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Millions of children in the Philippines are illiterate

One of our groups getting school supplies

On behalf of all of us here at the Hesser Foundation I want to thank you for your compassion to serve communities around the world. I am writing to ask you to consider building upon that legacy by supporting our project.

The Hesser Foundation (HF) is a Nevada-based 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to lift homeless, displaced, and disadvantaged youth in the Philippines out of poverty. We do this primarily by funding schools for impoverished students in the Philippines. These students come from isolated fishing and farming communities that are prone to natural disasters. Without the protections of a minimum wage, they are often taken advantage of by property owners. When they cannot pay the school fees, an insignificant sum by Western standards, they often drop out and work for $2.00 for an entire 10-hour day in order to support their families. Accordingly, we are requesting $15 donation for an exciting program expansion that will give the gift of literacy to at-risk students in the Philippines.

A growing body of research is revealing the large and growing literacy gap between children in the Philippines and those in other parts of the world. Ninety percent of Filipino children struggle with reading simple texts at age 10 according to the latest data from the World Bank. Poverty affects every area of a child’s life, including literacy. For many children, poverty brings with it exposure to violent crime, drugs, trafficking, substance abuse, and hopelessness. There are more than 40 million children living in the Philippines and over 12.5 million of those children, or about one in three, live in poverty. Poverty means that many Filipino children do not even get enough nutritious food, to the extent that one in three has experienced stunting and close to one in five are underweight because of malnutrition. A 2018 report from UNICEF found that more than 2.8 million Filipino children of school age lack access to education, with indigenous children and children with a disability disproportionately affected. And even in the face of these challenges, many children find the resolve to work day and night to support their families. Just a few dollars per child could enable them to read, changing the entire trajectory of their lives.

One of the New Years Party 2021

This cause is a matter of deep personal conviction for me as HF’s founder. Dunesa Hesser, my daughter-in-law, who grew up in the Philippines. Growing up, Dunesa lost her parents at a young age. Hers was not an easy life. She not only had to take care of herself, but she also bore the full caregiving burden for the daily survival of her seven siblings. They experienced every hardship in life one can experience in third world poverty. Though her father was Filipino, he was born in Hawaii, and his dual citizenship allowed Dunesa to find hope and a future in the U.S.

Millions of today’s Filipino children are not so lucky. Even at a young age, Dunesa remembers recognizing that her circumstances were much better than some of her contemporaries, particularly the children of illiterate parents. This is the founding motivation of the Hesser Foundation: to give Dunesa—and our growing community of family and friends alongside her—the opportunity to give to Filipino children the life-giving hope that all children deserve. We are now serving three schools, we would like to serve more.

From the earliest days of our founding until now, a core pillar of HF’s strategy has been working with trusted local networks of Filipino change makers who reliably see that foundation funds make it to the child who most desperately needs it. Just $15 pays for an entire year of school for each child. HF’s in-country workforce are all volunteers, meaning every dollar collected goes directly to the child’s education. Due to widespread corruption at all levels of government, volunteers pay each student's tuition directly to the school. Another $10 pays for that student’s basic school supplies for an entire year. Beyond monetary assistance, our volunteers open their homes to create a study space with computers for these children to do their homework because their parents are illiterate and unable to do so. The children are incentivized to get good grades in order to remain in the HF program. There are currently 12 volunteers and one home. Increased funding would go a long way toward allowing us to recruit more trusted volunteers, bringing our capacity to the point where the once-impossible goal of giving children the gift of literacy in today’s poorest regions of the Philippines would be within reach.

Tutoring at Volunteers homes

Key details include the following:

Objective: To train, deploy, and fund a larger group of in-country Filipino volunteers who will ensure that by End of Year 2024, at-risk students have all the tuition, supplies, tutoring, and encouragement they need to rise out of poverty.

Similar agencies/projects: While there are many wonderful organizations working to serve underprivileged Filipino children and families, especially in response to a seemingly unending stream of natural disasters in the region, HF is the only one of its kind working with a group of devoted volunteers to get resources straight to the children and their schools.

Evaluation: We’ll know the program expansion was a success if we’ve been able to gift Filipino children the gift of literacy and receive positive testimonials of the children’s life change by End of Year 2024.

With these funds, we will pay for tuition and school supplies that will go directly to the children, as well as development/promotional materials that will enable us to raise the funds to continue delivering school-years each calendar year at this scaled-up level.

In summary, HF is seeking your generous support to fund The Hesser Foundation, and exciting new project expansion to see that more Filipino at-risk students in the country’s poorest areas get the same chance at a hope and a future that Dunesa did. Please reach out with questions to the undersigned. All of us at HF are deeply grateful for your consideration and wish you the very best in your ongoing efforts to change the world.


Michael Hesser

President/Founder, The Hesser Foundation

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