The Community Extension Services Center envisions to emerge as a leading center in the formation of enlightened, healthy, just and peaceful communities free from hunger, poverty and all forms of exploitation.
Its mission is to work with people whose lives are dominated by poverty, illiteracy, diseases, and other disadvantages. With a holistic and developmental approach, it strives to bring about positive changes in the quality of life of these people. It also chooses to work with sectors where the expertise of the institution is needed to bridge development in greater communities.
In the attainment of its vision, the Lingkod Maria Community Development and Advocacy Center aims to:
- Relentlessly pursue excellence in community extension services for local and global relevance and responsiveness;
- Persistently challenge every Marian to explore and pursue relevant, innovative and breakthrough ideas on community development and services through research and development undertakings;
- Steadfastly participate in the CICM advocacies of promoting multi-ethnicity, social justice, peace, and integrity of God’s creation and in contributing to the attainment of sustainable development goal;
- Conscientiously strengthen good governance and concordance among stakeholders for the sustenance of best practices in community extension and outreach activities;
- Joyfully animate and care for one another – especially the least, the last and the lost as a community inspired by Mother Mary to become faithful witnesses of Christ’s mission;
- Enhance community capacities to lead in socio-cultural awareness, advocacy, education and training and other issues that concern target extension communities; and
- Forge external linkages and intra-unit partnerships for the promotion and empowerment of needy and marginalized sectors of society.
In August of 2019, the merging of the Indigenous Knowledge and Tradition (IKAT) Center and the Community Extension and Services Center (CESC) eventually established the so called “Lingkod Maria Community Development and Advocacy Center. This was primarily done to consolidate all community extension services in Saint Mary’s University. Lingkod Maria highlights the brand identity of Saint Mary’s University under the patronage of the Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae (CICM) and the term “advocacy” somehow embraces SMU’s apostolate for the indigenous peoples – one of the priority concerns of the said Congregation.
The major task of the Lingkod Maria Center is to develop, facilitate, implement and manage the community development and advocacy programs of the Institution in fulfillment of its commitment to transform the lives of people – especially the last, the least and the lost through empowerment activities that help them create sustainable communities imbued with Christian values.
Thus, emanating from the University’s vision of forming persons exemplifying passion for Christ’s mission, the mission of the Center is to provide enabling experiences for its faculty, students and other stakeholders to develop their missionary spirit and demonstrate the passion to transform people – whose lives are dominated by poverty, illiteracy, diseases, unemployment and other forms of disadvantages. When this enabling environment is maximized, the institution believes that it could form Marians who will become catalysts to and facilitators of community development.
The merging transpired with the solidification of the Vice President for Mission and Identity (VPMI) in CICM Philippine educational institutions which articulates the desire to come as one body, as one congregation. It underscores the need to surface in all the activities of CICM institutions the very reason for its existence. In the context of education, it seeks to unify all educational program, plans, projects and activities bringing to the fore the CICM flavor in every CICM Higher Educational Institutions. Saint Mary’s University through the Lingkod Maria Community Development and Advocacy Center situates Marian teachers and students to come as one body to participate in the mission to extend assistance to needy sectors of society.
The LMCDAC is directly under the supervision of the Vice President for Mission and Identity. The VPMI ensures the promotion in living out the CICM Catholic Identity and missionary spirituality in the various communities that SMU serves. The LMCDAC serves as the clearing house of all outreach and community extension services of the six major schools and their flagship programs in the university namely: School of Accountancy and Business (PABookaS and Entrep sa Barangay); School of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology (Tulungan sa Teknolohiya); School of Health and Natural Sciences (Jesus Mobile Clinic); School of Teacher Education and the Humanities (Nanumo nga Pagadalan); School of Graduate Studies ( The GIFTED Program); and the College of Law (Peace, Justice and Human Rights Program). The apostolate for the indigenous peoples are interwoven in these outreach and extension flagship programs of the university.
