  emcees Rene Tan, Leila Galura and Leo Alejandria kept the program in good pace. Several won raffle prizes and one lucky member got the 50/50 winnings. The Georgia Straight, Pablo Painting and Drywall and Glamour Eyes Optical generously donated raffle prizes for the dinner-dance. With the dinner over, the lights were dimmed and the couples went on the dance floor with their tangos, line dancing and ballroom sways with music provided by Allidarbil DJ & Karaoke Services.
Line dancing

The Organizing Committee of the Association of Concerned School Custodians provided that "sparkle to our little piece of the world,” according to CUPE local 389 VP Kathy McMahon, “with their renewed energy during this event, thanks to ACSC.”  Congratulations to custodians Rey Tan, Leo Alejandria, Joven Ferma, Rodolfo Galura, Nelson Hernandez, Resty Brotonel and Luis Libradilla for making possible this grassroots solidarity between education workers and teachers in Canada and the Philippines. (By: E. Maestro. Photos by Joven Ferma)###

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