Mackie Custodio is the Team Leader for Youth Mobilization, one of ER’s partners in the Philippines. Here he shares how his organization was able to respond to a catastrophe in a way that is impacting lives for the long term.
Our organization is based in a poor community in Wawa, Taguig, about an hour away from Manila. Two years ago, families in this community were victims of a fire that left their homes in ashes, a tragedy that still echoes today.
Ninety percent of the families in the community earn below 50 percent of the minimum wage. Most of them are contract construction workers, domestic workers, pedicab drivers, laundry helpers and dump scavengers. Their top – and only – priority in spending is food for their families. They know that housing and education are important as well, but they simply don’t have the funds to spend on these things.
In response to these extreme circumstances, in 2014 we launched a program called Abot Pag-ibig (Reaching Out With Love). This program aims to produce hope-filled children by teaching them strong values, for we know that by forming their values, we can form their future.
Each week, more than 50 children gather to hear stories and lessons that they can apply in their daily lives – things like how special each of them is, and how they should treat themselves, their families and friends. The program also includes a meal and time for crafts and activities that let the children express themselves.
Thanks to the relationships we have established with these children, we have been able to build good relationships with their families as well. We now facilitate a home group that gives parents the opportunity to hear these same messages of hope, and to share their thoughts on how we can serve the children and the community even more effectively.
One such family is Belen Cabacas and her sons, Paulo and JP. The boys not only attend the values formation program every Saturday, they are helpful in setting up the venue and calling the students to come together at the beginning of the class. Meanwhile, Belen has been regularly attending the home group and eagerly receiving the lessons she learns there.
As we look ahead to 2016, our dreams include an educational center and program called Bulilit Life Ministy (Lives of Little Ones Ministry), which will provide basic education to children ages 5-6. We also hope to help students who have been forced by poverty to drop out of school. This program will be called Gabay-Aral (Guide in Their Learning) and will encourage students to continue their studies by sponsoring their material needs, such as backpacks and uniforms.
We are thankful for the opportunity to serve this community and build strong relationships with the children and their families. We are confident that, little by little, day by day, we can help bring change among these extreme circumstances.