Rationale for Community Outreach and Extension Services: Situating the Center
Today’s changing signs of the times in the world necessitate renewed partnerships, stronger connections and collaborations between and among countries, communities, agencies or groups, private and non-governmental organizations – particularly in addressing the challenges of humanity or in realizing the sustainable development goals. Reflecting on the various SDGs relative to being a higher education institution, Saint Mary’s University through the LMCDAC as its extension arm, identifies several SDGs that it can address through receptivity, collaboration and teamwork:
SDG Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere. Extreme poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 1990. While this is a remarkable achievement, one in five people in developing regions still live on less than $1.25 (63 pesos) a day, and there are millions more who make little more than this daily amount, plus many people risk slipping back into poverty. Poverty is more than the lack of income and resources to ensure a sustainable livelihood. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making. Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality.
SDG Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. It is time to rethink how we grow, share and consume our food. If done right, agriculture, forestry and fisheries can provide nutritious food for all and generate decent incomes, while supporting people-centered rural development and protecting the environment. Right now, our soils, freshwater, oceans, forests and biodiversity are being rapidly degraded. Climate change is putting even more pressure on the resources we depend on, increasing risks associated with disasters such as droughts and floods. Many rural women and men can no longer make ends meet on their land, forcing them to migrate to cities in search of opportunities. Asia is the continent with the hungriest people – two thirds of the total. The percentage in southern Asia has fallen in recent years but in western Asia it has increased slightly. Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45 percent) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year. One in four of the world’s children suffer stunted growth. In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three.
SDG Goal 3: Health and Well-being (Ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages). Major progress has been made in improving the health of millions of people, increasing life expectancy, reducing maternal and child mortality and fighting against leading communicable diseases. However, progress has stalled or is not happening fast enough with regard to addressing major diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, while at least half the global population does not have access to essential health services and many of those who do suffer undue financial hardship, potentially pushing them into extreme poverty. Concerted efforts are required to achieve universal health coverage and sustainable financing for health, to address the growing burden of non-communicable diseases, including mental health, and to tackle antimicrobial resistance and determinants of health such as air pollution and inadequate water and sanitation;
SDG Goal 4: Quality Education (Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all). Despite the considerable progress on education access and participation over the past years, 262 million children and youth aged 6 to 17 were still out of school in 2017, and more than half of children and adolescents are not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics. Rapid technological changes present opportunities and challenges, but the learning environment, the capacities of teachers and the quality of education have not kept pace. Refocused efforts are needed to improve learning outcomes for the full life cycle, especially for women, girls and marginalized people in vulnerable settings.
SDG Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities (Reduce inequality within and among countries or communities). Inequality within and among nations or communities continues to be a significant concern despite progress in and efforts at narrowing disparities of opportunity, income and power. Income inequality continues to rise in many parts of the world (or communities), even as the bottom 40 per cent of the population in many countries (or communities) has experienced positive growth rates. Greater emphasis will need to be placed on reducing inequalities in income as well as those based on other factors. Additional efforts are needed to increase zero-tariff access for exports from least developed countries and developing countries, and assistance to least developed countries and small-island developing States.
Goal 16: Peace Justice and Strong Institutions (Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels). Advances in ending violence, promoting the rule of law, strengthening institutions and increasing access to justice are uneven and continue to deprive millions of their security, rights and opportunities and undermine the delivery of public services and broader economic development. Attacks on civil society are also holding back development progress. Renewed efforts are essential to move towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.
Doing community outreach and extension service has a number of important benefits. Engaging in community service provides both faculty members and students with the opportunity to become active members of their community and has a lasting, positive impact on society at large. Community service or volunteerism enables students to acquire life skills and knowledge, as well as provide relevant services to those who need it most. Some benefits of participating in a community service programs include among others the following: (a) Psychological benefits. Volunteering increases overall life satisfaction and helps one feel good about himself or herself because an individual knows that he or she is helping others. It can also help to decreases stress and ease depression because of the joy that one feels knowing that one is able to help other needy individuals; (2) Social benefits. Volunteering engages faculty members and students with the community, creates special bonds with the underserved population, and increases social awareness and responsibility; (3) Cognitive benefits. Volunteering helps faculty members and students enhance their personal knowledge, grow from new experiences, and develop better interpersonal communication skills; (4) Spiritual benefits. The desire to help the needy and the poor creates a special kind of mission or task to extend oneself beyond the confines of one’s comfort zones. This is the very spirit of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Following the same mission ad gentes exemplified by Theophile Verbist and his companions, the idea of universal brotherhood as part of missionary life witnessing integrates among the people and its following the idea of internationalism (CICM, 1974 Chapter) as earlier emphasized in the Chapter of 1967, the missionary dimension of internalization is the participation in the universal mission of the Church, the Local Churches are also missionary in the full meaning of the word, ad gentes (CICM 1967 Chapter).
