Strengthening ties with the poor in the Philippines

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The nonprofit Philippine Improvement Group hosted a service project this Saturday, tying blankets for destitute and orphaned children from the Philippines.

The mission of the group, founded in 2009, is to “Lead the way to improvement by teaching, healing and increasing the stability of the Philippines.”

As a missionary, founder Ryan Ogden saw firsthand the needs of the poor in the Philippines. “When I was serving my mission there I saw the amount of poverty, and I was in so many situations with people that were poverty-stricken that I was like ‘I’ve got to come back and help,'” he said.

Ogden said he and co-founder Keith Bradford had served together as companions in the Philippines during a mission for the LDS Church and decided they wanted to return to the islands to do service work. After the positive reactions and willingness of friends and family to help, the Philippine Improvement Group was created as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Ogden has led the group in multiple service projects and trips to the Philippines over the past three years, conducting an array of service projects. This particular event was focused on tying blankets for children in orphanages and the Mabuhay Deseret Foundation’s hospice houses.

“They love them,” Ogden said. “They live in a dark, cold, cement hospital for sometimes up to a year, and so, to have a bright, colorful, cuddly blanket — they love that.”

Ogden said the hospitals and orphanages aren’t very homey for the children, so these blankets mean so much to them, and they finally have something that’s their own that they can keep forever.

Brittany Moulton, a UVU student from Orem and a volunteer for the group since January, said the country is more third-world than people realize.

“Ryan has this picture that gets me every time of this little kid (lying) on a piece of cardboard on the side of the road, and that’s where he lived,” Moulton said.

With stories like this, it’s not hard to see why something so simple as a blanket would be so exciting.

The group has also conducted hygiene and education summits to teach Filipinos the importance of going to (and finishing) school.

Emily Anderson, a culinary arts student at UVU and volunteer for the group, said many children don’t have an opportunity to attend school for long because they are needed by the family to help earn an income. It’s a rewarding feeling, though,  to help them see the many opportunities that come from getting an education.

“The best part is seeing the smiles on their faces or the excitement they get when you talk about school and tell them that they do have opportunities and just give them hope for the future,” Anderson said.

Hope for the future is exactly what members of the Philippine Improvement Group have. Ryan Ogden said he hopes the organization will grow in local, and even international, reputation as well as gain more consistent funding to allow the group to undertake more frequent and effective projects.

In the meantime, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities at the group’s monthly local service projects. Newcomers are sure to be rewarded with a feeling of humility and happiness.

“I think it’s great,” first-time volunteer McKenzie Davenport said. “It really doesn’t take much of your time, and you can really make a difference in someone’s life.”

For those wondering how they can help, information on future projects and donation opportunities are available on the organization’s website, philippineimprovement.org, or on its Facebook page.

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