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Nuns and students maintain, improve a park they restored after homeowners' neglect for 10 years

The Sisters of the Good Samaritan and the recipients of their scholarship program have demonstrated that cooperation, resourcefulness, and determination could make a difference.

For a decade, a park in Bacolod, a city in the central Philippines, had grown tall, thick grass. People had also thrown garbage into it, making it a breeding ground for human and natural waste.

The building in the park, which had served as the homeowners association's office, had become a ruin. It lost its roofs, windows, and doors over the years of neglect. The walls, upon which the vines crept and moss grew, were what remained of the building.

The nuns were worried about the park's possible impacts on community health. The park is near a Church, and the kindergarten school is run by the congregation. So they devised a plan to restore it.

The nuns and the students started cleaning up the park in 2020. They collected the waste, uprooted the grass, and disposed of it properly.

To renovate the old building, they sought financial assistance from different organizations.

Sr. Helen Grace Marcelo, a member of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan said that the renovation completed in April 2023. The Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan Ecological Conversion Committee, and the Association of the Residents of City Heights, Inc. provided the funding, according to Sister Marcelo.

Today, the building hosts formations and other activities. The park has once again become a playground and a place to relax.
According to the agreement with the homeowners, the nuns and their students would maintain the park. In return, they are free to do their activities and improvements, as long as the homeowners consent.

Currently, the nuns and students are building a labyrinth. They're also considering installing a watering system for garden maintenance and a children's playground.  

They have made new gardens in the once-rubbish park.

The agreement between the homeowners association and the nun students would continue to work "as long as we have volunteers," Marcelo said. "This is seen as a long-term venture."

About 55 students have been involved in the park's restoration, according to Desirie Tiberio, a park rehab project coordinator.
Tiberio was a recipient of the congregation's scholarship program, had already graduated from college, and is now working.
The organizers schedule a monthly cleanup to maintain the park. Students and their parents also maintain the park from Monday to Friday.

"Some student volunteers have already graduated and are now working outside the city, so they can no longer join in maintaining the park," Tiberio said. "But they provide the group with other forms of support for its activities."

The students and volunteers have learned some lessons in the process of reviving the neglected park.

"In restoring a park, it is important to practice sustainable approaches," Tiberio said. "This entails adding environmentally friendly elements and creating ecologically conscious maintenance schedules."

The mothers go to the park when the students aren't around to help.

The congregation's outreach center and kindergarten school work together with the entire Sisters of the Good Samaritan community to keep the park in order.

"I came to understand that community involvement is essential to the project's success since it fosters a sense of pride and responsibility among the members and guarantees that the park satisfies the needs of the community," Tiberio said.

The homeowners have also given their share in restoring the park. Some residents donated plants and recyclable materials.

Bacolod, a coastal city, is part of Negros Occidental Province. The province is renowned as the country's sugar bowl.

As long as the congregation has students in their scholarship program, the park will have a free workforce to keep it clean.

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