Thus, the CICM Constitutions incorporate the results of a long journey when they affirm that mission itself creates brotherhood among peoples regardless of cultural backgrounds and diversities. Accordingly, a well-integrated international communities are the best expression of brotherhood (CICM CC, 2007). To live happily in multicultural communities at the service of the mission, CICM members must have a solid spirituality and sufficient self-knowledge. Multicultural character is a gift from God that enables us to do mission today in a better way and has become an integral part of the CICM identity (Revitalizing Our Identity, P. 17). Thus, Article 1 of the CICM Constitutions presents the CICM identity card that allows us to situate the Congregation in which we belong, in the wider Church and the communities we serve; and (5) Value formation benefits. An individual immersed in the service of humanity, the world and the environment makes him or her a receptive, responsible, respectful, caring and sensitive to the needs of others and the environment that he lives in.
Participating in community service not only makes a difference to the organization and people being served, but also makes a difference to every student’s future prospects. Participating in community service activities helps to enhance teachers and student resumes by allowing them to obtain work-related skills, builds good references for employers or people in regards to community involvement, and provides a forum to network with future potential employers. It also helps them develop civic and social responsibility skills and become more aware of what their community needs.
In terms of academic curricula, service learning teaching methods connect meaningful community service to academic curricula. Service learning blends community service goals and formal and informal (standard/academic and experiential/non-standard) educational goals in a manner that benefits participants and recipients. Service learning is a set of techniques and tools that can strengthen community relationships and connections.
Service learning is a teaching/learning method connecting meaningful community service with academic learning, personal growth, and civic responsibility. As a method of educational and informational delivery, the service learning model emphasizes that clients and students learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized experiences that meet actual community needs and that are coordinated in on-going collaboration with the school or institution and the community. Schools using the service learning model (as contrasted to volunteerism or community service) integrate the service experiences into the student’s academic curriculum or provide structured time for students to reflect and analyze the experiences and the connection of the experience to themes or theory or data, in short to think, talk, or write about what the student did and saw during the actual service activity and how the experience connects to larger issues or projects.
It has been proven that service learning programs at colleges and universities can and does strengthen relationships between higher education institutions and the communities served. When students and community members are involved as recipients and/or participants in traditional research-based courses, formal or informal, relevant information can be gleaned and learned in the process. When projects and course information result in service experiences, the recipients are forced to use the information to make changes, “to make a difference” and to do something with what they have learned. The community, thus, becomes the laboratory of students in articulating what they learn within the four corners of the classroom and specializations that they acquire.
Moreover, the Philippine Catholic Schools Standards (PCSS) defines an excellent Catholic School as: (a) committed to the integral human formation which foster education for justice and peace, care for creation, engaged citizenship, gender sensitivity and responsible use of all forms of media, among others (PCSS Document#6); (b) engaged in the services of the Church and society with preferential option for the poor; and (c) promoting dialogue of faith and life and culture by programs that engage people of different faiths and cultures in a dialogue where the school is mindful of these unique worldviews yet is able to interpret and give order to human culture in the light of their faith (PCSS Document#6).
Consequently, the Lingkod Maria Community Development and Advocacy Center in its extension activities is mindful of the Pillars of Transformative Education as espoused by the PCSS by integrating the following in their extension and outreach activities; (1) Justice and Peace – works for the promotion of social justice that brings forth and sustains peace; (2) Ecological Integrity – seeks to form teachers, students and beneficiaries who are respectful of the environment as a Common Home; (3) Engaged Citizenship – organizes active engagements in efforts that respond to the concrete problems and challenges facing the country, community and the world; (4) Poverty Alleviation – fosters the creation of wealth and its equitable distribution, thereby promoting the good and dignity of all; (5) Gender Equality – works against gender discrimination and gender-based violence toward gender equality, respect for and integration of LGBT into society as demanded by gender justice; and (6) Youth Empowerment – enables the youth to act and lead for the Common Good with compassion, freedom and responsibility.
