Who Are the Bajao?
The Bajao people of the Philippines are the lowest class of “untouchables” who do not have birth certificates, are illiterate and are not allowed to go to school. They were considered unable to be educated and were not allowed to become Philippine citizens. Living in extreme poverty in stilted bamboo huts over raw sewage, they are scorned by Filipinos, spat upon, not allowed on public transportation, nor allowed to enter public buildings. They earn their living fishing, begging, or selling pearls to tourists. The name Bajao translates to “vomitus”.
Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
In 2002 Patrick Bailey, a hospital CEO, and his wife Shari, an RN, left their jobs and moved to the Philippines to follow God’s calling to work with the Bajao. They soon realized that although their medical outreaches and daily medical clinics in their villages were saving lives, the only way to break their cycle of extreme poverty was to educate them.
School: The Bailey’s built a one-room school in the village over the raw sewage, sent a newly graduated Filipina elementary teacher. She learned how to teach tribal children, and opened the first-ever kindergarten for Bajao. It took months for the children to learn to sit in chairs (their huts have no furniture), hold a pencil and write on paper, and learn how to use a toilet (a hole in the floor over sewer water is a bathroom in a Bajao hut).
Clothing and Bathing: The children were given clothes as most of them had no clothes until they reached about the age of 8. They were taught to wash their hands and clean their nails. The parents were taught to bathe the children and pick the lice out of their hair every morning before school.
Birth Certificates Lead to Public Schooling: A birth certificate was secured for them during students’ early education along with a school uniform, which enabled children to enroll in the public schools after two years in our educational program.
As a result of the birth certificates, more than 1200 children became Philippine citizens.