Smart storytelling ambassador Dara Tuazon, with her students from Sampaloc, Manila.

Earlier this year, photos and videos of Dara Mae Tuazon went viral online, as Filipino netizens shared the inspiring images of the teenager who spent her free time teaching street children in Sampaloc, Manila.

Dara, a second year student at University of the East taking up Bachelor of Education major in Early Childhood, says she has a deep love for children and teaching. She provides education materials for her students, but doesn’t ask money from her parents to buy these. Instead, she sells products with her schoolmates to fund her purchase of school supplies.

“I want to share my blessings with these kids. I know they are more in need, and doing this will make me happier knowing that I help them in my own little way,” Dara said.

Because of her passion and selflessness, Smart Communications got Dara as a storytelling ambassador. Smart has been conducting storytelling sessions all over the country to spark the love for stories and reading among Filipino kids.

Education experts say storytelling expands children’s vocabulary, develops creative thinking, teaches values, and makes learning more fun.

To help Dara make her street classes more engaging and meaningful, Smart gave her a storytelling kit for her 19th birthday last August 12. This contained story books and a tablet preloaded with an app that features Filipino stories, games, and activities that help children learn the alphabet.

Smart has been partnering with education experts and the academe to come up with learning apps that can be downloaded on tablets and smartphones.

Dara’s birthday kit also contained a lapel microphone, speaker, shirts, and colorful stickers.

On her birthday, Dara gathered street kids around her and regaled them with a story. Afterwards, she taught them the basics of counting and the alphabet with aid from the tablet. The kids were engrossed and listening intently. Dara said it was their first time to witness how technology was integrated in teaching.

“This generation of learners is much different from the previous one. Now they are more inclined toward technology at a very young age. That’s why I’m so happy and thankful that Smart is helping us. The kit they gave me attracts the kids’ attention. I’m teaching on the street where a lot of things are happening so having their full attention is really a challenge,” Dara said.

She added that because of storytelling, shy kids have been participating more actively in discussions to share their thoughts and ideas.

Dara plans to expand her advocacy to cover more areas in the country. Her Bangketa Eskwela program is now applying for NGO (non-governmental organization) accreditation.

“I’m thankful that Smart gave me the opportunity to be an education ambassador. I am so happy that we share the same advocacy which is to fuel the love for stories and reading among Filipino kids,” Dara said.

Smart has so far brought the storytelling caravan to Baguio, Manila, Bulacan, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, Dumaguete, Bacolod, Davao, Saranggani, Cebu, and Siargao. The sessions have been attended by hundreds of students. Its next stops will be in Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, and Sorsogon.