Don’t let the laid-back wardrobe and attitude fool you. Johannes Leib, a social work student and a member of the JusticeF Board of Trustees, is a person brimming with passion, energy, and ideas on how to improve the community. We met up with him and learned more about his background and current work in Cebu, Philippines.
How did you end up in Cebu?
I never had the Philippines on my personal travel map. In 2012, while I was still studying social work back in Germany, we had to do a practical volunteering semester, which is part of the curriculum for getting your bachelor’s degree. And at our university in Germany, you can do this internship program either in India or in the Philippines. Or you just do it somewhere in Germany. So why did I go to the Philippines? First of all, I was thinking, “Wow, if you had the chance to go out of the country for six months and it still counts to your studies, then you’re really foolish if you don’t do it.” And then the other thing is once you decide you’re going out, you have to do a course the semester before. And they make it on the example of India and of the Philippines because this is where the partner universities are, which was, in this case, the University of San Carlos.
Have you always been involved in charity or volunteer work?
I’m very lucky with my parents. First of all, I grew up in a really stable and child-friendly environment. But on the other side, my parents had friends who were in Russia, so we went to Russia. I was confronted with poverty when I was quite young. I also realized how blessed I actually am. You look at it as a child differently, but the bottom line is the same thing – you realize there are people who are doing good, and there are people who are not doing good. For example, when I was still in high school, I started to collect during the Christmas time toys from all the other different high school levels. I collected the toys three weeks before Christmas and I gave all of them to the refugee center in our area. Once you know our history and you see those neo-Nazis, like skinheads, who believe those things… And I was always, of course, on the opposite side. So I organized toys for those kids and gave them to the center. I organized evenings where we just gave out information about what those neo-Nazis are doing. Or I invited someone who is writing poems who was HIV infected. And I did this already when I was 14, 15, 16, 17. So, I was always part of this left-wing movement in Germany. And somehowended up like this. It’s not that I asked for it. It just happened.
Do you think a big part of who you are now is a result of your parents? Did they talk to you about these things?
No, no, no. But I was lucky to see a few places in the world even when I was young. And my parents educated me [to be] open-minded and to question things, such as, don’t believe everything that people tell you. Find it out on your own. In the end, it’s different things make you the person who you are, and it starts with your educational background, with your parents, with the peer groups, with the people you hang out with. This whole mixture is the reason why I’m doing this. I also have my good days and my bad days. I’m also once in a while selfish, but still at the end of the day, I can look and know that not everything I do is totally wrong.
Tell us about the current or previous projects in which you’re involved?
Right now, we are rebuilding the school in Balamban. We have our regular projects that are the step-by-step program, which is the scholarship program; we have the housing project. And then everything that I do on the side. The bikes for example were one project. We distributed water filters this year. Right now I’m trying to get the funds together for the playground. We are designing a playground for the kids [in the JusticeF community in Cordova] because we want to get the preschool officially recognized. One of the requirements by the DSWD is that you have a playground. Joining the “Let’s Do It” campaign, and mobilizing the outdoor community.
As previously mentioned, one project that Johannes is currently involved in is rebuilding the preschool in Balamban, Cebu. The school is called Horizons Preschool (link: https://www.facebook.com/horizonspreschoolcebu), and it is going to be in a geodesic dome structure. The project, which is spearheaded by JusticeF, is done in cooperation with Bamboo Horizons, Habagat, T.W.O., Driftwood Local Enterprise, Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines, Inc. (MFPI), and Cebu Outdoor Adventure Team (C.O.A.T.).
How was the Horizons Preschool project conceptualized?
(from Horizon Preschool’s Facebook page) Last December 28, 2013, we held a feeding and gift-giving program in Sitio Agup, Barangay Gaas, Balamban, Cebu, an estimated 1-hr hike on the slippery trails from the Transcentral Highway. It was also the same day that we found out that the makeshift pre-school in Sitio Agup, which, at the same time, also acted as their chapel, became one of the victims of Yolanda. This pre-school caters to 20 children aged 3-5 years old who are attending their nursery and kindergarten classes. With this, we have seen and realized the need to help Sitio Agup and the children from their pre-school. We want to help them rebuild their school and provide necessary educational materials to the children and their teachers.
What is the budget for the project?
The minimum budget is Php300, 000. That already includes the floor, cover, and door.
Where did you get the funds for the project?
It’s about the network and private effort.
What are your plans to equip the teachers of the preschool with teaching and classroom management knowledge and skills?
We brought the teachers from Sitio Agup to the JusticeF community in Cordova for two weeks to learn from our teacher.
What are the roles of your partners in the project?
JusticeF is funding the construction. Rob from Bamboo Horizons takes care of the engineering side of the project. MFPI is represented through Ramon Vidal, who is the owner of T.W.O., who is also a friend of mine. Scarlet from the mountaineering club is doing the whole documentation of the financial process. Scarlet is the secretary of MFPI and the former president last year of the Cebu Outdoor Adventure Team (C.O.A.T.). They were the ones who identified the area. Once I’m a member of the C.OA.T. Club, I just decided in the name of JusticeF we’re going to help those kids. So this is how the cooperation started. T.W.O. is providing the shoes. Habagat is providing the bags. And Driftwood Local Ent., the hammock company, is doing the school uniform. Those kids are pretty much set up with the coolest outdoor brands in the Philippines.
Do you plan to build more geodesic dome preschools?
We just have the funds for one, but we have different ideas. Right now we are working on an emergency kit. So the idea is like, you have a set out of just 160 pieces for a dome, which would be like 6 meters in diameter. So imagine you get, like, a kit with all the wood inside, the cover, the tools, and the explanation for the color coding system. So what we’re trying right now to develop is…. You know there’s a typhoon brewing up in the Pacific again. In 5 days it’s supposed to hit. You pull out those domes, you set them up next to the evacuation center. Once the evacuation center is not enough, the people have already a place where they can stay during the calamity. And after the calamity, you can already turn this into a permanent housing, or into a clinic, or into, like, just a drop-off center. Because everything else is destroyed, you can use it as a storage room. So instead of just, like, setting up a tent and giving them shelter after the calamity, you already give them shelter before the calamity, plus with the option to turn this into whatever you want to do. So imagine like an LGU invest like in 10 of those kits. You could accommodate… let’s say like 20 people could sleep easily in Filipino size in one dome. So you have 10 of those kits that could be already accommodate and let 200 people stay safe during the calamity. And then once the calamity is over, like out of those 200 people, already 6 families lose totally their house, you just give them the shelter and you just have to do the concrete pouring and they already have the dome. So you make a before and after calamity concept as emergency shelter kit. And we are right now trying to sell this. And we are right now trying to contact different organizations if they like our idea. That’s the plan right now. So hopefully we can build more geodesic domes.