Components of the Lingkod Maria Community Extension Services
A. Institutional Advocacy Programs
- Indigenous Peoples Advocacy. An important section of the Lingkod Maria Center is the Indigenous Knowledge and Tradition section. Working in the context of brotherhood and the CICM spirit of mission, the Center acts as an advocate of multiculturalism, social justice, peace and integrity of God’s creation, under the Saint Mary’s University Office of the President for Mission and Identity. The CICM through SMU works with stakeholders, particularly the poor, the marginalized, and those at the remotest areas, and this includes but not limited to, the Peoples of Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs). Thus, the IKAT section envisions itself to be a premier advocate of indigenous peoples’ concerns in Northern Luzon or the Amianan dedicated to empowering the peoples of Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs) for self-determination, growth and development. Its mission is to preserve, promote, and protect indigenous knowledge, systems and practices including arts, traditions, ceremonies, and languages for the growth and development of the Peoples of Indigenous Cultural Communities (i.e. Hukhukyung Integrated Community Development Program spearheaded by the LMCDAC);
2. Functional literacy, empowerment and values formation program. This is aimed to contribute to the achievement of education for life. It endeavors to deliver services in education appropriate to the needs of poor children including the youth and adults/parents, the indigenous peoples and other target groups and increase their access to those services. Integral to literacy promotion is Christian values formation which characterizes the Marian education. Social transformation and total human development are best achieved through a program geared towards empowering target communities or groups by increasing their human, social and leadership assets. Social transformation is also built through awareness and understanding of various social issues and concerns, and the actions that are initiated to resolve them. This empowerment and advocacy program must also endeavor to provide an enabling environment and a strong social safety net through the development of livelihood strategies and help alleviate hunger and poverty and other challenges that various communities may encounter (i.e. STEH Nanumo nga Pagadalan, School of Graduate Studies’ Project GIFTED, the PABookaS project of the School of Business and Accountancy and the Tulungan sa Teknolohiya project of the School of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology);
3. Health and Well-being Program. The community health and well-being services program of the Lingkod Maria Center is an integral component of the total development of the target clienteles. By improving the health of its target clienteles and promoting the capacity of these groups to deal with health problems, it contributes to the achievement of goals and objectives of poverty alleviation and empowerment (SHANS Jesus Mobile Clinic and Busog-Malusog-Masayang Pamilya Project);
4. Environmental Education (Integrity of God’s Creation) and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Program. Guided by the urgency of our global and local environmental situation, the program inculcates awareness and understanding of the interdependence between human beings and nature. It encourages the commitment of the clientele to develop skills in formulating solutions to environmental problems and community plans for environmental protection. It aims to achieve these goals through environmental education, advocacy campaigns and a provision for action-based projects geared toward environmental protection and management. This program also provides for strategic actions to help disaster-prone communities in reducing the risk of natural hazards and how they will manage disasters/calamities that may occur;
5. Livelihood and Enterprise Development Program. This program makes clienteles knowledgeable and competent on some additional livelihood enterprises that could become added value in obtaining additional economic opportunities for target sectors like women, mothers, and or fathers. The program trains small-scale or beginning entrepreneurs such as in meat or food processing and food-cart business (i.e. School of Accountancy and Business’ Entrep sa Barangay); and
6. Justice, Peace and Human Rights Advocacy Program. This program ensures that underserviced and marginalized sectors are afforded continuing education on justice, peace and human rights. The institution has assigned an office so-named as Human Rights Center where internal and external stakeholders are afforded free legal advice and information (i.e. College of Law Human Rights Center).
B. Outreach Activities
For activities that generally involve a one-time and immediate need assistance to victims of disasters and calamities, or occasional gift-giving such as Alay Kapwa or Alay Pamasko, including feeding has also become an institutional activity. Nonetheless, the University considers it as a call of duty to mobilize the Marian community to respond to such emergencies and or exigency of need.