BY FIEL ESTRELLA
PHOTOGRAPHS BY NIKKI BONUEL
When she was 15, Alexandra Madrigal Eduque had been volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and saw how a home could change the way families live.
Now in her late 20s, she remains an ambassador for the organization as well as a board member of the Philippine Eagle Foundation in an effort to help conserve the national symbol—but Eduque’s primary focus is spearheading the educational nonprofit MovEd, which she had founded straight out of college.
As a junior at Columbia University, where she took urban studies and political science, Eduque was searching for a thesis topic that would benefit Filipinos and be a worthy use of her time. “I wanted something that [would have] a long and lasting impact,” she says. “Not just something that, after 400 hours [of work], I would shelve on the side.” She realized that the lack of access to early childhood education, not to mention awareness on its importance especially in less fortunate communities, was a cause she could get behind. The final result was MovEd, which seeks to provide children a safe and open space to develop their talents and potential through numerous development programs.
The Edition sat down with Eduque in her MovEd office to talk about improving Filipino education, what she’s learned through her advocacy, and why this particular cause stood out for her.
Why did you choose early childhood education as a driving force for MovEd?
I’ve been blessed all my life with the best education possible, and [in school] I also did units on educational psychology. Research has shown that at ages 3 to 5 is when a child’s cognition and development are most rapid, and it’s a pity that not only in the philippines but also in a lot of developing countries around the world, at that age children are made to often engage in livelihood with their parents instead because no one realizes the importance of education. They think it’s just play school, and so it’s a waste of time and a waste of opportunity, when in reality it’s actually an important foundation informing their moral compass and values.
What changes have you noticed in the children that you work with through the foundation?
We’ve definitely seen an improvement in the sense that since we started MovEd five years ago, all the children who have graduated from our program have actually stayed in school. We try to follow where they are after. Second, we’ve seen that a lot of them have actually stayed at the top of the class. They’ve actually been achievers academically. They’re socially advanced, they can relate to others, and they’re not shy. There’s a sense of confidence and heightened self-esteem, which is what we really want to instill.
“Don’t underestimate the importance of education, because a lot of loopholes that we see not only in the system but also in what’s being done and implemented is a byproduct of the lack of education.”
What important lessons have you learned since you founded MovEd?
I’ve learned that the vision is not enough. Your desire to help out is not enough. It’s not actually as easy to make a vision come to life. It’s not actually as easy to help out sustainably, productively, and efficiently than you think it is. It’s not just about giving money. It’s a lot about making ends meet and a lot of it is really bureaucratic. There’s a lot of compromise, and it’s a lot about working with reality. You may have a vision, but you have to always adjust it to what’s out there. You can’t always be so stubborn and so fixed about things—it has to somehow go with the flow. You have to figure it out while figuring yourself out, also. So there’s a lot of tweaking and a lot of fine-tuning. Beyond education, my greatest advocacy is to give others a worthwhile platform to help out, an equal opportunity to help out. They know that if they help out through MovEd, 100 percent of their efforts and their money will be going somewhere, channeled through a worthwhile platform. Also a platform where they never feel that what they’re able to give or to spare is too small. Everything is substantial.
How do you think we can improve local education?
I think it really all begins with mindset. For as long as people become more open-minded and more liberal about what is being offered. People have to be liberal enough to go with the times and have to adjust to the 21st century. I’m a stickler for habit, and I’m really a stickler for old rules, but there are times that you have to see past that. Your values should stay the same, but it’s also a lot about enlightenment and being open-minded and adjusting and going with the times. But at the same time, don’t underestimate the importance of education, because a lot of loopholes that we see not only in the system but also in what’s being done and implemented, is a byproduct of the lack of education.
What advice can you give to ordinary people who want to give back and contribute to charity?
You have to find a cause that resonates with you. You have to find a cause you can identify with, something that you feel passionate about. Just because a cause resonates with a friend, it doesn’t always mean that you have to believe in the same thing. And when you find that cause, you always find a way that you’re able to help out sustainably and efficiently. It’s better to be able to consistently be able to support a cause rather than [giving to it once] just to get it over with. Support doesn’t always come in terms of being able to fund something monetarily, it’s also about time, it’s also about effort, and it’s also really about what you’re able to lend to the advocacy.