This year marks the 50th anniversary of Tahanan Outreach Projects and Services, Inc. (TOPS), a non-profit private civic organization that delivers youth-servicing and childcare projects for the welfare of underprivileged children as well as their families and the community.
Founded in 1969 by women lawyers from the Judicial & Domestic Relations Court, then presided by late Justice Corazon “Rosy” Juliano Agrava, TOPs was created on the principle of tracing juvenile delinquency as its roots and thereby preventing it through comprehensive and integrated human development. With this mission, the organization proceeded in giving assistance and protecting the rights of children (below eighteen (18) years old) in trouble with the law under the Silungan program.
With these in mind, the foundation decided to expand its programs and created the LIWANAG NG TAHANAN (Early Childhood Development Center), for the holistic development of pre-children in and around Sta. Ana, Manila where the center is located. “It was beautiful sightseeing the fathers bringing their children to our school before they go to work and the mothers fetching their children at school’s dismissal, fostering a happy relationship between the students and their teachers and that of understanding between parents and teachers,” reminisces Atty. Teresita Cruz Sison, one of the original board members of TOPS, and a very good friend of the late Justice Agrava, who recently retired as its treasurer at the age of 92.
To address the socio-economic needs of street children in Sta. Ana, Manila, Justice Agrava and the Board members created the TULUYAN PROGRAM to provide proper nutrition, basic education and spiritual and values formation of those children at TOPS. The program was so successful that it also reached and served the street children in nearby areas such as Dagonoy Market and San Andres Bukid, Manila.
The Child Sponsorship is another project that gave opportunity for donors to sponsor children and make lasting positive effects and changes to the children.
TOPS not only have minors in mind to help but also extended it to the parents as well, to ensure that the entire family is working together for their common good. Thus, came the CAPACITY BUILDING PROGRAMS the objectives of which were providing training that covered parenting, values formation, and skills development, coaching on spiritual enhancement, and marriage counseling. TOPS also extended economic opportunities to the members of the community as well. Students of social work, psychology, caregiving, and other allied disciplines were even welcomed at the TOPS center to gain first-hand experience from fieldwork.
Among the notable achievements done by the foundation thru its founder Justice AGRAVA, was the partnership with the HABITAT FOR HUMANITY PHILIPPINES. With this partnership, TOPS was able to implement a housing program located in Las Pinas. A total of 140 housing units were distributed and awarded to deserving family beneficiaries and some staff members who worked and contributed valuable services and support to the foundation for several years.
With these projects and programs and after 50 years of service, TOPs was able to serve juvenile children who grew up to be productive members of the society as envisioned by Justice AGRAVA. One such child beneficiary is now a sales manager in one of the country’s top real estate companies.
HERWIN JORDAN, came from a poor family with seven other siblings. His father was a contractor welder who had to provide for a family of ten with a measly income. Jordan had to clean fish stalls and peddle goods in the market to keep himself at school. Oftentimes, with no food to eat in the house and always hungry, he would join his mother as she did volunteer work at TOPS. While they were at TOPS, they were provided and given that much-needed meal every day.
“I wouldn’t be where I am now if it is not for TOPS. It got us through the tough and very hard times like when we had nothing to eat. TOPS helped my family and taught me that nothing is impossible with hard work and perseverance. When we got our very first home, awarded by TOPS, it was there when I started dreaming of becoming a real estate broker and studied hard for it, working my way through college as a working student.
It was at TOPS where I learned that poverty is not an obstacle to one’s dream. TOPS is the key that brought me success,” says Jordan.
Jordan is just one of the many children who were able to get out of poverty and follow his dreams through the assistance to TOPS. Many of TOPS’ beneficiaries are now professionals and members of the business community.
According to Atty Sison, Justice Agrava “put her heart and soul to have (TOPS) going” and now, on its golden year, TOPS is turning a new leaf as it vows to continue its legacy of providing service to Filipino children under the helm of Justice Agrava’s grandniece, MS. VALERIE G. AGRAVA.
“I have seen many success stories of TOPS. It was instrumental and a witness as to how the Sta. Ana area transformed from a depressed area to a vibrant community. As we celebrate our 50th year, and in memory of my late grandmother, Justice Corazon Agrava, we move on to meet new challenges. We would like to reintroduce TOPS now as a new learning center, and to implement new programs to be of better service to the community,” shares now TOPS president Valerie G. Agrava.
In 2000, VALERIE first joined TOPS as one of its Board of Trustees. A well-accomplished sales manager of Reader’s Digest, regional manager of World Executive’s Digest, publisher of Asian Investor, and general manager of IT-based service companies, Agrava was able to lend her managerial skills and gather funds for the TOPS’ various programs while working abroad. She went back to the Philippines and formally took the reins as TOPS’ new President in 2017. She finally realized that she should concentrate her efforts in helping children because she has already been helping other foundations and social organizations.
An active and staunch advocate for children’s welfare and development, Agrava envisions TOPS to take on the challenge of educating learners with special needs in the years to come.
According to Agrava, “starting next year, we are putting up a formal school, with pre-school in accordance with the DepEd K-12 curriculum. Moreover, TOPS will be helping learners with special needs by offering Special Education (SPED) classes. This will be complemented with an adult program that will hold special classes on arts and music and computer literacy.”
With these new endeavors, Agrava is hopeful that donors will continue to support the center’s programs and operations and that, other donors will come in and help TOPS pursue the legacy of the late Justice Agrava.
“We want to continue to help children and those with special needs. SPED classes need special teachers to respond to the needs of special kids, thus, they are very expensive. We made a survey and saw that the area is lacking in such special classes. We want to help and address the situation at TOPS and remain relevant to the community. And with that, we hope, you could join us,” appeals Ms. Valerie Agrava.
For more articles, visit Bravo Filipino.